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Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend

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4 years 6 months ago - 3 years 6 months ago #25966 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 2

Storage Facility
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - New York Chapter House
New York City, New York
3:04 PM EDT

Quinn Mayer almost fumed at his boredom, it was like this every day here at the Storage Facility, day in and day out guard the vaults used by the top end magic users who hung their hats in the Big Apple. Still most of these vaults hadn't even been opened in years, some not even in his lifetime; the fact was that occupations like being a super-villain were dangerous enough but practicing the dark arts was often a one way ticket to oblivion.

Yeah most of the vaults that he guarded would likely remain locked for all time mainly because the practitioner who owned them was dead or worse. Still unlike other places that auctioned off the contents of abandoned storage containers like this, the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom didn't dare to disturb the contents of these things; you never knew when a warlock would find his way back from the great beyond after all.

Well that and who knew what kind of curses that Grand Hall warlocks set up as security; he had heard it through the grapevine that a kid who picked up a stack of mystic texts in an estate sale permanently had his gender-flipped by a hex Mad Sadie left on one of her grimoires. Yeah, that and he knew for a fact that there were folks in the history of the Grand Hall who could set up a lot worse things than a gender-inversion curse to hit anyone who dared to handle their things without permission. Just the stories alone were something that would likely turn the most driven neophyte sorcerer into a pious monk.

Still almost no one ever came here, and those that did preferred to open their own damned vaults, this was the main reason he had a skeleton staff here not like the folks who catered to the movers and shakers in the Chapter House proper. Here was also, where they stuck anyone without the proper decorum to work in the Chapter House proper, and without any real talent or ability to make it as even a low-level warlock or mystic operator.

But rarely visited or not they still had a job to do, when a psychopathic or sociopathic warlock might walk in at any given moment they had to have things ready to go for them or things could get messy. Just last month Lady Jettatura waltzed in and some poor kid sneezed while she had her drama queen moment going on, it took four days for them to find and dispose of all the pieces since a few pieces of bone had been lodged into the concrete.

Suddenly the phone rang, as only one person had this number and Quinn rushed to pick up since this would be his only heads up on any given situation which might lead to another incident "Yes Mister Randall sir, how may I assist you!"

"At ease Mister Mayer, I'm calling to tell you that I need the lower levels cleaned before tonight." The concierge in charge of the chapter house proper explained.

"Really sir but all that's in the lower levels are..." Quinn eyes shot wide open when the matter dawned on him, "The Black Vaults. You mean the rumors are true, The Circle is back, they are really back?"

"The order came from Greygus himself and as we all know he was Lord Ataxia's loyal right-hand man. Now please have the area cleaned and prepared by tonight, I need to have everything ready for the ceremony and to have your staff prepared to have the contents of Black Vaults 1,4,6,7,9 and 14 packed and loaded for when the courier arrives late Friday."

"Very well sir," Quinn stated before turning around to ask. "Um sir, any idea just who the courier is I want to have my staff prepared so that we can avoid a repeat of last month's unfortunate incident."

"I am unaware at present, all that I know is that the contents are being transferred to one of the chapter houses in Erzabet Scratch's domain; the courier could be any one of her operatives Dead-Zone, Reverent, a Sweeper Squad, even The Hangman is not outside the realm of possibility."

Quinn's blood turned to ice at the mention of that undead monstrosity, this was serious, that monster loved to kill- hell it needed to do so in order to exist. "Understood sir, the whole facility will be spotless!"

When Pierce hung up his end of the line, Quinn hit the PA on the phone. "All right everybody, report to the office on the double, I have an important announcement!"

Physical Therapy Room - Doyle Medical Center
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
4:47 PM
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

"Alright Beatrice," Nurse Garrett said as she walked alongside me. "Take nice even steps; just remember to use the bars your legs still aren't used to supporting your full weight yet."

"Please call me Bea Miss Garrett," I said in as polite a tone as I could. "How would you like everyone to call you Catherine all the time instead of Cathy?"

"Alright Bea, I will. Now remember, just take it nice and easy." Nurse Garrett repeated herself as I walked forward along the padded path using the parallel guide-rails for support.

"Okay." I said as I followed her advice taking it one-step at a time. "Um, Nurse Garrett, do you mind if I ask you a question?"

"As long as it isn't personal and you keep doing what you're doing then yes." Cathy said without leaving her side.

"Is the reason that I'm a probationary student just because of the papers that I need to do, or is there some other reason?" I asked trying my best to get this off my chest.

"Actually it probably has to do with your physical condition and the fact that you are still learning to use your abilities." Nurse Garrett explained as she kept her focus locked on me like a laser just in case I fell. "You do remember from your time with Cytherea how students are required to undergo a combat final at the end of the semester to show their progress in their combat or survival class; even if you had everything ready academically, you would be nowhere near where you need to be for your Combat Final this June. So until you can take one full semester of physical education, you are in effect on probation; at least that's my best guess from what I've heard."

It also confirmed what I've been suspecting, mom was probably doing her best to shelter me, I understood why after all of these years she was a mother again but missed out on some of the best parts. I also heard what happened to my older half-sister Shelley, I couldn't wait to meet her when she was ready to greet the world again.

I wonder if this would mean that she'd be getting another birthday as well, I know Randi joked about needing a new one to celebrate being reborn in her new body- even though I could tell that she was making light of a sore subject. I also still needed to talk with someone about what to do about Evania's birthday maybe I could talk with Sorcha about it tomorrow when she got here for my siren tutoring- hold on a minute.

"Miss Garrett, would you mind if I asked you a question?" I turned to Cathy.

"As long as it's nothing too personal dear," Nurse Garrett said without abandoning her post. "What's on your mind?"

"A friend of mine has a birthday coming up soon and I want to get her something nice," I said as I tried to lay out the situation. "Would you have any ideas?"

"Is it a student here on campus," Miss Garrett asked. "Because you said you were worried about making friends and I would be worried that you were trying to buy their friendship."

"No, it's the youngest of the six mermaid princesses that were visiting last week," I explained trying to supply a little more information. "She's about to turn thirteen and I want to get her something."

"That makes it somewhat problematic I guess," Nurse Garrett said as she tried to think for a moment while I resting after having walked the length of the path. "By the way considering the progress that you've made so far we want to start you on the aquatic-tred tomorrow. As for your friend given her age, maybe a nice barrette for her hair, you might find something in one of the nicer stores in Boston; try asking your fellow students."

"Yeah, I guess most clothing would be out considering her normal home is a few miles underwater." I said with a laugh until I caught a stray thought, Morrigan was trying to get her enrolled here as a student ambassador maybe getting her an appointment with Cecilia Rogers at the end of the Summer would be a nice bonus. "Also we might want to consider some alternative to an aquatic treadmill, my legs kind of reflexively turn into a tail when submerged."

"Hmm, interesting point," Nurse Garrett mulled over the matter, "I guess that I'll need to get in touch with the Teach workshop to see if they have something for partial gravity negation."

Outside Morrison Family Home
Arlington Heights, Illinois
5:43 PM CDT
POV: Chandra Defrank

Basketball practice had been long and rewarding as usual but we had to give it our all if we wanted to win state this year. Still as I got off the bus Victor weighed on my mind, there was a time only a few years ago I was dangerously close to being like him, only instead of being a gangsta' it would be joining an actual gang.

Still unlike Victor, I had actual peer pressure weighing on me back then, back in the old neighborhood. On the one side, I had my family who were always telling me to be proud of who I was and to try to be all I could, while on the other side there were my peers from the neighborhood. Those kids who looked up to the local gang leaders and power-players as symbols of authority in the face of a world that said they would never amount to anything, they claimed that by trying to aim high like I was I was nothing more than a sellout. That I was only betraying my heritage by selling out who I was to get ahead, that I was scooping out my identity piece by piece and replacing it with The Man's fake promises becoming an Oreo.

I knew it was stupid but hearing that constantly at that age wears away at you until it finally exposes a nerve, I almost did something extremely stupid and that was when I met Candace. Darisha Coleman, the leader to the Ally Vipers, marked her as my victim for a mug-n'-run; what neither of us knew was that Candace was trying out for Chicago U's amateur parkour team and they decided that I passed when I finally caught up to her. Not surprising Darisha and her crew bolted once I was surrounded by the rest of the Maroon Maniacs, figuring that I was stupid enough to get caught, only finding out later that I found a crew that didn't need me to break the law to join and a new friend my own age.

It was weird once I gotten to know her, a girl who never knew her father, whose mother was killed when she was so young it was beyond criminal, with all that she refused to let it take over her life. Here was a girl that had so much in common with the worst of my peers but rather than letting it weigh on her soul, she used it as fuel to drive her forward. Eventually our fast friendship led to her Aunt Pauline giving my mom the number of The Morrison's, some clients of hers who were in the market for a live-in housekeeper for their new home. Before the summer was up I moved to another city and meet a group of peers who let me be who I wanted to be well- me.

"Hey Chandra long day," Eliot Greer, the Morrison's gardener asked I was about to buzz in through the front gate. "I trust your team's going to tear up the court this weekend?"

"You know it Mister Greer!" I cried in confidence as I waved back from where he was pruning the trumpet vines on the gate to try to keep them under control. "So how was the meeting with your parole officer?"

"Same old same old," Eliot shrugged with his massive shoulders. "He's a lot grouchier than normal, his old lady has him on a heart healthy diet and he's suffering because he can't indulge his sweet tooth anymore."

"He's in his fifties right," I remarked trying to remember how old the man was from my previous conversations with Eliot. "At that age he really needs to be careful."

"Yeah but it doesn't mean that he has to like it," Eliot chucked as he kept up his pruning. "Still we all have to deal with the consequences of our actions, I should know better than anybody. By the way, what does the birthday girl have planned for the weekend?"

"Nothing major, just a game against Woodrow Wilson Middle School on Saturday followed by a cross campus fun with the Maroon Maniacs on Sunday." I replied in a matter of fact manner, "Maybe even a pseudo-family get-together with dad if these instructions Marcy gave me on how to setup that video chat work."

"I might swing by to watch your run; I'll be in Chitown anyway to pick up some new geraniums to replace the one's that died last winter. Also wish you luck kid in talking with your dad, he probably misses you something awful; no father should have to miss out on their kid's life growing up." Eliot waxed in a maudlin way as I nodded and headed to the servant's wing (I really wish someone would come up with a better name for that) to get started on my homework.

Part of me also wished Victor knew about the consequences of the life he idolized from those stupid videos; Eliot grew up in a bad neighborhood just as I did. He got a job as an auto mechanic during high school but later started stripping cars on the side for a chop shop; he was twenty-three when the police finally caught him and he lost twelve years of his life in prison. I also knew that he had a kid he hadn't seen since he was locked up, something about the mother denying him the right to visit; seemed a shame since he was always so nice, but that wasn't really any of my business.

Crystal Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
7:04 PM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

'Okay, Bea you can do this,' I told myself as I rolled along with my dinner tray in my lap towards my intended destination. As I rolled up to the group my words almost froze in my throat, 'No you need to do this, and there is no more putting it off.'

"E-e-ex-cuse me, d-do you mind i-if I sit with you," I somehow managed to squeak out.

"Sure," Anna Parsons replied with a warm smile. "Please have a seat."

My heart was doing somersaults, for the last few days ever since I became a student I sat alone on the periphery of the other students eating alone; as much as I knew about them from watching through Cytherea's eyes I didn't really know them personally. In fact the few students that I had any sort of personal connection with I could count on my fingers, Randi, Heather and Mirabel I knew from how much time we spent together during therapy before I was a student. Mabel I knew from the fact that she was my roommate but she preferred to keep to herself likely due to her powers.

"Wait aren't you the Headmistress's daughter?" One of the girl's at the table asked in shock, "Why would you want to sit with us?"

"Because you seem like a nice bunch of people," I said as honestly as I could. "And to be honest being new to- well pretty much everything I don't have too many friends."

"What about that wolfgirl over in Poe- what's her name?" One of the girl's at the table asked aloud.

"Faolan," I answered filling her blank for her. "And she's nice and all, but I want to see if I can meet people on my own."

"I can see much wisdom in her words," Rhiannon mused with a sagacious tone in her voice. "Still why would The Headmistress's daughter want to sit with the Underdogs, I heard you were a siren who can turn into a mermaid."

"Actually I'm half-mermaid and the siren talent is inerrant," I explained as maneuvered my hover-chair into a spot for a chair that was not there. "Other than the abilities that all mermaids have, all that I can really do that they cannot is heal people, and without that scepter that Mrs. Redstag gave me to boost my powers even that is kind of limited."

"You mean that video was real!" Lucille trembled with excitement, "That those were real mermaid princesses there."

"Yes, each one of them is the eldest daughter (granddaughter in Evania's case) of the monarch of one of the Mermaid Refugee Colonies." I explained with somewhat of a sad tone, "They are also some of the few merfolk that can leave those colonies without getting slowly turned into Deep Ones by The Traitor's Curse."

"Whoa hold the phone," One of the guys said around the table. "You mean that stuff that Englund says is true, there are really demons out there that turn folks into mindless freaks."

"If by demons you mean the Old Ones, then it's unfortunately true." I explained answering the boy's question. "Deep Ones, or as most call them Fish Men, are actually those with merfolk ancestry who are twisted by a blood curse a traitorous merman cultist that worshiped the Old Ones cast a long time ago; there is a way to lift it but it's complicated and dangerous and until that happens many people are doomed to become them."

"Wait- why are these refugee colonies safe?" Winnie asked with a tone of skepticism in her voice. "How come this curse hasn't reached them?"

"The Curse only affects Earth proper, the Colonies are in the portion of the Fairy Lands that Mrs. Redstag and her council govern and in what's left of the Northern Court what your friend Bladedancer calls the Jade Heavens. As for why those six and I weren't affected, well you see all of us are descendants of the Triton Kings. The Traitor arranged to have my grandfather murdered and used his blood to cast the curse and without something more powerful that those who are of strong Tritonic descent aren't affected by the curse."

"Is there any way we could meet some of these other mermaid's?" Anna asked with excitement and a glimmer of hope in her voice.

"Well- Princess Sorcha of the Golden Sea has arranged to visit every other week to tutor me in better harnessing my voice; I could ask her and to see if she'd stick around to talk. She and Mr. Redstag are in the middle of working with the Mystic Arts Department to convince the school board on beginning a course on spell-singing." I said before I remembered something that I overheard mom talking about the other day with Mrs. Redstag, "Oh and Mrs. Redstag is also trying to get the school board's approval for Princess Evania to become a student here next fall."

"What!" "No way!" "Really?" The other girl's at the table were almost brimming with excitement.

"Hmm, two mermaid hoties taking classes at here, and another one teaching." Miasma mulled over aloud.

"Yeah but she'd be coming in as an Underclassman," I said somewhat disappointed him for saying that but still he was a teenage guy so it was understandable. "Princess Evania is only twelve years old after all." Although her birthday was coming up, maybe I should ask mom if I can go and get her something. Hmm, just what do you get a mermaid princess?

7:12 PM
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

"I can't believe that you beat Jobe," Jamal commented with no small amount of astonishment to his voice. "I mean during winter he beat Counterpoint in a sparring match."

"I tied with Jobe I didn't beat him," I explained as firmly as I could. "Plus since it was a skills only match he couldn't poison me, and I couldn't turn into a werewolf and maul him or use practice weapons to keep my distance. Besides I beat Counterpoint too." (Granted I would have choked to death afterwards if Lifeline hadn't been there.)

"So you seem unaware of the fact that I was holding back, during our bout." The all too familiar voice of the faux-drow devisor said as she walked by our table with Belpheobe and Bova in tow. "How like a delusional-magic using brute."

"I knew that you were holding back Jobe, but did you consider for a moment that I was as well." I said as a predatory smile graced my face. "You aren't the only person on campus who doesn't want potential adversaries to know what you are truly capable of when they're really backed into a corner. Then again what do I expect from a bio-devisor who remains oblivious to the challenge of a lifetime sitting right under her nose."

"Just what do you mean?" Jobe shot back with a hostile tone on her soprano voice. "I am a genius; there isn't an opportunity on campus to let others know of my sheer genius that I would ever fail to catch my attention."

"Then why is Puppet still confined to her dorm room in Hawthorne," I stated with as even a tone as I could manage, from the look in her eyes Jobe began to fall for my bait. "If you were half the bio-engineering genius that you claim to be, you would easily be able to create a system of biologically compatible organs necessary to make Hazmat's external pump system obsolete during your first semester."

Jobe lit out of Crystal Hall like a match with Belpheobe in tow while Bova lingered behind. "Just what were you thinking unleashing Jobe on that poor girl?"

I answered the former humanoid cow and current faux-drow with an obvious response, "That if she succeeds and Headmistress Carson approves Puppet might have a chance at a semi-normal life outside of school, and that if Jobe fails it will give her a much needed taste of humility. Too much pride can be dangerous and in the case of someone like Jobe it could be dangerous for the world as a whole, we have too many things capable of destroying the world as is without adding another to the mix."

"I hope you're right," Kerry observed with concern in her eye. "Especially if it might make Jobe mad at you, rumor has it he's been trying to kill Carmilla."

"Jobe's mad at a lot of people, but all I did was point out a challenge that she overlooked; she might be proud but she's not petty enough to risk getting Carson po'ed at her." I explained trying to lay down my reasons, "Besides the folks that Jobe hurt or tried to hurt permanently in the past either attacked him like Counterpoint or destroyed his work like Carmilla."

"What? You mean that Carmilla ate the work of someone who makes bio-weapons." Renee goggled with her eyes wider than I thought possible, "Just what is she?"

"Trust me- you don't want to know the answer to that question." I shuddered with my memories of meeting her daddy in The Dreamlands, granted I had seen worse there but that place also filters a lot of the unreality for dreamers who can reach that place. "While it is true that what you don't know can hurt you in this case ignorance is bliss, unfortunately for me I'm already on the radar for such things and I can't afford not to know about them."

"And those that you count as friends would not be a target." Konrad scoffed, "Does the Texan think us fools."

"Not all things follow our brand of logic Konrad," I smiled at the argumentative Romanian. "Besides mankind has a hard enough time deciphering the mind of the opposite gender, how are they supposed to know what goes through the mind of something that is truly outside of their experiences."

"Yes and I'll bet that there are things out there that make a Vogon Poetry Jam a preferable experience." Froggy admitted drawing a curious look from the table. "What? I think that Douglas Adams was a humorous writer for his time."

Boulder City Recreation Center
Boulder City, Nevada
5:27 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

"I keep telling you Danny, keep your guard up on your left when you throw an uppercut." Coach Kendrick barked over Danny as he lay flat on the mat after Walter laid him out flat with a right cross. "Remember this isn't the pro's, you’re wearing headgear for a reason, and at your age if you don't take care of your body you never will make it out of the amateurs. Yeah the ribs can take a little abuse but remember the floaters are made to flex, your opponent can use that against you in a bout to build up to a TKO. You're done for the day, Hopewell- Ledoux you're up! Show us what you've got!"

As Walter and Danny exited the practice ring I entered; this was my place nothing else mattered not Jeff's harassment at school, not mom's judgment at home, not even me being different- no this was my place; the ring was where I felt at home, where I felt truly alive. I looked across from me and there was Steve Hopewell, I had nothing against him, he honestly didn't care one way or another that I was what I was, all he cared about was giving his all for what he did.

I knew that this would be a tough match; it always was against Steve perhaps that's why Coach made sure to send us against each other as much as possible. The reason that this was a challenge was that I was a boxer by nature, for me technique was what was important; I wasn't the toughest guy in the gym, far from it but I knew what I could do with what I had.

Steve on the other hand was a slugger, he was built like a semi and hit like a hammer; this was the reason that he was also the devastating Outside Linebacker on our football team, it was his job to break through the line of scrimmage during the snap to take out the other team's Quarterback. Yep on the football team, it was Steve's job to keep the other team from starting a play and here it was to pass out the keys to the hurt locker.

The bell rang and it was on, I rushed Steve trying to get under his guard while keeping my distance; I needed to do this right concentrate on jabs and try to repeat on a few spots without making an obvious pattern while staying on the move. Steve was a slugger inside the ring, I knew that he was keeping his eye out- whoa I dodged to the side just as his glove grazed the side of my headgear; a second later I would have been down on the mat.

I kept jabbing and working my way through his guard; this was a contest of attrition, I needed to keep this up if I wanted the coach to call the fight in my favor. Steve on the other hand just needed one or two hits to down me, and Coach's rule about practice bouts (other than illegal blows weren't allowed) any part of you other than the soles of your boots touches the mat and you lost. Now ordinarily boxer was to slugger what paper was to rock, with swarmers being the scissors, but Steve could soak up hits like a sponge.

Soon enough I saw an opening that headgear or not would have Steve's ears ringing- unfortunately, I never got the chance as he sneaked in a right-cross to my shoulder that knocked me off-balance mid shuffle and caused me to land on my side.

The bell rang and Coach Kendrick shouted out, "Paul props for the footwork and looking for openings but you need to keep sight of your opponent while you’re doing it. Steve don't pat yourself on the back, one minute more and Ledoux would have had you on your keister. All right everyone- that's it for practice matches today, hit the showers and remember signups for the Summer training camp are in three weeks, anyone who wants to compete Silver or Golden Gloves at the end of the year must go to the camp or I won't endorse you- comprende!

No one had any arguments as we hit the rec center's showers, which fortunately for everyone were stalls unlike at school, which were prison style. No and it's not just the whole showering with gay guy thing, a lot of guys just don't like to shower in the open.

I had just got up and started to get dressed when I heard Danny call out after exiting his own stall. "Hey Paul, what're you doing this weekend? My bro hooked me up with some tickets to the fight this weekend, me and some of the other guys are going to bounce around the shows on The Strip before hand, you want to come with?"

"I don't know if I can." I explained with uncertainty, "There's that test on Monday and if I don't keep up my A-average my mom won't let me box or try out for wrestling next year, plus she doesn't want me going anywhere near Vegas."

"Geez, when is that woman going to cut the cord." Steve stated as he shook his head in disbelief before a dizzy spell from that earlier punch hit and sent him against the wall. "Whoa, Walt you got some real stuff I'm still feeling that last right you gave me."

"Yeah be careful going home on the bus Danny," Walt said with an ounce of concern. "Really though Paul, what is your mom's problem, I've known her forever and she's always been a hardass. What's weird is I know that she isn't married and no one's ever seen her go on a date, I just can't figure her out."

"That makes two of us, but I'll try asking her." I replied trying to hide my lie, I already knew her answer.

Ledoux Residence
Boulder City, Nevada
6:12 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

There always was a feeling of reluctance whenever I returned home after going to the rec center or well- most places really, I could never understand just why- it just was there. I walked in to see that mom wasn't there, hardly unusual her secretarial work always had her coming home late during the week, just as well I wanted as much time as possible to wait before confronting her with this question, besides I could always use the time for studying and homework.

It was weird no matter if I was the only one here or if mom was home the house never really felt like a home, but for some reason I always came back even kids who loved their parents had at least tried to run away once when they were young but I never did. It was always odd as if something was keeping me here, don't get me wrong my mom might have been my mom, but we never really felt close- she was always chilly like she blamed me for ruining her youth.

Well- not as much as she blamed the father I never met, she always said that he was a bastard and a mistake and that the world was better off without him in it. I don't know if that meant that he was dead or not, but part of me always wondered if I would feel better if I was with him than with my mother. Feeling wound up like an antique clock I went up the stairs to my room and got to work at my desk, sparing a moment to glance at the poster of one of my childhood heroes that decorated my wall.

"I wonder how you would have handled this El Santo," I said with a sigh. Okay I know that it was ridiculous that man was a Luchadore and a star of a slew of B-movies but for some reason I liked to watch them when I was younger, some I still did. I picked the poster up for four bucks when I was ten at a local flea market and the thing had clearly seen better days, but part of me still liked the image that it displayed of the noble masked man- that and it covered this nasty crack in the wall that always gave me the creeps.

Storage Facility
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - New York Chapter House
New York City, New York
8:45 PM EDT

Greg Paulson was pushing his broom along the basement rooms when his cellphone started to vibrate, "Hold on a second guys, I don't feel so good, I think one of the security spells might be leaking."

Once he stepped into an empty stall in the restroom and activated a privacy charm Greg barked into his phone, "Make it fast Will, we're real busy here and I don't have much time."

"Greg is that anyway to talk to an old friend, especially a friend that you owe so much to, now remember our agreement." Will's sleazy voice came over the phone. "So have you come across anything that my employer would find worthwhile?"

"Now that you mention it we're opening a few of the Black Vaults tomorrow, word is that the Circle is alive and they want some of their stuff prepped for shipment to Scratch's turf." Greg said over the phone.

"Interesting," Will said in a tone that made you know that he was smiling at what he had heard. "The boss has some folks interested over what's inside Dark Vault 11, you do remember how to setup that reception ritual right?"

"Of course all the stuff is in my locker along with the concealment charm." Greg explained. "Although I doubt that's enough for your boss; what else do you want me to do."

"For starters get a pin," Will stated as he prepared the instructions.

"Wait a minute, won't this get The Circle pissed at me?" Greg asked purely out of concern for his own hide.

"Not a chance, they're fakes who work for Scratch; the real Circle is long dead." Will laughed over the phone. "Hell I remember watching the footage of Reverend Englund hacking Mister Domino to bits myself.

Hidden Cave - Hesperus Peak
La Plata Mountains, Colorado
6:48 PM MDT
POV: Zhen-yu Chen, Rose of the North

I collapsed to the floor heaving in exhaustion, if I were still able to do so I would probably be sweating by the bucket full as well.

"Child you still have much to learn in order to be an effective fighter," Sha Wujing stated in his usual calm tone as he reclined back against the wall of the cave that I had called home for the past month.

"Hey, I know that I'm no black belt but I've been taking lessons in the neighborhood since I was little." I shot back with a bite to my tone. "I know that I have a lot to go, but I'm no rookie."

"That makes this much more difficult," Sha Wujing sighed as he shook his head. "It is always more difficult to unlearn once you have learned, after all a pot half-filled with brackish water must be emptied and thoroughly scrubbed clean before it is used to brew proper tea."

"And just what is that supposed to mean?" I asked as I tried to jump to my feet only to wince and fall back to the ground as the pain that I felt told me just what a back idea that was.

"What you know at this moment are techniques that are meant for the old you to perform, your body is not what it once was my young dragon." Sha Wujing explained as he began to pace around my prone body. "You no longer have human feet, indeed your dragon talons are almost as dexterous as your hands. Now that you possess a tail your center of balance is altered, moreover your tail itself can aid you in combat. You no longer have finger-nails, instead you now possess claws and you must keep this in mind while fighting."

"Okay- I get it- I'm not human anymore, I'm some kind of mutant who looks like a dragon!" I shouted at the top of my lungs as my tears began to flow, as much as I hated to admit this it was how I felt, as if I was no longer myself.

"No you are a human-mutant who is half Fucanglong," Sha Wujing corrected me as he headed back to where I thought the entrance to the cave was. "And when you are ready to hear more I will tell it to you."

"He will be back tomorrow to continue your lessons," Kelsey explained as she helped me to get back to my feet. "I also know that what he told you hurts but you need to accept it; you are not entirely human anymore, this is not a bad thing it is merely another faucet of yourself."

Kelsey focused on her staff for a moment, something of a habit that I've begun to suspect means she's using it to check on things that are going on elsewhere. "From what I gather you and the Western Maiden both have to learn how to accept this fact."

"And what about the other two, how are they different?" I asked as my curiosity about them was finally being revealed to me.

"The Maiden of the East was born as she is, she is merely learning about life," Kelsey explained as she made her way to the faux kitchenette that she set up to help begin dinner.

"And what about the Southern Maiden, you never said anything about her?" I asked wanting a straight answer.

"That is complicated, because at present she is unaware of a great deal." Kelsey said in an almost wistful tone. Ugh, I hate it when she does that, it means that she won't tell me anything else no matter what.

Private Practice Room - Laird Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
9:01 PM EDT
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

I collapsed to the floor as my latest sparring partner returned to the jar of form, a problem of my own making. After about a week into my training, I complained to Morrigan that I was worried about my skills growing stale with only her as a sparring partner now at the tail end of every one of our compressed time sparing sessions she has me go toe to toe with a deceased warrior from a period in history. She summons their spirits with her own powers and abilities, uses the jar to grant them substance and armaments, then directs them to come at me in their chosen style.

Using this method I've spared against seasoned veterans from a dozens of tribes and civilizations throughout the modern age of man; note only the modern age Morrigan claims that until my skills in the mystic arts improve I am still too green to test my mettle against those who lived during the era of the Five Fold Court. Earlier I asked her if that included her given that, she was a general back then, she claimed that, "I really need to use the kiddie gloves with you short-stack." After that, she sicced a freaking Norse Berserker on me.

I looked over to where Jane was perched with her mother Badb and said in-between huffs as I tried to catch my breath, "Jane do me a favor if I ever think about telling Morrigan that she's going soft on me, give me a good jolt of static to remind me otherwise."

"If you wish it child I shall do so," Jane stated as she flew from her perch to the ground next to me. "But if I was to do so too often how would you learn from your errors?"

"Not all of my mistakes," I said as I tried to laugh before I winced in pain. "Just the mistakes I make concerning Morrigan and my combat training; specifically me saying something potentially hazardous to my health."

"Do you require a visit from Nightingale Randi?" Jane asked with a tone of concern in her voice.

"No I'll just sleep curled up on the floor tonight," I said as I shrugged off my rank and tattered gi and shifted into my wolf form almost moaning in the relief as my aches and pains were fading into distant memory.

"By the way Randi- Jane told me that you and Candace are planning on going to Boston this weekend." Morrigan said as she began to clean up while Badb in her human form helped me gather my garments into a trash bag.

"Yes- she called in a date that she talked me into promising her last month," I sighed. "Personally I wish that we could have picked a destination other than Boston with all the times the Kimbas have been attacked there this year the administration is starting to think it's too dangerous to let students go there anymore."

"I know, the school board is split right now," Morrigan admitted begrudgingly. "Half want to only allow students to go there in groups with a teacher escort, while the other half is starting to suggest Portland as an alternative given that it's well outside of The Children of the Night's area of operation and just as far away."

"I can't imagine either choice would be too popular with the student body, but considering all that's happened over the school year I can understand the administration's reasoning." I huffed as Badb's compressing my laundry bag before tying it out sent out a spray of rank odor that knocked me for a loop. "Ughhhh-" I shook my head to regain my senses, "Still at least they didn't suggest Manchester that would likely spark a student riot if it came to pass."

"That may be but they'd be in for a hell of a fight," Morrigan said with a smile as I maneuvered the sack of dirty laundry into the empty gem on my collar while Jane took up to using it as a perch. We made our way out of the building with Jane using her elemental nature to trigger the handicap switches on the doors as we went into the New England night air.

I still wasn't used to the temperature or the elevation yet after growing up in the mild plains of Texas, granted I was from the city but that was beside the point.

At least my new furry coat helped cut the chill out of the air. Even the fact that I had shed my winter coat with the help of the school's animal care service, they didn't even bat an eye at it, but I guess given that the Academy itself is built on the land of the theriathropes of the Medawihla Tribe you get used to such requests.

So Randi, any idea where Candace plans on going in Boston? Jane asked me over our link as we made our way along the path from Laird curving around Doyle to hook up to the branching southward path that connected Melville, Poe and Hawthorne to Crystal Hall and Shuster. As we got up to the door Jane sent out a static jolt to trip the circuit in the doorbell and let Mrs. H know we were out here.

After a few minutes she came to the door with a cross look on her face, probably thought it was a ding-dong-ditch, before she looked down and spotted the two of us. "Randi what are you doing? You could have just opened the door yourself you know."

"Not really, my normal form is one giant aching bruise right now," I chuckled as best I could.

"That and the young lady here is in desperate need of a shower," Jane remarked as she took flight inside to perch on old Edger.

"Not until I've at least had a few minutes to mend," I shot back verbally this time. "Plus the clothes I was wearing are in a laundry bag since they reek almost as bad as Miasma on chili day."

Bella nodded as I made for the stairs and my room to grab my kit and a towel, leaving my bathrobe behind this time. Candace didn't even look up since she was in the middle of cramming for the History test tomorrow in Fourth Period the two of us had in our only shared class, I wasn't too worried it was a subject I'd always done well in and I went over my notes and text daily.

After waiting a few minutes until I was sure that it wouldn't feel like I was being tortured, I transformed back to my humanesque form (wolf-tail and ears still included) and went into the stall. Okay I still hurt like hell but at least I could walk, I went to work cleaning myself up while keeping the spray on gentle. Once I was done, I wrapped the towel around myself and headed back for my room, and caught a wolf whistle along the way.

I turned to spy Riptide with a smirk on her face in the hallway, "Putting on a bit of a late night show R-dog?"

"No just taking a shower here instead of at Laird," I said with a wince. "Sparring was rather rough tonight, but next time I’ll think twice before saying anything stupid to Morrigan." That caught a grimace as I headed back to my room, some last minute studying and a much needed night’s rest on the floor; besides I needed to wake up early tomorrow to do the laundry.

Drucker Residence
Round Rock, Texas
9:27 PM CDT
POV: Joan Drucker

After dinner, I headed downstairs to my dad’s workshop, no not the regular workshop in the basement that looked like something an IT geek would work in, dad’s real workshop in the secret sub-basement underneath the house.

I saw dad with his glamour charm off in the middle of his open work-space making some soldering connections into a circuit board to what looked like the leg off a suit of power armor. "That doesn’t look like one of the new Star Marshall line, working on the next iteration already?" I asked as I looked over his work.

"No this is a prototype for the Warlock suits that we’re working on for the Nines and the Tens in the Sweeper Squads," Dad said as he kept working on the connections. "We’re reverse-engineering designs that one of the Reverents swiped from a Goodkind International R&D facility and a few ideas that our people who aren’t Excel employees have come up with that we couldn’t employ in the Star Marshall line without arousing suspicion from those not in the loop. So my little grease monkey, what’s on your mind something was obviously bothering you at dinner. Usually you’re swooning when your mom makes her ratatouille."

"Elinore Jaffee heard through the Axcel grapevine that you and mom are going out of town on the weekend, she wants to commandeer the house for one of her weekend parties." I said laying out the problem, "If I tell her no she’s going to make my social life around school hell."

"Some parents just spoil their kids rotten," Dad muttered under his breath. "Why can’t she have it at that big mansion her family owns, it certainly has more than enough room?"

"Her dad’s got important people over there to kiss their butts for the city election next year; he might be trying to garner support for a mayoral run later this year." I said filling in the facts and connecting the dots.

"I don’t understand what you’re so worried about Joan, odds are you’re going to manifest soon and if that happens we’ll just ask Dame Scratch for her approval to send you to Whateley." Dad said as he set down the soldering iron, to look at me.

"Yeah but what if I don’t manifest and even then what if someone figures out who you and mom really are?" I asked desperately, "I like this house, I don’t want to have to move and we never have anyone over so that no one figures it out."

"That’s just when we’re here dear," Mom said as she came into the room with her usual evening glass of rosette. "We’ve always been worried that if you’re friends were overexposed to the glamour charms that we have to wear without the reinforcement that the Excel factory gives them would let them see through them and figure out we’re really Atropos and Gremlin, that or have try to have your father arrested considering I look like I’m your age. I tell you what you’ll be allowed to have your party while we’re out of town on our mission, if we have Nicole Snyder from work over to supervise and make sure that no one stumbles into something that they shouldn’t see."

"Isn’t that one of the Reverents?" I asked somewhat concerned given that they sometimes lacked discretion when it came to clean up.

"No she’s a demi-succubus," That moment I wouldn't be surprised if I was looking at mom like she'd grown a second head. "She’s in the middle of studying for her Master’s Degree over at UT and is interning for Axcel as part of her cover. She’ll make sure that nothing happens and everyone will just think of her as a hot college intern that your parents sweet-talked into doing this as a favor."

"Alright, thanks mom." I said as my anxiety began to die down, enough for me to notice something. "Mom, have you been raiding my closet again?"

"What can I say dear?" Mom smiled as she struck a pose showing off another of my outfits, "If you’ve got it flaunt it!"

Last Edit: 3 years 6 months ago by Insane Hiker.

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4 years 6 months ago #26536 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 2 Notes

Reception Ritual
A ritual used to receive the effects of another nearby ritual. Conceived during the Age of Enlightenment as a method of preserving both time and rare/expensive spell ingredients a reception ritual can allow one practitioner to work cheaply and more efficiently by using one ritual to affect multiple targets.

Jar of Form
An artifact used to grant a solid form to an incorporeal spirit. Such Jars are crafted individually and their effects can vary. When a spirit granted physical form is banished the substance from the jar, which grants them form, returns to the Jar itself. *Warning* Always keep properly sealed and warded when not in use, possessive entities may use improperly sealed jars to obtain physical form.

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4 years 6 months ago - 3 years 6 months ago #26537 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 3

Thursday April 19th, 2007
Storage Facility
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - New York Chapter House
New York City, New York
12:00 AM EDT

Quinn Mayer looked on as Pierce Randall began to layout the necessary materials to begin the ritual for opening the Black Vaults, every one of the staff was anxious to see what lay inside of those mysterious doors- all of them except for Greg Paulson. No Greg was busy working under a concealment spell in front of Black Vault Eleven, quietly setting up the same type of reception ritual that Pierce had earlier near each of the vault doors that Greygus had asked them to get ready for transportation.

Once setup, the door would be open and no one would be the wiser for a day and a night, he had already checked an old-school fae-type changeling of himself into the hospital. By the time the fake expired, he'd be long-gone and the goods would be on the way to Will's employer; an employer who was obligated to make a generous contribution into a Cardonian Bank Account that Greg had under the new identity that he had setup for himself.

Now that he thought about it, the promised amount would likely go up if some of the contents of the other Vaults wound up headed to said employer as well. Greg knew that his skill as a mage was far under par, but his skills at forgery were definitely up there; he could fake Quinn's signature easily, which was how the goods were going to get to Will in the first place. All he needed was to use a non-perception charm to sneak some of the contents out of the crates Scratch's people were going to pick up and set them in another empty crate headed to Will's employer.

If said employer wanted to keep them, it would be more money, or if he wanted to sell them to another interested party, it would also mean more money just at a later date; either way this would be a win-win. Who cared if Scratch got po'ed, after all she was already po'ed at a lot of people outside of her sphere of influence and they were still fine; plus he would have the perfect alibi since everyone would think he was dead.

Greg looked on as Quinn began his ritual and all of the receivers began to flare, including his own. As no one noticed him or the extra reception ritual under the concealment charm Greg knew that his plan was flawless, he could almost taste the Mai Tai's he'd be enjoying in his new early retirement.

Hall of Echoes
Celephaïs, Ooth-Nargai, The Dreamlands
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

Tonight Greyback decided to show me a little more about the other half of my dual-heritage, and what better place to learn than the Hall of Echoes. Granted it took about six months for the two of us to travel overland to the endless and eternal City of Celephaïs from grandmother's palace in the City of Forgotten Dreams, but one night asleep on earth can equal up to a year of time spent in the Dreamlands and I still had six to go before I woke up.

For those who are unaware the Hall of Echoes is much like the Ancient Library of Alexandria, equal parts Library and Museum; in fact some would argue that Dinocrates himself actually visited Celephaïs once in his childhood and the subconscious memory was part of what inspired him when he was building Alexandria. Yes, the Hall of Past Echoes had recorded within its walls every civilization of every world in every era, granted that much of it was kept restricted by the Perceivers of Being; mysterious creatures who I thought resembled a human heart with tentacles for appendages.

I know given who I was related to I could have complained that it was unfair for them to restrict me, but such unrestricted access could grant one knowledge of the future and thus allow one to tamper with events that had yet to occur. Still I was out to learn of the past not the future, more specifically the past of the Eastern Court and the now lost Kingdom of the currently buried Mesopian Sea. If I was supposed to help reintroduce the merfolk to Earth, I wanted to know more about them, I mean I was half mermaid and had met a few full-blooded mermaid princesses who I considered possible friends but I still needed to know more about what this meant.

Even more so considering that along the way I would learn more about the other mother who I had never known Princess Thalatté, it was still strange when I thought about it using traditional definitions my mother Liz was technically my father given that a blood sample from her fertilized the egg I hatched from into the world. Then again, according to what Greyback told me about Randi she was actually living her second life, having lost the body of her original birth to a warlock's act of spite. Randi also told me that she found her old body had been revived and was being used by someone; she wouldn't tell me who mind you but I suppose that was nobody's business but her's.

Having already checked in at what could be considered the front desk Greyback guided me to a dais in front of a wall that had the vague outline of an arch on the wall.

"Select desired topic of knowledge!" An oddly ethereal voice came as the dais glowed with each word it spoke.

"The desired topics that we wish to peruse are: A General Overview of the Eastern Court of the Five-Fold Courts of Atlantis, Cultural Overview, General History from Foundation to Sundering, Culture and Daily Life of the Kingdom of the Coral Crown, History of the Mesopian Refuge, Merfolk of the Jade Heavens, and Merfolk of the Wild Court of Faerie for the young lady here with me. As for myself I would like Faerie of the Court of the Silent Willow, Daily Life of the Court of the Silent Willow, Daily Life of the Wild Court of Faerie, and Culture of the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil." Greyback stated before wall within the outline of the arch faded into non-existence. Greyback then stated, "Please seal the arch after the next two individuals enter, we wish for privacy."

"Very well, understand that for the sanity of guests a perception filter will shroud any images of higher-dimensional beings within desired archives within." The dias explained as Greyback and I entered the room that had just appeared before us.

After we were fully within the room, the wall reappeared behind us and Greyback turned to answer the question that was clearly on my mind. "As Queen Tiamat stated no being on the Dreamlands may harm you; however I would still wish for some measure of privacy while we are here. After all you are here to learn, I do not wish for something to take advantage of a receptive mind and even the will of The Outer Ones cannot penetrate the walls of the Hall of Echoes."

The room itself was a giant rotunda, after taking in the domed ceiling my eyes wandered to a collection of luminous blue spheres resting on various pedestals.

"Within each sphere rests knowledge on one of the topics I requested of the dais, all that you have to do is gaze into the depths of a sphere and your will shall guide you as you explore that which you wish to know." Greyback explained as he sat on his haunches took a moment to stretch before walking over to another selection of luminous green spheres. "If you need me I'll be doing a little research of my own."

"Yes sir," I said as I gazed into the sphere before me to learn more about the past of the Eastern Court. As more information poured into my eyes with a realistic context to go with it I realized that this would probably take a while to learn all Greyback had requested on my behalf, and that was accounting for the time that I could spend in the Dreamlands over a single night's sleep.

Poe Cottage
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
6:15 AM
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

As my alarm sounded I woke up to notice something odd; although the feeling of waking up in my wolf-form and on a well-worn blanket on the floor was not a new one, I had become fairly used to doing so during the winter-semester when I was being trained by Anu (although not so much since Morrigan took over for her). This time I realized that a great many things were different as I left the comfort of the dream I’d been having, making my way parkour style through a forest that made Endor look like a joke with a team whose faces I couldn't recognize and entered the waking world. For one I had a small blanket that had been thrown over me, two there was a rather long pillow resting beneath my lupine head, and three someone rather naked and female was cuddling me from behind also resting using the aforementioned pillow and blanket.

I was too shocked to move, despite the fact that I was awake, I sniffed the air and could tell that said individual was my dorm-mate Candace even before she said, "Good morning!" behind my ear and briefly hugged me more firmly for a moment pressing her ample breasts into my back.

I wanted to ask just what she thought that she was doing but for some reason all that came out of my mouth was, "Gahaa..."

"I'm sorry," Candace said in subtle tone before loosening her grip. "But you were just so cute laying there that I couldn't help myself and your fur feels so nice."

Candace slipped her left-arm out from under my body as she got up to stretch in the buff, granted I had seen this sight often since she sleeps au-natural, but I still lay there staring at her with my eyes and mouth wide open as she put on her robe and grabbed her bathroom kit. I just laid there in shock before Jane jolted be back to reality, "Oh for heaven-sake's child, she just curled up next to you after you went to sleep; nothing happened and you need to get ready for classes you have a History examination after lunch and your power-based combat evaluation during sixth period, you need to get moving."

I shook myself, shifted back to normal and to a glance at the clock, it was already 6:35- I needed to get moving. I threw on my robe and headed out the door dodging the usual morning commotion in the hallways. As I made it to the showers, I noticed that there was no line and all of the stalls were unoccupied, well at least I saved myself a daily round of Tempest's venomous tirades on former (or current) three-leggers or lewd glances from Phase or Vamp in the mirror as they brushed their teeth for an extra-long period of time. When Jade finally stepped out of the left-most stall, I took her place determined to play catch up for today, and take care of that bag of extra-ripe workout clothes currently in my collar.

I really needed to get a new kempogi from the student store, this one was now on its last legs, and if it made it to the end of the year, I'd probably have to dispose of it as a biohazard. Note to self, find out the location of the thermonuclear blast furnace where Team Wondercute disposes of Jericho's most abominable fashion-disasters, and throw it in before Jobe tries to harvest it for samples. Well that or talk Badb into stashing it in Peeper's locker, she'd probably go for that in an instant.

Yes mother would, I heard Badb sigh in embarrassment over our link. however please don't encourage her.

Dickinson Cottage
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
6:41 AM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

Just like yesterday, Fatigue returned from the showers to find me making my way across the room, this time without almost taking a spill onto the ground. "You're really making progress Bea," Mabel observed as she carefully walked into the room and went to get dressed for class. "At this rate you'll be saying good-bye to the chair before combat finals."

"I hope so," I said as I finally reached the other side of the room. Finally, next to the window, I steadied myself and turned the chair around to get back inside. "I have things I need to do this summer, and I want to do it on my own two feet."

"Oh, let me guess," Mabel said as she smiled while tucking her now buttoned blouse into her skirt. "Our cottage's resident mermaid is hitting the beach, maybe planning on working her siren song on a handsome sun-bronzed life-guard in a tight crimson speedo."

My face was probably doing a good impression of a cooked lobster with that comment. "M-m-maybe later in the s-summer," I stammered as my hand fumbled with the controls. It took me a minute to regain my composure as her words fed my imagination, granted I filed that image away for later, preferably when I was in private. "But I have something that I need to do this summer, something of a family matter."

"Yeah I forgot that Shelly should be saying hello to the world again in July," Mable mused while touching up her makeup in the closet's mirror. "I bet it will be neat meeting your big sister, well the one who hasn't made you an aunt already."

"Yeah and I'm excited about that too; although I hope that she doesn't dislike me because of how I look, I heard about the details over what happened to her from Anna over dinner last night." I said as she maneuvered this hovering pain over to the bed to get her toiletries for the shower. "But this has to do with my Uncle on the other side of my family; it's a little...problematic."

"Well I hope it works itself out," Mabel said in a chipper tone as she sat down to check her homework.

"So do I." I said with my fears leaking into my voice as I maneuvered the hover chair to the Freshman Bathroom, thankful that Dickinson had been updated to handicap access a long time ago with stools available for use in the showers.

Hidden Cave - Hesperus Peak
La Plata Mountains, Colorado
8:17 AM MDT
POV: Zhen-yu Chen, Rose of the North

I had just finished cleaning the dishes off from breakfast when the Sand Hermit returned, my martial arts may have a long way to go but at least my cooking skills were improving mainly out of necessity. I had noticed that I was starting to eat like a horse then again I doubt that was hardly surprising. I guess between the torture, the sleep deprivation and the confinement I never noticed just how much the Zhâoshâng de Yôuhuàn was starving me. Well that or there was more protein in that bland gruel that they gave me than I thought, I swear if I ever see one more bowl of what they dared to call rice porridge again I'll scream right before barbacuing the waiter.

"Good morning Ms Chen," Sha Wujing said in his serious manner with a polite bow as I finished putting away the dishes. "Forgive me for arriving so early; however I thought it best that we get started early."

"Yes, I understand," I replied as I walked towards the celestial being. "I need to get used to my new body if I'm going to have to learn how to defend myself. So what will we be working on today, how to use my tail properly?"

"We shall work on combat later today Ms Chen, I did not agree to come here only to teach you the art of war. Sha Wujing explained as he sat down in a meditative stance. "No our first lesson today is not one of fighting, it is another vital skill that I have to teach you, one that will prove far more useful."

"Do you mean meditation?" I asked trying to discern what we were going to be up to this morning.

"No we shall be working on the art of transformation." The Sand Monk elaborated as he bade me to join him. "After I am done you will be able to resemble your old self should you so desire to move about without attracting unwarranted attention, as well as other forms that should prove useful to you in the future."

"I could look like me again, like how I used to be and not some pinup girl from a fantasy magazine?" I asked halfway embarrassed by my own question. "I can really do that?"

"If you succeed in learning these lessons, then yes you can indeed look like your old self." Sha confirmed my speculation without betraying a single emotion.

"Well then let's get started," I demanded ready to listen intently to every word while I waited for him to begin. "We're wasting daylight."

Crystal Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
12:14 PM EDT
POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West

"Hey Randi are you worried any about that test in sixth period?" Jamal asked as he looked up from his history textbook while munching on his mac and cheese.

"Not really," I said while poking around my house salad. "History's always been my best subject, no to answer your question what I'm really worried about is my next two martial-arts evaluations; they have me scheduled to take my powers evaluation today and my tool-use evaluation in sixth period advanced aikido."

"Bah, of course it's easy." Konrad scoffed in his usual manner when he began his tirades. "American history is brief and self-serving; it only goes back six centuries at most unlike that of a country such as Romania; we are also not afraid to criticize our past mistakes, unlike some who sanitize their history. It also figures that a lazy American would be afraid of a little physical effort."

"Radu- Whateley is a private school not one run by the state or a local school board." Gina stated as she stabbed another meatball in her spaghetti. "The history in our texts is surprisingly unbiased, such as the one on the labor disputes in the 50's. Also I would be nervous too in Randi's shoes, sixth period advanced Aikido is what the martial-arts nuts take; folks like Chaka, Bladedancer and Nightbane."

"Not to mention Jericho," Kerry said with a slight smile on her face. "All he'd need to do to win would be to show someone the undershirt he'd be wearing under his gi."

"That might not work on me," I chuckled. "Fortunately like most natural canines, my wolf form is color blind; still I don't think it would save me from everything Bugs showed me that he tried out during the fall, I heard that he even has an undershirt that made a merc in power armor vomit inside of his helmet."

"Come on Randi, not even Jericho is that bad." Erze said as she rolled her eyes at me.

"Do you want to dare him to prove you wrong?" Froggy asked with a fang-full grin."

"No!" I joined everyone else at the table to reply to the Brit at our table, the only Brit at the moment given that Rob Rose was currently on his lunchtime attempt to woo Nacht.

South Middle School - Lunch Room
Arlington Heights, Illinois
12:07 PM CDT
POV: Chandra Defrank

"Say Chandra," Nita said as she paused from her noodle casserole. "I've been thinking since your birthday's coming up what do you say to a little party while we're in Moline."

"Nita- I don't know if we should stick around," I said with an ounce of trepidation. "I don't want to feel the wrath of any sore losers if we sweep the other team."

"Oh come on C-dra this is a junior high lady's basketball game in Illinois not high school football in small town Texas; now if it was boy's basketball then we might be in trouble." Marcy stated as she nudged me in the side. "Alright, I've done a little digging and as it turns out theres this old-fashioned ice cream parlor there we can hit.

She had to bring up my not so secret weakness, I have always been a sucker for ice cream, and old-fashioned ice-cream parlor often meant they were also creameries who made their own in the back to up the quality. Okay, I admit that I was a little obsessed whenever someone brought up ice cream, mom always joked that if I wasn't into athletics that she'd have to roll me to school after summer vacation was over.

Candace knew about this and one of the things that she sent me during her trip to Phili (the day before the MCO disappeared her) were pictures from when she and her group visited a place called The Franklin Fountain, man was I jealous- at least I was until I heard what happened to her group. "Fine, but we leave the first sign of trouble."

"Hey oreo," my daily migraine said in his faux street lingo as his crew marched up to the table where I sat with the other girls from the Lady's Basketball team, "Last chance to come party with us as we skirt the club scene in Chi-town that is unless you want to hang out with those Co-Oppers at Snob-U."

"Does that mean that you and your crew of posers will stop bothering me from now on?" I asked hoping that he'd say yes. "Because if it does then all I have to say is something that you're likely to hear for many years in the future Victor; no means no!"

"Fo' the last time it's VT! You are really push'n the line girl," Victor said with his nostrils starting to flare. "Some day yo' 'tude will get you hurt."

"And read my lips Victor," I said as I stood up to glare at him eye to eye. "If you don't grow up and start living in the real world then one of these days you're likely to wind up being a very special friend to your roommate."

Victor and his crew walked off none of them even comprehending what I'd just said to him. As I sat back down Alice looked at me with a weird expression, "Did you just tell Victor that if he didn't straighten out then he'd be some guy's..."

"Yup, if Victor and his posy plan to start frequenting places that he shouldn't he might just wind up in a heap of trouble and I don't think that his dad will be able to bail him out. You never can tell when you might find yourself in a bad situation and if you're in the wrong place when it happens then a bad situation might turn into an even worse one." I said as I got back to lunch. "I mean look at what happened to Candace, you never can tell when something that changes everything will happen."

Canyon Vista Middle School - Lunch Room
Round Rock, Texas
12:38 PM CDT
POV: Joan Drucker

"So Joan," Elinore Jaffee began as she approached my table with her usual hangers on from the cheerleading squad. "Do you have an answer about the party this weekend? Have they finally decided to let their little princess have a ball?"

It always amazed me how she could say what she did and no matter what it never felt demeaning coming from her mouth, I swear someone needed to examine her for abilities. "They said it was okay-"

"Alright then I'll begin spreading the word around, and give you instructions on how to get ready for a proper party." Elinore proclaimed as she interrupted me mid sentence.

"There is a catch though," I said as I began to lay out the few rules my parents gave me last night. "The Office, the Basement and their Bedroom are off limits to party-goers."

"That's pretty standard fare dear," Elinore replied while waving off my concerns like she knew that there was no one that would come to the party that would break them.

"Also one of the college interns from Axcel will be in The Study and coming out periodically to help keep an eye on things." I continued and after laying out the final proviso, Elinore was plainly disappointed.

"What? You mean your parent's want to leave us with a chaperone," Elinore said as if the word left a sour taste in her mouth.

"Just someone to keep an eye out to make sure that nobody sets the house on fire, like what happened over winter break." I said with a grin on my face as I reminded the head cheerleader of that incident.

"Like- that was a bonfire- of course we were supposed to set it," Elinore explained trying to override my point. "How were we supposed to know that it would spread like it did?"

"Maybe it would have helped if you cleared it with the Fire Marshall first," I explained before further stating. "Plus we hadn't had rain for a month and nobody cleared the undergrowth out first."

"At least it's a college kid," Elinore said as she mulled over the matter. "I'd hate to have some old grandpa telling us to keep the music down."

"Yeah somehow I doubt she's going to be free to micro-manage the party," I said explaining the situation a little further. "She's going to be working on term-papers while she's there, so you won't have to worry about her stealing the guy's attention away from you all the time."

"Darn, it had to be a girl," Elinore said before turning around. "I was almost hoping for some cool college guy! Oh well you can't have everything."

'That's all she was concerned about, shesh it must be nice to have so few real cares.' I thought as I got back to picking through my lunch, 'At least she doesn't have to worry about changing into who knows what in a year; then again I may wind up one of those super-model exemplars types.'

Laird Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
3:27 PM EDT
POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West

Great here I was in the class of martial-arts nut jobs; the type of folks who ate, breathed and slept this stuff. Granted because of Morrigan's temporal compression spells I now got more training done in one night then they could get done in a week; my opponents in my training were still human, masters in their style with skill and discipline that defied belief but still human. Face facts Randi; this is the land of Dragons, Tigers and Kimbas; you're so hosed it isn't even funny.

I was currently watching Chaka and Nightbane go toe to toe on the mat, so chances are neither of them would be my opponent; neither were Gritty and Lancer who were now going all out as they got closer and closer to the capture cage. Finally one of the matches broke, Gritty fell for a feint and overextended a punch; Lancer took the opportunity to launch her into the open cage with a TK-shove and shut the door with a spinning roundhouse.

"Winner Lancer," Tolmon-sensei explained while before giving her assessment. "Gritty please work on your observational skills, you should have seen through that feint." As the two regular students left the mat, Tolman called out. "Alright, next up Faolan and Draco!"

As instructed, I got on the mat, thankful that I had the time this morning to launder my practice gi. While there were a dozen opponents in this class who would be worse to fight, I knew from New York what Draco was capable of in a fight. There was also the scuttlebutt around campus was that once his armor was summoned his stamina was unlimited until it went down; as for myself my werewolf and ravewolf forms worked on an metabolism like that of an energizer. Granted that I had a big lunch today and a tube of energizer foodpaste (to refuel later) in my bag, but I would still have to be careful; in all I knew that my best bet was the capture cage.

I took my position opposite of Draco on the mat and bowed, I was as tense as a compressed spring and from what I could read of him Draco was much the same. "Begin!"

At Tolman's command, we both took action, and that was to wait for each other to make the first move; I was still in my normal form and Draco was still unarmored. The two of us slowly stalked the other as we inched closer and closer to meeting in the center. When we neared four feet from each other I decided to make my move, while I was sidling I mis-stepped and lost-balance; Draco seized the opportunity and armored up.

He tried to hit me with a flying falcon strike while I was off-balance- too bad for him I didn't trip on accident; while off balance I transformed into a wolf, rolled using my new center of gravity and pounced while he was mid-air. Draco caught on quick and used his free-hand in a palm strike to my chest to push me back and give him time to land and recover his guard; unfortunately for him I landed first shifted to werewolf form and sprung back.

His strikes met my own as each of us tried to gain momentum and the upper-hand on the other with our bare claws. I tried not to get two caught up in the moment, I knew that we were getting close to the capture cage, and Draco had the reach advantage- for now.

The cage was within feet of us and I was the one being backed into it; this might be a martial-arts match but powers were allowed now and fortunately for me shifting wasn't all I could do, I needed to time this carefully I moved carefully while preparing my plan. I was three feet away from the cage, and I knew that it was now or never; I threw a desperate punch (and sloppy punch at Draco's face, that he stopped by grabbing my forearm.

Before he could take advantage of the situation I opened my hand and shouted Fuzzy Pickles! before the mana I'd been pooling transformed into a intense burst of light. Draco was blinded as his eye's hyper-dilated he instinctually let go of my arm to grab his face, free once more I shifted into my ravewolf form dove around him, and before Draco could recover I used my digigrate legs to donkey kick into the Capture cage before slamming the door shut and changing back.

"Winner Faolan," Sensei Tolman announced and rather than offering advice to Draco turn to me and said. "I hope that you know that won't work twice in a fight."

"I didn't work on that spell to use in a straight up fight," I began to explain. "It's just a quick and dirty spell that I worked on it to use on folks wearing night-vision gear or in the dark."

Elton and Madeline Garrett Middle School - Lunch Room
Boulder City, Nevada
12:40 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

"Hey Queermo!" I heard from behind me as I heard Jeff say as he approached as I lost my appetite. Honestly I don't get why he had to keep singling me out every day, I know for a fact that I wasn't the only gay guy in school, so why me every damned day?

"I heard that you're trying to drag our Linebacker to Vegas and turn him into a fag just like you!" Jeff stated in a tone that told me that this time it wasn't his usual taunts and slurs, he was pissed off at me.

"The guys at the gym are going to Vegas to watch the fight this Saturday because Danny's bro hooked him up with some sweet tickets," Walt explained as he stood up to look Jeff in the eye. "Speaking of which Paul you still haven't given us an answer, are you coming with us or not?"

"I don't know," I said as I admitted my fears. "You know what my mother is like, I was too scared to ask her, everything is my fault and heaven forbid I ever try to go to Vegas."

"Yeah right, like I believe a word of that!" Jeff said as he caught me by the scruff of my neck. "Everyone knows that Queermo here is a total mama's boy, but why would anyone ever invite him to Vegas. Maybe he wants to turn Steve into his bitch just like you."

"Walt's just my friend Jeff," I said as I tried to get my shirt out of Jeff's grip. "Nothing more, and there's no way anyone could do anything to Steve that he doesn't want to and you know it."

"Are you calling Steve a fag like you?" Jeff howled as he pinned me against the ground and started socking me in the jaw with his right fist. Don't get me wrong as a boxer I know how to take a punch in a normal fight, but when you're pinned to the ground with your head against the floor there is nothing you can do. Of course, at the time all that I could think about was the pain as Jeff kept nailing me in the face over and over again.

Suddenly the blows stopped, I could see Steve pulling Jeff off me with Mister Gallo's help. "That is enough out of you Pruett," Mister Gallo said as he restrained Jeff, "I hope you like ruining the season, because you're going to be in ISS for at least a week because of this debacle."

"Yeah right, the Principal's never going to suspend the Quarterback," Jeff called out, while he was being drug away. "There's no way the PTA will let him, and he doesn't have the grapes to cross them for a fagot!"

"Mister Forrester," Mister Gallo said as he called out to Walt who was now free from being kept from interfering in my pummeling by Sawyer Peck (our Team's Offensive Center and Jeff's wingman). "Please take Mister Ledoux to the Nurse's office."

Shuster Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
4:19 PM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

I finally felt releaved having turned my papers for To Kill A Mockingbird and Great Expectations in to the English Department. Would have turned in more but I wanted to finish my term papers for Freshman History before I moved on to Sophomore English; I know I had to do a report on The Pearl but there was also the book reports from the Recommended Reading List- maybe Emma. I smiled to myself as I hovered down the hallway of the administrative wing; at this rate I would have all of my course work caught up in time to watch the combat finals. Still one real question remained, move on to Junior level or stay as a Sophomore, I was really going to have to give that one some real thought.

I was making my way towards Mrs. Shugendo's office when I heard a few angry shouts coming from an office to my right, suddenly the lights in the hall began to flicker and with a few sparks my hoverchair ceased to hover and dumped me right into the floor. As I was struggling to try to get off the floor, Overload stormed out of the office and right past my prone form, not even acknowledging the fact that I was trying to pull myself back into my now smoking chair.

Soon after Overload was out of sight, a girl with a fox's ears and tail and a boy with wings on his arms came out of Mrs. Shugendo's Office and spotted me. That was when my chair began to spark, and I did my best to crawl away from it. "Hold on miss," The boy with the feathered arms explained. "Let me have a look at this."

"Are you okay," The fox-like girl asked as she helped stand up against the wall. "What happened?"

"Thank you for your help," I said now that I was resting against the wall with my legs braced as best as I could keeping me upright.

"I was on my way to Mrs. Shudendo's Office to ask permission to go to Boston this weekend when I heard shouting out of that office over there," I pointed towards the door in question. "Just before the two of you showed up Overload came storming out, his powers must have short-circuited my chair."

"Yeah that sounds like him alright," the feathered boy grumbled while opening up my chair to inspect the damage. "Spark told me that he kept frying her boyfriend's stuff when they were roommates. Yeah, it looks like a few circuit relays were fried by the serge, I'll see if I can replace them."

"Still I wonder what he was doing in there that made him so upset?" I asked myself that made the fox girl take a look at the door.

"That's Mister Kennedy's office," the fox girl explained. "His classes are testing this week; Overload must have gotten his exam back and came to argue that the teacher made a mistake when it was graded. I'm Quickvix by the way and this is Strato."

"Thank you," I said streadying myself as I shook her offered hand. "I'm Aletheia, I was trying to set up a trip to Boston to get a birthday present for a friend but considering the condition of my chair that might not be an option."

"It looks worse than it really seems to be," Strato explained as he continued to work on the electronic insides of my chair. "In fact I almost got it- OW!" Strato jumped back as a spark of electricity hit his hand before my chair started hovering again.

"Arnold, are you okay?" Quickvix asked as she rushed to his side so fast that it was a blur. "Are you hurt badly?"

"I'll be fine Candace," Arnold explained as he examined his hand that looked scorched. "It's just a nasty electrical burn, I'll go over to Doyle and have it looked at right away."

"Come here," I offered to my two saviors. "Let me have a look at it, it's the least I can do."

Without a word, Candace and Arnold complied with my request, and I place my hands on Arnold's burn. They began to glow a gentle blue, and I could see from the look on Arnold's face that the pain was disappearing. When I finally removed my hands the black and charred burn was gone, all that remained behind was a layer of new and healthy bright pink skin in its place.

"Wow, it's good as new." Arnold said in astonishment as he inspected his newly healed hand while Candace helped me back into my hover chair.

"It's the least I can do for the hero who aided me in my time of need," I remarked before commanding the chair to elevate briefly to eye level. "Thank you." I then gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek before heading back on my course to Mrs. Shugendo's Office.

When I left, Arnold was as red as a fire engine and Candace was smiling and ribbing him while ruffling his hair. Honestly I didn't see the big deal, I remember Cytherea doing the same thing several times when she thanked someone for doing something kind for her; note to self do more research on the social customs of modern day America before doing that again.

Crystal Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
7:16 PM EDT
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

"So Randi I didn't hear anything about your eval today," Jamal said as he worked at his spaghetti and bolognaise. "How did your first day in the meat-grinder go?"

"I really lucked out," I admitted while working on my chicken tetrazzini. "I got called by Tolman and not Itou; she put me up against Draco, one of my roomie's friends. Granted it still was tough considering he doesn't wear out after he manifests his armor, but I managed to get him off guard and kick him into the cage."

"Yes, but I doubt you can get lucky twice." Kerry explained while slicing her eggplant parmesan. "If I remember right tomorrow is your weapon's evaluation and you're in sixth period again, you could be facing Bladedancer, Nightbane or heaven forbid Chaka!"

"Yeah and its school practice weapons only so the balance might be off," I admitted as I poked a piece of mushroom on my fork. "Besides what are the chances that they have a practice saber as well-balanced as Sydan?"

"Not good," Steve admitted as he shook his head. "So what are you doing this weekend?"

"I'm going to try to head to Boston for some sightseeing with my roommate." I said trying not to give away too many details that might have them guessing the cottage secret. "That is if it's okayed, Morrigan said that after all of the problems with the Kimba's this year that admin is considering banning trips to Boston and switching to Portland."

"Ugh! That's not good, not the worst choice mind you but still not good." Gina winced with a sour expression. "Granted if they were considering Manchester there might be a problem."

"No kidding," Buck remarked while tinkering with who knows what while nibbling at his dinner. "That city supposedly has a good shopping centers but that's it, at least Portland has some minor league sports teams that are feeders for the big leagues in Boston."

Hidden Cave - Hesperus Peak
La Plata Mountains, Colorado
9:04 PM MDT
POV: Zhen-yu Chen, Rose of the North

I couldn't believe my eyes, staring right back at me in a mirror was a face that I hadn't seen in half a year- mine. It had taken some doing, even with stopping my transformation practice for martial arts training, but I had finally succeeded I was able to look like my old self again or at least make my face should look like if I hadn't hatched into my new self. Not that my new self was bad looking either in a reptilian sort of way, but the idea of being able to walk around in public without people staring at me like I was a monster was a heady one.

"Hey Kelsey," I called out to my companion in isolation. "What do you say we go and take in the Denver nightlife after I perfect the change?"

"Zhen-yu you are only fifteen years old and I am not much older," Kelsey explained as she finished the dinner dishes. "Plus you have only begun to learn how to transform today, even when you learn how to complete the change it would take you a while to learn how to hold the form- no matter how familiar it is to you."

"Okay when I do learn how can we go catch a meal or maybe take in a movie?" I asked hoping to wear her down.

"I am sorry Zhen-yu," Kelsey replied back in a practiced tone as she put the rest of the dishes away. "You need to make this place your refuge until you are finished training with the Handmaiden of the Tao."

"Then when is she going to get here anyway," I asked as I reverted from my human form to my true form. "Aside from training with Sha Wujing when he's here, all that I have to do around here is climbing the walls- literally."

"I know that Zhen-yu but you and the Handmaiden need the natural energies of this location to begin unlocking your full abilities." Kelsey stated as she walked towards me, "And until that happens you are vulnerable to another abduction by the Zhâoshâng de Yôuhuàn, people that consumed by greed will try to reacquire you at the earliest opportunity, I wouldn't be surprised if they had contracted others to seek you for them."

"They try and I'll melt them." I said as I formed a 650° C fireball mid-air for emphasis.

"And what will you do if they take your friends and family hostage?" Kelsey asked which caused me to extinguish my fireball. "These people have no moral compass and will do anything to regain a resource as valuable as yourself; they will use anything they can to get you back. Also the Zhâoshâng de Yôuhuàn is only interested in your ability to fabricate gemstones, remember this there are other groups interested in The Maidens of the Cardinal Directions for other reasons both for good and ill."

"So far the only ones interested in me were you, the Zhâoshâng de Yôuhuàn, and Humanity First." I scoffed as my partial transformation wore off. "If there was anyone else interested in me why didn't they take me when the Zhâoshâng de Yôuhuàn had me at their mercy?"

"What is more valuable a raw gem or one that has been cut and polished?" Kelsey asked in a low tone, the implications of that answer shocked me to the core.

Ledoux Residence
Boulder City, Nevada
10:12 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

I knew I was in trouble when the front door slammed, the school must have given mom a phone call. "Paul Ledoux you come down here this instant!"

Hearing mom shout, I walked down the stair as if I was heading for the gallows, which knowing my mother was an apt description of the situation that I was in at this very moment. "Yes mother." I answered in a voice as meek as I could manage which wasn't hard considering her glare bore into me like a power drill.

"I heard from your school while I was at work," Mom said in a tone that promised that I would regret this moment. "Granted from what they said you managed to connive them into thinking that it wasn't your fault; I warned you about fighting, I warned you what would happen if you did, just what do you have to say for yourself?"

"The quarterback of the football team thought that I was dragging his teammate to Vegas to turn him gay." I explained stating the facts hoping against common sense to resolve this situation before it went out of control. "What happened was Danny from the gym got some tickets to the fight this weekend and invited us along, I was going to turn him down because I knew that you wouldn't approve."

"Of course I wouldn't approve; Vegas is a city of slime and degenerates just like your father, and if you think for a minute that I would believe that you didn't intend to sneak out with those hooligans that you hang out with you are a bigger fool than I ever thought that you were." Mom shouted in my face again, then something odd happened she took one look at my face where Jeff hit me- I swear that I have never seen that look on her face before.

"This is the last straw young man," Mom began to shout once more. "You go to your room, tomorrow I am calling that thug you and your no good friends hang out with and telling him that you won't be coming back. Your days of boxing are over and you can forget wrestling, you obviously need some real discipline; I'm going to get in touch with your uncle in Idaho, you're going to spend the summer working on his farm. In fact if I have any say you'd be headed there right now, so get back up to your room, you are grounded until further notice."

I was shocked to say the least but I still did as she told me and headed back upstairs, still something seemed off to me for some reason. So once I was upstairs and out of sight I shut my door audibly but remained in the hallway to listen.

"Hello," I heard my mother talking on the phone maybe to my uncle. "Yes, it's me, this is important. We have a problem, need to step up the schedule. Yes I know how problematic that would be but if you want the plan to succeed you need to have someone get here for some maintenance."

"Yes, I understand, I'll get him to the rendezvous. Just remember to hold up your part of the deal."

I got back into my room as quietly as I could and tried to process what I had just heard, nothing made any sense but I knew one thing this house didn't feel like home. I needed to think, because something about this make my whole body hurt.

Last Edit: 3 years 6 months ago by Insane Hiker.

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4 years 6 months ago #26539 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 3 Notes

Crafted Changeling
Changeling usually refers to either a faerie child who is swapped for a mortal one by cradle snatchers or the snatched child; however, a Crafted Changeling refers to a fake body grown to resemble an individual, such creations only appear minimally alive for a short time before they die. This practice fell by the wayside when the end of serfdom began to make the thresholds of mortal dwellings more powerful revealing crafted changelings for the fraud they are almost instantly; however Crafted Changeling can still be used in public buildings with no thresholds such as Hospitals.

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4 years 5 months ago #27206 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 4

Friday April 20th, 2007
Storage Facility
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - New York Chapter House
New York City, New York
12:01 AM EDT

Greg Paulson waited behind his concealment charm as the doors to the Black Vaults at last opened, he had until sunup to get this operation done after which the concealment charm would lift. Moreover by sundown the changeling would expire and he needed to be out of New York by then, if he wasn't he'd still be in range of the Grand Hall's Employee Tracking spells (which were currently tracking the changeling) would show everyone he was very much alive and on the move. Fortunately, he already had a plane ticket under a fake identity (which wasn't the one he was planning to retire under) from a flight headed from JFK International Airport to Logan International Airport to so that he could meet his patron then another later from Boston to Chile where he intended to spend hard earned retirement.

As he stepped inside Black Vault Eleven, he marveled at the size. Granted the vault itself was no dragon's lair, but it was still a warehouse the size of a city block. Under ordinary circumstances, it would take him a week working nonstop to clear this place out, and he had no idea what he was looking for since his patron simply told him to "bring him the contents of Vault Eleven."

Fortunately said patron had supplied him with something that would get this operation over and done within a few minutes, no matter how massive it was on the inside; a genuine Bug-out Bag from the goblin market. He heard the price for these things was one day taken from the end of the buyer's life, which might not seem like much when you're young but that's the point, at the end of your life every day is more precious than anything in the entire world.

Still this was going to be tricky, he had to setup a barrier charm without disrupting his concealment charm, if he didn't do so then the bag would try to suck in every nonliving thing that wasn't nailed down the moment it was activated and thus would clue everyone in the Storage Facility to on his plans.

It took Greg a good twenty minutes to get the barrier setup, satisfied that everything looked to be in order. "Here goes nothing!" Greg mumbled before he tried to push his way into the hallway- sure enough the barrier held. Satisfied at the results of his labor he activated the Bug-out Bag and hit the floor; a vast wind began which pulled wooden crates, old wardrobes, casks and other old antique containers of all sorts into the vortex it as the faerie crafted object pulled them all into its depths. After about seven minutes, the brutal decade's old steel shelves were empty giving the room an eerie skeletal feel and the bag with its job now done shut tight.

Satisfied his job was now done Greg dismantled the barrier charm and took the Bug-out Bag as he exited Black Vault Eleven. Once outside he saw the poor rubes that were his now former co-workers busily going about emptying the other open Vaults. Satisfied that he was safe within the concealment charm, he took out the non-perception charm and activated it, picked up the Bug-out Bag and left the circle his concealment charm created; just as his sponsor had promised no-one noticed him.

Still there was the matter of sweetening the pot as it were grabbing something from one of the other Black Vaults and putting it in with the shipment that was already going to his sponsor. It couldn't be something too big, given that larger quarry was likely to get noticed faster and might lead to him getting caught. That's when Taylor Brenson, one of his now former co-workers bum leg acted up and caused him to stumble with a crate; Greg had to move so that Taylor didn't collide with him, but Taylor did drop the crate he was carrying causing one of the corners to crack.

"Taylor, watch it!" Quinn shouted at the oaf. "This is The Circle's stuff its priceless, you don't want to know what they'd do to us if you break it, heck even I don't want to know what they'd do to you."

"Sorry boss," Taylor replied as he inspected the contents to make sure they were undamaged. This gave Greg a very good at the crates contents- namely a pair of ancient crowns. Given that despite being elaborate they were not, overly ornate these were obviously the real deal and meant to be worn on a daily basis; granted he couldn't tell where they were from (or even what they're made of) and that would probably mean his sponsor would likely be very interested.

Kane Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
1:21 AM EDT

Whateley Security Officer Metler took careful note of the clock, enough time had passed that the last officers of B-Shift were out of Kane Hall and headed home for the night. He smiled to himself, now was the time of the day that Squad 7 made their real money, by informing those who greased their palms in just the right way. Metler like most of the rest of those under the supervision of Simon Trout had several patrons contributing to their well-being and some of the info he had garnered today would pay off well.

As it so happened several persons of interest were going to be headed to Boston for the weekend and out from under the wing of Whateley protection. Now make no mistake as crooked as Metler was he had no intention of selling this info to those who were actively trying to kill their students, his job at Whateley might be lucrative but without it he was a liability to several dangerous people- a loose end that they'd just as soon tear off...before setting on fire. No as far as he knew no one in Squad 7 would sell info to the likes of The Necromancer or Death-List; no the individuals they contacted likely had interests in certain students outside of homicide- as far as they knew, all that remained was who to call first- well there was always the old fail-safe method.

"Eenie- meenie- minee- moe," Metler went over the traditional American selection ritual before his questing finger came to a stop- he looked at his choice and smiled. "Not my usual first choice but he does pay well."

Making sure to activate his bug blocker first, Metler dialed the number on his rat-out phone. It took a few minutes but the first of his clients this morning answered.

"Hello, it's me, I'm calling to inform you that those students that you're interest in will be in Boston tomorrow for a little outing-"

Thursday April 19th, 2007
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - Las Vegas Chapter
Las Vegas, Nevada
11:37 PM PDT

"I see," Greygus observed as he talked into the landline. "Thank you for telling me, I was going to be over in The Big Apple this weekend anyway, I might as well swing round to Beantown to have a chat with them."

Pausing a moment to listen to the other end of the line Greygus responded, "No I'm not going to make them a job offer, there are just a few things that they need to know about themselves, and I think that given the reputation of some of the others in my circle that I'm just the person to do so."

The djinn who served as the second in command of Lord Khamsin paused to listen to his informant a little more, "Yes, of course your money will be wired to your offshore account, honestly are Benjermin's all that you think about?"

"All right, all right there's no need to get so belligerent." Greygus hung up the phone and went to Lord Khamsin's newly remodeled office. "Hey pops, just got off the horn with our resident stoolie from Whateley; the Maidens are going to be headed to Bean Town this weekend so I thought that I'd stop in to have a chat after I finish the inspection of the Black Vault items that we're removing from the New York Branch's storage warehouse."

"Honestly I wish that I could come along with you son." Lord Khamsin said as he looked up from the stack of papers he was working over, mostly of them material requests from the mystics who operated out of Vegas or requests from the local legitimate businessmen to look into grifters thought to be using luck related relics on the strip casinos. "The part of this arrangement that I always hated was the paperwork."

"Might have something to do with Miranda's mother coming into town," Greygus chuckled under his breath. "Boy would she be surprised to find out the kid's real nature."

"We're just lucky that she isn't mama bear enough to demand her grandchild's father march her little girl down the aisle," Lord Khamsin said with a huff. "Djinn law might allow for consorts (and legitimize the children they bare) but it frowns on bigamy, and Nephyris is too traditional to agree. Honestly I don't know how Ptah swung that arrangement let alone handles a situation like that and stays sane."

"Probably because Bast is the only one who can reign in her sister," Greygus said as he poured himself a drink from the honor bar. "You do remember what happened the last time that she lost control."

"How could I forget, the Egyptians blamed me for that mess." Lord Khamsin groaned. "That's where that stupid myth about me having an army of werebeasts at my command started."

"Well you were responsible for founding the tribe who became the royal guard." Greygus mused for a moment.

"Yeah, but the Medjai were not an army loyal to me, I simply taught them the school of martial arts that I created for our royal guard." Lord Khamsin explained as his soon walked out.

Hall of Echoes
Celephaïs, Ooth-Nargai, The Dreamlands
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

Bea had just emerged from another of the orbs detailing the now fallen Eastern Court, and was pausing to take a moment to process what she had absorbed. Even the orbs contents were just a general overview of the Eastern Court it still went into a fair deal of detail, it was wonderful to find that her ancestors valued culture and the arts so highly, though it was hardly surprising given that she already knew that their magic use came from singing. Still the part about the gender parity and its affect on family structure was another story, apparently, mermen were uncommon and only one child in twenty was male.

Sometimes this lead to group marriages like the one that the six princesses were going to enter into with her uncle, odd how that she met her future aunts before she ever did her uncle. The part that would really shake human culture about merfolk was that it was far more common for two or more mermaids to form a family with each other, request the use of a sire through a type of bureaucracy when they chose to have children, and then raise the half-siblings together without the father.

Apparently this arrangement was also more than cultural as well, it explained that mermaids were genetically bisexual because of the gender disparity. 'Well that explains some things,' I thought as I blushed realizing that some of the feelings that I'd had in the showers were apparently common for mermaids, 'It also means that a lot of women will be needing therapy when I lift Dagon's Curse.'

'Still I thought that there are supposed to be as many men as women suffering from Innsmouth Syndrome,' I said to myself as I chewed the matter over in my mind. 'Must be due to the fact that they're hybrids like me, the human lineage must make the gender ratio closer to one-one; I wonder if that means that they'll have ears like me too after the curse is lifted?'

"Do you have any questions young Aletheia?" Greyback said as he looked up from his own studies and padded over to me. "If you do I would be more than pleased to answer them."

"Not really Greyback, I think that I figured out the answer for myself, but I am a little concerned." I replied making sure to voice a matter that I knew I'd need to help address in the very near future in the waking world, "The women and girls who'll become mermaids when I help lift Dagon, they'll have to deal with the mentality that comes with the situation. I may not be all that familiar with human culture but I know that sexual inclinations other than those of the opposite gender are considered unwelcome deviations from the norm."

"What is simply is child," Greyback said as he padded over and placed a paw on my shoulder. "The fact of the matter is that a stable even gender ratio like that which modern man considers normal is common only to the races of the Center Court. The Faerie of the Western Court and the Eínains of the Eastern Court both were predominately female, that of course had an effect on their biology and cultures. The Tiānshén of the Northern Court and the Daimons of the Southern Court conversely are predominately male and both handle that differently. The Tiānshén handle it by the females being clutch egg layers who do so after engaging with multiple males, I remember it was a sight to behold. As for the Daimons the males possess the ability to temporarily transform females of other races into lesser variants of themselves, they also possess the potential to make that change permanent however that is a complex matter."

"I wonder how the men of the world will handle those little nuggets of information," I said as I prepared to dive into the sphere containing information on the Kingdom of the Coral Crown, the kingdom of the Eastern Court whose royal line I was descended from through my other mother Thalatté and grandfather King Apsu.

"Whether they can handle it or not it is the reality, the world is far larger than modern man knows and one day they will have to learn of that fact and begin to accept it as such." Greyback explained as he padded back to his earlier spot, "Besides you and your uncle Qingu will have to tell the world the truth when you break Dagons curse, which is if you want to save the new mermen and mermaids from the wrath of mankind's resulting panic."

That was the part I was afraid of, something major like this always had consequences, I guess the saying could be true that no good goes unpunished. With that thought in my mind I began to let my mind drift into the next orb.

Laird Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

Finally the last of my training evaluations for the year, at least until I took my combat final in Arena 99. "Faolan," I stood as I heard Sensei Itou call out my name and walked out to the mat, for some odd reason I didn't hear the name of my opponent called out, still I was sure that I would be ready for what Itou would throw my way.

That was when I saw Chaka on the other side of the mat. 'Okay no problem, I know that she's supposed to be a martial arts prodigy but I am still supposed to give it all that I got.'

I drew my practice knives as I prepared to show Itou sensei what I had learned; suddenly Chaka's form began waver. Then suddenly my opponent began to multiply, before I knew it there were dozens of Chaka's flooding the mat each armed with a different type of weapon, while some actually sprouted extra arms.

I began to panic when I heard Itou-sensei shout in a demonic voice as he transformed into a giant red oni, "HAJIMEI!"

At that moment the mob of Chakas came at me like a wave of flesh and steel, some charged me while others came at me from over-head- there was nothing that I could do as time seemed to slow down while they got closer- and closer until...

Friday April 20th, 2007
Poe Cottage
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
6:07 AM EDT
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

"AAAAHHHHHHH- OW!" I shot up out of bed so fast that I hit my head on the top bunk, my ears folded at the pain as I fell off my bed and onto the floor, fortunately I didn't land on my tail- believe me that would hurt for a solid day.

"Randi- what the heck?!?" Candace said as she woke up before there was some knocking at our door, my vulpin roommate slipped on a nightshirt as she went to answer the door.

Rip and Bugs were outside when she opened the door, Bugs peered in while she explained. "Sorry, we heard the scream and with all that's happened this year we thought better safe than sorry."

"Sorry to bother you," I said as I rubbed the sore spot on my head. "Just had a nightmare where the evil midget sicced Chaka on me and she turned into a small army before he began the match."

"Yeah, that would probably do it." Rip said as she tried to contain her snickering, everyone in Poe knew that she and Toni were in a relationship, granted said relationship that was a little shaky at the moment. This was mostly thanks to Chaka deciding to date Thunderbird from the Cape Squad as well. "Let me guess weapons proficiency test today?"

"Yeah, I got lucky yesterday when he picked Draco for my powers martial-arts test." I turned to Candace who had a bit of a cross look on her face, "But considering some of the others in that class I got lucky Tolman chose him, heck I was lucky that the match she was supervising ended before the one Itou was supervising ended, I heard the man is a sadist."

"Yeah, I'll give you that much," Candace said as she waved off the comment. "Max has had some interesting things to say about that class."

"Somebody tell that furball that if she wakes me up again I'll spay her!" Tempest said as she poked her head in the door before stomping off to the showers.

"Geez, I'll never figure out that lady's problem," I muttered as I sat down and powered up my laptop, no sense rushing into the shower line if I'd be behind the PMS Avenger.

"She acquired a major hatred of gender-flippers before you got here thanks to the Kimbas, especially Toni for some odd reason." Rip said shaking her head at the whole mess. "You're just guilty by association because of the fact that you used to be one of the three-legged ones, that and she hates the fact that you look better than her.

"Hey it's nothing that a little diet and exercise wouldn't cure," Candace stated as she reemerged from the closet in her shower-robe. "Now don't doddle Randi, I'd hate for to miss out on enjoying the show."

Bugs and Rip turned towards me the two of them both wearing smirks on their faces, but saying nothing as they left. I merely rolled my eyes switched from my pajamas to my robe, grabbed my shower kit and headed to the showers- what can I say I still had a pulse.

Hidden Cave - Hesperus Peak
La Plata Mountains, Colorado
9:37 AM MDT
POV: Zhen-yu Chen, Rose of the North

I stared at myself in the mirror I couldn't believe my eyes, I was me for the first time since I hatched out of that egg I turned into back in September, I was me again. Okay, I suppose that the real me is still a Chinese dragon girl, this transformation is not who I really was, but still I look like a normal human again- just like how I used to look.

"Just remember child this form is not your real self," Sha Wujing explained although I admit I was only half listening as I admired myself in the mirror. "It will take time to master the art of transformation; this form might be a familiar one which is why it comes to you so easily. While a familiar form such as this will allow you to pass among normal society learning a variety of other transformations can become useful as well; however you will also need to gain a great deal of discipline to maintain this form, if your concentration lapses for a single instant-"

Sha Wujing ceased his lecture right before I felt a light tap on my back. This startled me, and I suddenly lost my transformation reverting to my normal self. "Then you will return to the form that you naturally wear. Only with practice and proper discipline can you maintain a transformation such as that in the conditions presented outside in the world beyond this mountain cavern."

Again I was only half-hearing the lecture of the sand priest, I was too busy looked at the image in the mirror with a heavy heart. Whereas before there was Zhen-Yu Chen the human daughter of Fan-Shi and Ni-Gao Chen who had a happy life with her friends and family back in Seattle, now there was a half fucanglong who had not seen the warm rays of the sun in months. Instead of the girl who spent her life hanging out with her friends at Duk Li or cleaning the local Betsuin, now there was the mutant that felt a frost-tongued lash at her back as she was called Yáo Xīyì and forced to make gemstones day and night.

It wasn't fair! Why couldn't I be a normal girl? Why did I have to live this fate? My mind turned to the others who were intertwined with me in this prophecy, girls who I had never met. The mermaid and the fairy that were now enjoying the sun and society, they were probably laughing with their friends even now as I languished in this cave. They didn't have to see this scaly sight in the mirror, everyone knew how beautiful mermaids were supposed to be and fairies weren't far behind them everyone thinks fairies are cute, they probably had boys falling over themselves for the chance to be with them. As for me who would want to spend time with someone looking like I do? I thought for a moment but all that I could think of as an answer to that question was some sicko with a reptile fetish, but certainly no one who was normal.

Even the last one that would join our number was someone I was sure would have a more normal existence than myself, she was supposed to be a genie so all that meant was a girl with an odd skin tone who would look great in a belly dancing outfit- why did I have to suffer like this and they didn't?!?

"Child I would suggest that you try again, eventually maintaining a form such as that which you used just now will be instinct however such a result only comes with practice and concentration." Sha Wujing stated in his usual gruff tone, "That is unless you would rather focus on learning how to maintain such focus on an intuitive level, I know of several methods to achieve this."

"Whatever," I scoffed as my temper was already as hot as my fire. "Bring it on monk; there is nothing you can throw at me that I can't take!"

Headmistress's Office - Shuster Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
11:43 AM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

"Come in," Mom stated as the doors to her office opened thanks to the thankfully hidden motors. As soon as the wooden doors opened I was clear to roll rolled inside, I have to admit the technology around Whateley was advanced in all of the right ways. Unlike the many memories of modern buildings, that I had seen through Cytherea's eyes here the technology was like the gears of a cookoo clock carefully hidden inside so as not to spoil the ascetic of the surroundings, it created a sort of energy about it.

"You wanted to speak with me mom?" I asked as I maneuvered my chair into a position in front of her desk, she tried to hide it but I saw a brief smile on her face every time that I called her that and who am I to deny her the pleasure when I owed her so much already.

"Yes dear, I understand that you were wanting to go to Boston for a little shopping. You need to understand, after all that has happened this year to students who went there that the Whateley Board of Directors is- concerned about students going to Boston for any reason out of fear that they could be targeted." Mom began her lecture trying to keep it as impersonal as possible however; I didn't need to be an empath to hear the fear in her voice.

"I understand mom, the rumors are making their way around the other students now that you are considering banning travel to Boston." I said passing on what I'd heard last night from Renee. "I was just looking to buy a birthday present for Princess Evania, if you want me to go to Manchester instead I understand."

"Actually I asked a few choice students to act as your chaperones while in Boston;" Mom said cutting to the heart of the matter, while it hurt a little that I didn't feel she trusted me to do this on my terms I understood she was just thinking of my safety. Maybe it might actually work out for the best; I could always use some advice while I was shopping.

"Alright, I was just going to stick with the other students but if you think that they'll be able to help then I'm all for it." I said with a smile, if anything, it would also give me the excuse to get acquainted with a few more people; maybe even find me something to do once I am finally able to say goodbye to this chair.

Mom almost seemed to be relieved to hear me say that; it was almost as if she was expecting a fight, maybe I should ask someone about that later. "It's good to hear that, Gloriana from the FSA will be joining you on your trip and she readily agreed. Amelia also asked Poise if she wouldn't mind lending a hand to help restore the Alpha's reputation; however she has a photo shoot scheduled this Saturday, she did ask Heartbreaker from the Academy's Fashion Club if she would fill in for her. Ms Hilton agreed but still she wants to speak to you about it sometime this afternoon, apparently she wants to see if you can help her with something."

"I'll contact her and see if I can fulfill her request," I said as I maneuvered my chair to get ready to leave the room, "Oh and mom, one more thing."

"Yes," Mom said as she turned towards me in curiosity. "What is it?"

"Thank you for trusting me enough to let me visit Boston," I said with a smile. "I'll do my best to live up to the faith you are placing in me." As I hovered back out the door of her office, I knew without seeing it that she was smiling back.

South Middle School - Lunch Room
Arlington Heights, Illinois
12:16 PM CDT
POV: Chandra Defrank

Chandra reveled in the fact that for the first time in weeks Victor and his group of posers were leaving her alone during lunch, just as well they had important work to do. "Alright, I hope everyone is ready for tomorrow's game. Now understand we only have half of our normal practice today, we are going to be stuck in Ava's mother's van for at least three hours until we get to Moline for the game, if we over prepare we'll just psyche ourselves out.

"Got it Captain," Deb said with a mock salute, "I'll make sure to tell Marlina and Erica when I see them on the way back from lunch. The Soccer team is still pissed that you scouted our Mexican Jumping Bean before they could, I swear that sometimes I think that she's part cricket."

"Hey what am I chopped liver," Alice said with a pout preparing to bring on the dreaded puppy-dog eyes.

"Nope I'd say that you're more like tender loin." Nita chuckled as she ribbed Alice. "Better be careful that you don't bruise before it's time for the pit."

"Knock it off you two," I said trying to hide my smile as I shook my head, this was what it should be like in the week leading up to the game. Tomorrow our team would give it our all and then hit that ice-cream parlor Marcy mentioned, let Victor and his friends learn the consequences of their own actions the hard way.

"So Captain, do you have any advice for the game?" Marcy asked as she looked up from next period's homework.

"Yes actually," I said, as I knew that this was coming. "We need to work on feints and less on setting up for jump shots, remember the less routine we play the less likely the other team is to predict our strategy. Still above all else remember to have fun."

"Roger!" Everyone said imitating Deb's earlier mock salute as I rolled my eyes, Candace certainly left me with plenty of knuckle-heads to work with.

Canyon Vista Middle School - Lunch Room
Round Rock, Texas
12:37 PM CDT
POV: Joan Drucker

"So Joan," Mallory said as she finished began to cut up her lunch. "Are you going to be seeing your parents off at the airport?"

"No they left for Austin-Bergstrom early this morning," I said as I began to divulge the official reason my parents were going to New York, granted that it was just as important to the organization as their mission with the Sweepers tomorrow. "My dad has to be there to set up his demo for tonight and mom wants to have plenty of time to look over the security measures. I can't tell you too much about it until tomorrow; just that it could mean a potential billion dollar defense contract from the Federal government alone."

"Sweet," Mallory said with a little wide-eyed enthusiasm. "Oh, I can only imagine what they're showing off to the military; a new smart missile, maybe a micro-attack drone, or a military grade version of their new armor."

"Come on Mallory," Erika said as she rolled her eyes in disbelief. "Axcel isn't in the business of military weapons manufacturing, at least not that I know of... Are they Joan?"

"Nope," I replied confident that I was telling the whole truth for once given that while they did make weapons, especially for internal operations for the Grand Hall portion of our operations, they didn't create weapons for military use. "And I'm sorry, but I can't tell you what it is until after the public press release either?"

"Want us to come over and keep you company after your house sitter comes over?" Erika asked out of both concern and curiosity, obviously wanting to see the inside of my home at last. "We could have a sleepover and then help you setup for the party tomorrow."

"I'll have to ask Miss Snyder when she gets here tonight, she is going to be in charge after all; just make sure to tell your folks it's conditional." And give me the time to double-check all the locks and concealment spells on the secret areas of the house, sometimes being the kid of a couple of super-villains is a pain in the neck.

Elinore was in clear sight as she came towards where we were sitting, her usual happy-go-lucky smile on her face; it must be nice not to have a real care in the world- not to worry that one day your parents were caught and thrown in some ultra-prison for the rest of their lives or killed by some super-powered psycho-vigilante.

"Okay Joan, since your ‘rents okayed the party I'll be over around three-ish with some friends to help set things up." Elinore said as usual grinning from ear to ear. "You don't have to worry about the necessities: tunes, food and refreshments will be provided by yours truly along with the DJ and the carpet cleaning service. I also hope that your parents have a sturdy lock on their liquor cabinet because I am not paying for major remodeling."

"The only booze that we have in the house is my parent's wine cooler and that's my pop's design- a quad-dead bolt linked to a thumb scanner with bullet proof glass." I explained right before I put my foot down on a few matters. "And just to be clear, there are four areas of the house that will be off limits to everyone. No one is allowed in my room without permission, I don't want some perv going through my dresser; the same goes for my parent's room. No one is to go into the study, aside from Miss Snyder our chaperon will be in there to work on her term paper, that's also where my mom's gun cabinet is and that has the same security as the wine cooler so she will know if anyone tried to get into it. Last but certainly not least, the basement is off-limits to anybody but me, my dad's workshop is down there and if anyone without the right clearance goes down there both my parents could lose their jobs."

"Okay Joan, no reason to have a cow," Elinore said waving off my concerns. "No one is going to do anything stupid like that."

She had better be right; I'd hate to have to spike the punch bowl with Lethe water, though it would likely be funny as hell. I took a quick glance at my watch, my folks would likely be in New York right now, and given that they were flying in civilian guise they'd be going through security right now.

JFK International Airport
New York City, New York
1:40 PM EDT

Greg was in the home stretch as he approached the JFK Terminal 8, the Bugout Bag with the entire contents of Black Vault Eleven was one of his carry-on's and a simple glamour would cause it to register being full of camera equipment. This went along perfectly with his stolen identity as Tyler Brooks a who was a minor freelance photographer; he even had a great cover story as being on the way to cover an AMC sponsored dog show that was going to be this weekend. The airport security wouldn't even give it a second look since photographers and photo-journalists raise a major stink about anyone rough-handling their equipment as being a violation of the freedom of the press, and the real Tyler Brooks was a minor photographer.

The two crowns while not in his carry-on's were hidden in a special smuggling crate in the cargo-hold that his unwitting former co-workers sent on the same flight, aiding in his theft and making them just as guilty without even knowing it. Before they were aware of what had gone on he'd be on his way to Chile and living in a modest amount of luxury under yet another identity he would acquire from his patron in Boston.

Greg sat in silence paying careful attention to the loud-speaker for his boarding call, after a scant minute and a half he heard the loudspeaker "Flight 17 bound for Boston, this is your call, please begin boarding at Gate 7!" He slipped on his headphones to take in a little music while he boarded. Halfway to his destination the loud speaker announced "Flight 56 now arriving from Austin at Gate 5!"

Indeed his fortune was lost on him as the first group began to exit at Gate 5, if he had known he would have been panicking as soon as the first passengers began to depart the plane one Jacob Prescott (alias Shuffle) would have instantly picked up on this and taken more than a cursory look, however his view was obscured by a businessman who began walking to his left. As Shuffle had memorized the faces of everyone working at the Storage Facility during his briefing, he would have recognized Greg Paulson instantly.

Instead, Greg boarded his flight with Shuffle only getting a slight glance at him, unaware of just how close he had really come to having his plans unravel in an instant. No- this fortunate turn of events was lost on him as he boarded his flight the only thing on his mind being his ill-gotten gains, because at this moment to Shuffle he was just one of many faces in the most crowded airport in the world.

Meanwhile at Gate 5, the rest of the Sweepers that Shuffle brought with him on this mission began to trickle out of the plane, Gremlin and Atropos were the first to follow Shuffle from out of first class their usual civilian glamour charms active. Gremlin could be said to be playing his role to a T obviously looking uncomfortable in the suit he had been forced into, if it wasn't for the fact that it was no act; it was no secret among the Face Cards of the still growing Sweepers that Gremlin hated formal attire like a root canal.

Atropos meanwhile was every part of the security agent that was her day job, she was a staunch professional in this area and her experience showed; more than once those working security at Axcel had hit her with the Mercy Graves comparison and darned if it didn't fit her like a glove. She was also currently busy calming down her husband, "Walter there is nothing to worry about, Joan's not a little girl anymore, it's time that we start to give her a little more room. Besides party or not Nicole will be there to look after her and make sure that nothing goes wrong, now relax you have enough to worry about with your presentation."

"How can you be so calm, our baby girl is thousands of miles away and going to be alone in the house with a bunch of strangers?" Walter stared at his wife Alice his face beaded in sweat. "What if one of those teenage boys tries to do something to her- or starts a fire- or manages to get into my lab? That's it I'm going back home my little girl needs me!"

Alice was quick to grab onto her husband and keep him from rushing back onto the plane, the nearby airport security guards and MCO agent came towards them Alice replied with a legitimately embarrassed look on her face. "Our daughter is at home and having some friends over, you know how it is teenagers and parties- as well as father's with teenage daughters."

The TSAs nodded as they went back to the gate while the MCO agent laughed under his breath and returned to his post. After Atropos began to drag her husband out of the airport- glad that she secretly packed him, an extra pair of dress shoes because this pair was going to be tremendously scuffed. The rest of the team began to filter out with the passengers from coach.

The scared bruiser Agony was the first of the group to depart from coach wearing a glamour making him appear to be a native of Samoa rather than betraying his usual Latin heritage (and numerous scars) and dressed like a tacky tourist who had just arrived from Texas. He stopped by the TSA and showed them his forged passport, which displayed that he had already been checked in at Las Angeles, Denver, and Austin fitting along perfectly that he was just a foreigner with a little money touring the US. They could also see that he had already booked a flight to Chicago a week from now on the next leg of his travels.

While Ernesto was busy playing semi-clueless tourist Adeline Jude aka Catalyst was already making her way out to catch the first the ride that Axcel arranged for her. She like the Druckers was here for the test demonstration of Axcel's Newest Project with the military at the Westerlo mortar range, but unlike the happily wedded couple she was headed to the range right now to get everything setup for the demonstration tonight.

After grabbing her luggage Adeline began making her way across the airport, as she did she finally exited the airport she spotted the Druckers getting into a taxi on their way to their hotel, Walter now no longer struggling to return to his daughter's side back in Round Rock. "Must be nice to be married," Adeline commented in a low tone as she stowed her luggage and equipment inside the trunk, somewhat more conscious of her still empty ring finger. With a wistful sigh, she climbed into the backseat, telling the driver, "Westerlo Mortar Range please."

"I know ma'am," The driver gruffed. "I got the destination from your boss."

After buckling her seat belt Adeline once again staring at her naked ring finger, and muttering in a low voice, "Cheer up Ady, maybe you'll meet some nice soldiers after you set up who can take you out for a drink."

Meanwhile back at the airport Perses in his civilian guise was desperately trying to wave down a taxi to take him to his own motel. It took a good ten minutes but finally he flagged one down, after storing his luggage in the trunk he climbed inside, knowing from experience to breathe through his mouth once he got inside.

"Where to mac?" The cabbie barked the moment Perses stepped inside.

"Red Roof Inn over in Queens," Perses said as he buckled up. "Need to stow my stuff and get some shut eye."

"You got it," the cabby said as he pulled away from the airport to make his way to Long Island while in the back Perses was ready to fall over from a mixture of hunger, and exhaustion. This being his third mission in a week having just returned from hunting for the last of Harrow's toadies, at least who were fortunate enough to be outside of Chicago when Erzabet took over the Chapter House. All that he wanted to do was drop off his bags, grab a bite and then conk out until ten o'clock.

Elton and Madeline Garrett Middle School - Lunch Room
Boulder City, Nevada
12:32 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

"It's official; I'm banned from boxing and quitting the gym." I said as I poked at my lunch while my friends stood by in shock. "My mother got the news about what happened yesterday and gave me the ultimatum, I'm through."

"What are you serious?" Danny said shocked, "Just like that, Paul what's wrong with you- couch says you're one of the best that he's ever seen."

"Really Paul," Steve spoke up in clear concern, "you almost placed top in state last year during the Silver Gloves, this year you could go all the way. Really your mother is over-reacting over nothing more than a tiny scratch."

"It's not just the scratch," I said as I absentmindedly stroked the weird scratch that I had received from yesterday's beating-"


I suddenly found myself in a strange place, I could see outlines that resembled people but blurry and indistinct, like I was watching everything through several pairs of fogged up glasses. No matter how hard I strained my ears I could barely make out what anyone was saying, such as the voice of a woman that was nearby one, "...o ...v... m... ...k ...y ...b... y... ...s!"

'That's weird,' I thought to myself. 'I know that I've heard that voice before but where was it?'

Elton and Madeline Garrett Middle School - Lunch Room
Boulder City, Nevada
12:41 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

Just as suddenly as the vision had come to me it had faded away leaving me sitting in the lunchroom with my friends more than a little confused. What the hell was that about, and why did that lady sound so familiar just who was she?

As I came back to reality, Walt was pointing at me with a determined look in his eye, "Listen Paul I get it, your mother's all the family that you've got, but you can't let her run your life. You've worked too hard at this just to give it up over something that isn't even your fault

"Walt's right Paul, listen I may not be the smartest guy around, but I know when someone is making a bone-headed decision (mostly from experience)." Danny said backing Walt up. "I'll tell you what we'll be waiting around the corner from your neighborhood at six tomorrow morning, come see the fight with us this weekend maybe take in a couple of shows and give the old lady a chance to cool down. Just remember we'll only be sticking around until a quarter-past till we leave, remember you're a teenager now it's time that you remind your mom that you're cordless; sides from what my uncle told me a little rebellion at this age is healthy."

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4 years 5 months ago #27207 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 4 Notes

A gadget sold on the mercenary market to take care of surveillance equipment, rather than frying or destroying bugs, it leaves them intact while broadcasting digital counter audio thus making all said record as silence or white-noise.

Rat-out Phone
A cell phone that operate on microburst sub frequencies that cell towers broadcast but don't trace, they are also next to impossible to tap.

The people of the Eastern court include naiads, mermaids, orithans, kelpies, merrows, sea serpents, etc. Eínains tend to dislike hot, dry climates, as many are vulnerable to heatstroke. Something of interest, not all Eínains are sea-dwelling creatures.

The beings of the Southern Court including djinn, gremlins, salamanders, imps, shades, etc. Daimons prefer either natural environs or modern places as ruined structures weaken them.

The beings of the Northern Court including dragons, rocs, phoenix, storm giants, etc. Tiānshén depend on Celestial energy and fall into torpor without it thus they like being around gold, which originates from supernovas often basking in its energy.

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4 years 5 months ago #27820 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 5

Hidden Cave - Hesperus Peak
La Plata Mountains, Colorado
1:02 PM MDT
POV: Zhen-yu Chen, Rose of the North

"Alright that is enough for the meditation drills today," Sha Wujing said aloud as he dispelled the barrier of freezing ice that had stood between the outside world and me.

As the ice vanished I fell backwards my arms still pointing over-head with my palms braced upwards, as I'd needed them to be constantly channeling volcanic heat to combat the deep chill of Antarctic winter that Sha was sending down the narrow ice chimney.

"You know it is perfectly alright to put your arms down now." Sha explained a mild tone of concern peppering his voice.

"I can't," I said with a weary tone. "I think they're stuck that way!"

"Ah, I think I have a solution for that," The Sand Priest said as he came closer. "Please roll over onto your back."

I wanted to argue with the monk but frankly, I was too tired and not sure that I would win either. It took a little effort and I wanted to take a nap, but I managed to comply with his request. Soon he had his hands on me, now I didn't want to admit it but my time as the guest of the Zhāoshāng de Yōuhuàn had given me a- mild aversion to the- um well- opposite gender.

Okay I'm not a lesbian or anything like that, it's just that my- handlers while I was being forced to create gemstones night and day were all middle-aged men. Any time someone hit me with that damned frost whip it was a man holding the lash's handle, anytime I had that thin rice gruel shoved in my face it was a man doing it. Of course there was also the fact that I was kidnapped at the orders of their now deceased Xuè-jīn Mùshī, who threatened to kill my parents if I wasn't fully obedient to him even after he stole my name; I still count the day that Kelsey reduced the avaricious infernal bastard to a pill of bones as a fond memory.

"You are tensing up even more child," Sha Wujing explained as he began to work over my back muscles with firm yet subtle manipulations of his hands. He must be a lot stronger than he looked because the last time that I needed to get a knot out of my back Kelsey had to use my hammer on me- scuffed the poor thing up something awful.

"I can't help it zūn zhě," I explained remembering my manners. Well that and the fact that if my mother ever heard that I addressed a divine arhat with anything less than the respect he deserved, then near impenetrable dragon hide or not she'd manage to tan it. "The circumstances of my incarceration by those who worshiped the Demon Lord Bloody Gold have left scars upon my soul; one's that I am afraid will never heal."

"Do not be so quick to make such an assessment child," the Sand Priest stated with a solemn expression on his face. "In time with the right kind of help the pain of such scars will go away, whether they are those inflicted upon us, or those we inflict upon ourselves."

"But they never go away completely, do they?" I asked morosely as I notice what he did not say to me.

"No child nor should they," Sha Wujing said with a heavy sigh. "Our experiences help shape who we are and how we perceive the world around us; however it is up to us to choose what that final shape will be for once you let someone else be the sculptor you begin to lose control over your life. Now let us put what you've learned into practice, try transforming again."

Laird Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
3:31 PM EDT
POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West

I sat along the sidelines with butterflies desperately trying to flee my stomach, this was where I would put the skills that Morrigan and Anu both had been teaching me to their final test. My skill with knives or with a saber soon I was going to show off what I knew; other than the fact that I felt like I was going to hurl.

"First match Faolan, Nightbane, please approach the mat." Tolman-sensei called out I sighed in resignation, this was going to be a tough match, although by no means an impossible one. On the one hand, everyone around Poe knew that Nightbane was Reverend Englund's personal protégé a demon hunter in training to take on things that went bump in the night and the leader of his secret team of monster hunters here on campus. On the other hand said team of monster hunters kept their status hidden from most students on campus by surrounding themselves with members who made them look like a joke, this lead to them being dubbed the Goobers (after the first and some would say worst mimic that Hanna Barbera tried to make along the formula of their hit Scooby-Doo) by the other students.

To go along with this facade Nightbane put on an act like she was an just another bleach-bottle blonde air-headed Buffy-wannabe, the only reason that folks in Poe knew the truth was that Englund was obsessed with offing Carmilla and had actually been indirectly responsible for what had happened last Halloween as a result. At least those in Poe knew it but since almost everyone else on campus knew Poe was crazy town, then the cover story for the cabin's secret worked against us. This reputation for craziness meant that conspiracy theorists were part of the package deal; granted that I hadn't helped the situation sometimes talking to Jane aloud instead of in my head when she was half-way across campus and I was just getting the hang of our link.

But enough with the wandering thoughts, I was on the mat and so was my opponent trying to appear as vapid as she could holding a reinforced practice boken, as I held the saber equivalent that Tolman had given me for the day. "Bow," Sara and I faced each other and did so. "Ready," Nightbane and I both took our stances with our chosen practice weapons. "Begin!"

I kept my distance and began to circle; I knew some of Nightbane's style but not enough to be confident in making the first move. She was an Exemplar and I only had her level of strength when I shifted, while that wasn't forbidden in this match I wanted to save that card until I needed to play it- thankfully I had eaten a big lunch just in case since my costume was a no-no. Nightbane began to close in on me with a steady pace while keeping up a relaxed guard; although I could tell from my training with Morrigan that this was as big a lie as Nightbane's airhead bleach-bottle blonde persona. No, she was ready to put up just enough of a show to do the job- unfortunately for her this little wolf is more bite than bark.

Soon as she was within range Nightbane took a strong overhead swing at me, I blocked it using the flat of my blade and my right shoulder as a lever. She almost immediately she tried to use her strength to press me to my knees, and from her perspective it must have looked like it was working- at least until I pressed forward and nailed her in the nose with the butt of my practice sword.

On reflex Nightbane recoiled and grabbed her nose, were she not an exemplar this would be a TKO, it was time for me to press my attack. As fast as I could I took my distance again and began to hit my selected targets, her floating ribs, and joints; I tried to hit as many as I could before she recovered, but still recover she did. Nightbane blocked my swing at her shoulder and it was obvious that she was pissed- good I know from experience that a pissed fighter is a sloppy fighter.

She began to press me on the offensive striking hard with her blade; I used my own to intercept it out of apparent desperation, as if I was sloppily parrying it with my own. This made me move further and further back on the mat as her blows began to grow bolder and bolder eventually I reached my target. When she came at me with another over-head strike, I dodged to my left- spun on my heel and while she was temporarily off-balance nailed her across her scapula. This was risky because she had two courses of action, she could step outside of the mats in which case I win by ring out, or she'd fall to her knees and go on the defensive until she could regain the upper hand- she chose the latter option then while still crouched somehow spun to face me.

Crud she was starting to drop her airhead act, this meant that she'd step-up her game, in which case I had to get serious and bring out all the stops. I shifted into my werewolf form while Nightbane turned her tuck rolled to give what would have simulated a stab to the solarplex. That would end the match for me so I bunny-hopped backward, in that moment Nightbane used her other foot to roll further forward and connect with her previous attack.

"Match call," Tolman-sensei called out as Nightbane got to her feet. "The Winner is Nightbane."

Oh well I lost, no big deal at least I had shown what I knew, I bowed to Nightbane and then again to Tolman-sensei before I returned to the sidelines. My stress at these combat evaluations began to fade; now all I had left was the Combat Final at the end of the semester.

Feeling better already Randi, I heard Jane through our link as I settled in to observe the rest of the matches for the class as the clock on the wall ticked away towards the weekend. The minutes just seemed to tick away as I sat in observation of the classes regular students trying to get the gist of their styles, after all I had no idea just who I'd be facing in the combat finals.

Class was almost over when I heard Ito-sensei call out, "Faolan," I stood up slowly my only thought was that I was going to receive my cumulative evaluation on the last few days. That was when he called out, "Chaka." I froze as I turned to see Toni Chandler hop to her feet with as I could swear that I saw her smile like a shark as she did so.

Academy Grounds Southeast of The Quad
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
4:42 PM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

Okay- I admit that I was more than a little nervous as I guided my wheelchair up to where the two Masterminds said they wanted to meet me. I admit that I knew that these two weren't really as bad as they made themselves out to be but I still needed to be on my guard the last thing that I wanted to be was used as some super villain hopeful's tool. My wheelchair briefly caught on a rock so I had to back up to maneuver around it, ugh I wish the that Doctor Tenant would give his approval for to use Lofstrand crutches already so that I could get out of this chair already; hover or wheelchair mode I don't care I just wanted some added mobility.

I briefly stared at the amber flag that waved in the late day breeze, not that it mattered although the armor that was part of my costume let me swim through the air in my mermaid form I was forbidden to do so outside until I passed the flight class. Still I would be glad when I was allowed to do so, I could almost imagine this coming fall swimming through the air amidst the late autumn breezes when I wasn't walking the grounds as another normal student.

Come to think of it Shelly's new body was going to be ready in June so we'd be student's together, I wonder what my sister was like. Would she like having me as a younger sister- gaah so many questions, focus Bea that will come up when it comes up for now you have a couple of aspiring super-villainesses to talk to, "Hello, the Headmistress said that you wished to speak with me about the trip to Boston tomorrow."

"Geez, listen to her The Headmistress said, why don't you just call her mom?" This girl who looked like she was made from that strawberry gelatin that they serve in Crystal Hall during lunch on Tuesday.

"I do," I admitted although I was just a little embarrassed that someone pointed it out. "Just not when it's school related, I don't want to get any special treatment."

"You have a member of Venus Inc. and one of the top members of the Cape Squad looking after you on a shopping trip and you don't want special treatment!" The gelatin girl said as she was so peeved that she began to lose cohesion.

"Jello calm down," Heartbreaker said to her friend while trying to maintain her own composure. "Remember we're here to try and negotiate a favor for a favor, there's no reason to get hot under the collar."

"Sorry Eve but you know how I feel about entitlement." Jello said as she began to cool down and collect herself. "I'm sorry for blowing my stack at you Miss Carson."

"No offense taken Miss Ruskin," I replied glad to avoid a fight. "I really just want people to see me for me not for being my mother's daughter. Besides this is birthday shopping for someone else, Evania, one of the mermaids who were here a few weeks ago, is turning thirteen next week and I wanted to get her a birthday present. Preferably something that she could use here since Mrs. Redstag is trying to arrange for her to become a student ambassador for the merfolk, the thing is I don't have too much experience shopping for another person so I need a little help to pick something out."

"What I thought that you saw and heard everything Cytherea did growing up?" Heartbreaker asked out of curiosity.

"That girl has never personally shopped for another person in her life!" I barked out as I shook in anger at yet another unpleasant memory of life according to Victoria Donovan. "Anytime that she needed to get a present for another person- the help were the ones picking things out while she tried things on."

"Ugh- figured as much," Heartbreaker remarked as she shook her head. "Am I grateful that she never tried out for Venus Inc, speaking of which Poise wanted me to extend an invitation to you whenever you get your land legs; she thinks that you have a sort of timeless beauty to you."

"Thanks I guess," I replied more than a little flattered that the school's fashion club decided to rush men. "I'll try to live up to your expectations, the truth is no one wants me to get out of this chair more than I do; still I will drop you a line to audition as soon as I am physically able to."

"Actually, what I want to know is if you'll try and use your healing abilities to help Jello here?" Heartbreaker came out and said as I was about to head to the Library to return a few books. "You see she's got a problem with her BIT and given that we've tried devises and hypnotism, I thought that a session with a healer might do some good, especially since you have a way to boost your abilities."

"No," I said with some difficulty.

"No, what do you mean no, it's not even that big of a request?" Jello said understandably upset.

"I mean that I won't attempt it right now, at least not until I have a better grip on my powers; I might even wind up doing more harm than good." I said detailing the reasons behind my refusal. "I promise that as soon as I feel more confident in my abilities that I will see what I can do, but until then it is better safe than sorry for me to avoid experimenting with my abilities like that- especially with another person involved."

"I understand but remember," Heartbreaker said satisfied with the reasons behind my refusal. "I expect you to honor your promise to help Jello."

"I will see what I can do when I've sufficiently tested my ability to the limits." I reinforced my earlier promise, I might not be bound by my promises as a faerie would be but I still hated the thought of breaking them.

Drucker Residence
Round Rock, Texas
5:04 PM CDT
POV: Joan Drucker

I was just about to finish my homework when the doorbell rang, I looked at my alarm clock and noted. "Only a little after five, must be Miss Snyder."

I went downstairs to answer the front door, remotely activating the Passive Identity Verification Scanner (PIVS) on the front porch. It was one of my dad's inventions, it uses a passive low-energy scanner to verify the identity of anyone within sensor range, it then matches that data with the files that our faction of the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom has gleaned from various sources for matches. That and thanks to a few arcano-tech upgrades in recent years it is even able to peek through glamours and shifting talents.

"Who is it?" I asked as a matter of formality as I checked the confirmed identity on our security panel.

"This is Nicole Snyder, your parents asked me to help you keep an eye on your house this weekend." I heard from the other side of the door, "May I come inside?"

I checked the screen on our security panel, sure enough it registered her as who she said she was; even verified her status as a demi-succubus. "Alright, I'm opening the door!" I placed my hand on the bio-metric palm scanner on the wall that undid the triple deadbolt on our reinforced faux-wood door.

I opened the door to see a young woman who looked like she used to be the girl next-door type. She had wavy shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair and a few freckles along her cheeks, a slim figure and was tastefully dressed; in all Nicole Snyder was obviously the type of girl who showed a mature beauty. She walked in and closed the door behind her then turned and offered me the hand that wasn't holding a suitcase, "Hello you must be Joan, I have to say you look so much like your mother it’s scary."

"I know she's always raiding my closet too." I said as I rolled my eyes, "I can't wait till I grow up a little more so that she can't do that anymore."

"When that happens I could imagine that you'd be one of the few girls in the world who'd be giving your mom your hand-me-downs." Nichole quickly quipped, "So your mom told me that you'd be having a lot of your first's this weekend, first slumber party and first house party."

"Yeah," I said as I shuffled my right foot. "I just wish the second was my idea; Elinore Jaffee heard about mom and dad going out of town this weekend and strong-armed me because she can't throw one at her family estate since her dads going to be courting campaign contributors."

"Why didn't you say no?" Nichole asked obviously curious about the entire set of circumstances.

"She's the queen bee of the school, its social suicide to do that!" I said as I tried to give the circumstances for the situation I was facing. "If I don't manifest and get sent to Whateley I need to leave my options open. You know, you really don't look like a succubus."

"Demi-succubus," Nichole smiled before her wings, horns and tail appeared; all of which were relatively small. "And to tell you the truth, unless we want to we don't have to transform into drop-dead gorgeous bombshells when we get turned; fortunately I was actually rather comfortable with what I looked like when I did. Well aside from slimming down a little, I look mostly like I used to be before I became what I now am. So when do your friends get here?"

"In a couple of hours," I said before asking. "Why?"

"Cause I'm ordering Chinese; can you call them an ask if they want anything?" Nichole explained as she withdrew her diabolic features and pulled out her cellphone.

"I thought that pizza was traditional for slumber parties?" I asked somewhat confused by her choice.

"Yeah but it's also one of the main staples for a teenage house party," She said with a hint of embarrassment that let me know that she was speaking from experience. "And trust me on this one you really don't want to gorge yourself on pizza two days in a row. Besides you don't want to fill up on pizza, your mom told me that she stocked up on supplies for chocolate fondue."

Ah, that explains it; I remembered having that from a wedding I attended not too long ago. We were going to have a sugar buzz keeping us going tonight; just one decision remained for the slumber party- romantic comedy or scary movie.

Morrison Family Home
Arlington Heights, Illinois
3:37 PM CDT
POV: Chandra Defrank

"Sorry I missed out on practice yesterday Chandra," Marlina said as we walked up to the front gate.

"Hey we understand you grandmother was sick, and you wanted to look after her so that your parents didn't have to take time out from their jobs." I replied as I punched in the code to the security door next to the front gate. "Besides I think Erica was stoked to get in some more practice than usual."

"Is she still mad about me getting picked instead of her as the first alternate?" Marlina asked once again concerned with being the cause of friction among the team.

"Marlina I told you before," I said as I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. "There is no shame in being good at what you do, when the two of you tried out for the team we gave both of you a fair chance; Erica was just expecting preferential treatment because her sister was the Captain when she was on the team."

I took my hands off her shoulders and we continued on the way to the house. "Of course, some of it may be Stephanie expecting Erica to maintain her legacy, don't get me wrong Stephanie was a good team captain but she had a major streak of narcissism; besides most of us will be at Rolling Meadows or Prospect this fall and then she won't be the alternate anymore."

"Yeah but then the two of us will be competing to see who’s going to be captain next year," Marlina complained as she kicked a stray twig off of the walkway.

"Yes, but remember that is going to be Marcy's decision to make and no one else's." I reminded her as we walked in the front door, "Just remember to do your best tomorrow, and whatever the future brings just handle it as it comes."

"I will captain," Marlina said with a salute as she headed to her bedroom while I did the same.

I sat down at the computer to get started on my homework, briefly turning to the poster of Jackie Joyner-Kersee that my dad sent me for my fourteenth birthday. Another year without seeing him in person, when was the army going to let him come home? "Well wish us luck tomorrow Jackie." I said just as I did the day before a every match since I got it, then set out to finish my homework so that I'd have one less thing on my mind.

Crystal Hall
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
7:16 PM EDT
POV: Randi Brides, Rose of the West

"I can't believe that you passed out standing up in the middle of Laird," Erza could barely constrain her laughter while I tried to make myself as small as I possibly could out of reflex. "I thought that said you were prepared for your combat evaluation today?"

"I was prepared for a combat evaluation today," I grumbled in embarrassment. "I had already lost a match against Nightbane and was winding down for the weekend when I thought I heard that sadistic Miyagi-clone say that he wanted me to fight Chaka out of the blue. It would have been okay if I was prepared- and possibly didn't wake up this morning screaming from a nightmare about this."

"You had a dream about Chaka last night," Jamal said with a raised eyebrow. "Please don't spare the details-OW!"

"Jamal think with the head on your shoulders," Renee said after she smacked him. "She said nightmare not dream, so do us a favor and reign in your teenage hormones."

"Easier said than done Renee," Eddie said chuckling under his breath. "At this age controlling that is about as easy as controlling a caffeinated squirrel."

"Oh you heard about that incident," Buck chimed in looking up from- whatever the hell he was tinkering with at the lunch table. "Yeah funny story, one of Aquerna's fuzzy friends got into the coffee pot in the devisor lab today, it broke through three reinforced steel plates on his way out and no one has seen the little guy since then. Everyone in the workshop is taking bets on what happened; the two major contenders are he's either five states away by now or that he's gone quantum."

"I'd say that you're exaggerating Buck but I've heard stories about the rocket fuel that you people down in The Workshop call coffee," Kerry remarked while looking up from her lunch. "I wouldn't be surprised if the outside world classifies it as a controlled substance. Anyway, Randi what happened when you woke up?"

"Itou congratulated me for taking one of the best courses of action for a fight that he's seen in a while- avoiding it entirely, although I think that he might have been laughing at me behind my back." I grumbled while poking at my dinner.

"No Randi he wasn't," Jane explained as she emerging from her own dinner bowl. "But Tolman was having a good laugh at Itou's expense; especially since he was just calling you up to have Ms Chandler show you some new saber forms and have a look at your weapons."

"And that makes it better how?" I asked my familiar, as I looked the storm crow right in the eyes.

"Well think of the amount of teasing Ms Chandler will be enduring, here she is giving her fellow students nightmares, and making them faint over the thought of fighting her." Jane pointed out while looking back, "Although her friends are likely preoccupied planning for tonight's memorial service back at the cottage, the incident may come up though in idol chatter."

'That's all I need,' I sent her way over our link as I slumped even further into my seat. 'The Last True Queen of the Western Court's chosen heir thinking that the Western Maiden is so much of a coward that she passes out at the concept of fighting the Queen's roommate.'

Yes it sounds that you are truly distressed over this possibility, Jane quipped back. Mayhaps I should ask Candace to do something special during your date tomorrow to cheer you up- or maybe something special tonight to get your mind off Nicole Reilly.

"Jane!" I recoiled and was likely blushing beet red at the implications of what my familiar just suggested, the memory of waking up with my sky-clad roommate cuddling up against my lupine form yesterday still fresh on my mind.

"Care to share the conversation with the rest of us Randi," Renee said as she produced a dark chocolate mini-bar from her purse.

"Let's just say that she's her mother's daughter and leave it at that." I replied doing my best to end the conversation then and there.

Westerlo Mortar Range
Westerlo, New York
8:24 PM EDT

"Now ladies and gentlemen of the United States Military, as you know we at Axcel Incorporated are not a weapons manufacturer; however, what I have invited you here to demonstrate is not a weapon to take the life of enemy combatants." Alana Metzer proclaimed to the assembled military brass from her podium. "What I have brought you here for the demonstration of a tool to protect the lives of our soldiers and the civilians that they have come to defend."

"As everyone who has sent our brave men and women into hostile territory is aware the deadliest adversary that they must confront is not enemy soldiers, but an invention that has plagued the lives of countless souls since its debut during The Great War- unmanned explosives." The current civilian guise of Erzabet Scratch stated in a grim tone, for this invention was a strike against a monstrosity that dealt the blow that first shattered her life. While it was true that Scratch's mother was taken from due to the actions of a mob led by a religious zealot in what was now the city of Flower Mound; her father's life was claimed by a landmine during the closing days of World War I.

"While the Improvised Explosive Devices that are being employed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Insurgents in Iraq are of a far different beast than those of the landmines that are too often employed by actual governments; they are just as fatal to those trying to bring peace to those lands, sometimes more-so."

"This is where Axcel Incorporated’s current creation the Spoilsport comes into play," With that a remote-controlled drone shaped like a miniature flying saucer with a five-foot diameter began to hover off of the ground. "Just to be clear the name is not an acronym, the development team behind the project wanted to call it the Party-Pooper but Marketing turned shot that idea down, something about it being too scatological." That comment drew a few immature chuckled from some of the enlisted men doing security and one or two of the brass.

"Anyway, when the Spoilsport is deployed it can be guided remotely from a range of six-hundred yards away while hovering at five to seven feet off the ground." The drone in question began to hover forward at a rate of about ten miles-per-hour before slowing to about three miles-per-hour once it was three-hundred yards away. "The Spoilsport works using a passive geological sensor to survey the surface strata, once it encounters a large enough anomaly however it switches from passive to active scanning."

"Once it has found an anomaly large enough to conceal a form of UED or IED, it fires out a dart the size of a ballpoint pen. This carries a specially measured amount of a pair of chemicals we at Axcel have patented called Split-Nitro and a device slaved to the signal relay within the Spoilsport." Alana said was she held up a dart that was made purposefully transparent, "This is a demo-dart that operates on the same frequency as the ones the drone is currently deploying against the simulated UEDs and IEDs that your technicians buried hours ago. Do not worry just as those UED's out there are filled with flash powder, and all that this demo-dart contains is food-coloring."

Alana set the demo-dart in a penholder where it could easily be observed and walked away, "The Spoilsport has a twenty-five-dart capacity and can be reloaded in the field by an auto-feeder in the top-which can only be opened when the Spoilsport is not being deployed. Once all anomalies in range are darted or it runs out of darts, the Spoilsport returns to its deployment pad for docking; the control box on the deployment pad will indicate which with a simple LED indicator."

The Spoilsport soon returned to its deployment pad as indicated as its controller Walter Drucker checked the indicators. Once he was satisfied that all of the simulated-UEDs had been tagged he gave Alana Metzer a thumbs-up.

Seeing her agent and employee's confirmation on the go-ahead Alana continued her speech. "At which time the operator will send the detonation code to the darts." Which Walter did at that moment triggering a group of explosions that were more flash than bang further down the field while the demo-dart still in the penholder showed the blue and red dyes mix to get an ordinary purple, "Thus clearing the way for a convoy of vehicles to move safely along the road or a field to be safely planted. The Spoilsport itself has a five-hour operating capacity when active, and can be recharged by either plugging its dock into a base-camps generator or making use of the solar panels on top of the Spoilsport itself while in the field. Now if you have any further questions I'll take them in the tent where we have arranged for some refreshments while the cleanup is underway."

While Alana Metzer directed the VIPs to the tent, Walter gave began directing his field techs to store the Spoilsport test-type for transport back to the facility in Round Rock. Once he was satisfied that it was safely prepared for transport they saw him walk over to the security officer, who they knew as his wife Alice, obviously making plans for the evening since they were in the city that never sleeps. If only they knew that their plans included more than dinner and taking in a show, fortunately these field techs were unaware of the flip-side of Axcel and the company's true history.

First Floor Lounge - Poe Cottage
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
8:20 PM EDT
POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West

For the first time in weeks there would be no grueling evening training regimen with Mrs. Redstag no tonight I'd be facing an arduous ordeal of a different sort... Queen Aunghadhail's memorial service. It was still hard to believe that a witch like Hekate could actually whip up something lethal and vile enough to do away with the soul of an ancient Sidhe let alone the paramount Queen of the Sidhe whose soul survived The Sundering itself.

What was surprising was that Morrigan, Badb, Anu and even Dagda were all here waiting with me for the procession. The six of us (Jane included) were waiting for the procession to begin, and the silence was deafening, even the normally Chatty-Cathy Badb was respectfully silent. One by one the lounge of Poe Cotage began to fill with students, even those like Tempest were here- I guess that it just shows that despite her opinion of TG students like myself, the fact was that Aunghadhail was a part of our community.

No matter the anger or venom that she would lob our way even Sharisha had to admit that Aunghadhail was a part of the family of outcasts who called Poe Cottage home, she was one of us and she gave all that she had to help give two of our fellow students back theirs. Soon a virtual phalanx formed around Nikki consisting of her fellow Kimba along with her family and Bugs as the memorial procession began, the six of our group silently followed milled in with the rest of our members of Poe Cottage as we made our way to the sight of The Daughter of the Burning Oak's Memorial...The Grove.

Once we left Poe more and more students and faculty joined the memorial procession: Kodiak oddly enough dressed in armor of a style that I didn't quite recognize, The Outcasts (with Jerico dressed respectfully in traditional black), the Grunts in ROTC formal dress, my fellow fae students were also in tow (not just the Zephyr's entourage but Shadowdancer and Selkie as well), Poise and a group of Nikki's fellow members of Venus Inc. were here as well dressed tastefully for morning.

I saw Stalwart who was walking with Gateway and Rythax, although even I could pick up on the would-be knight's desire to rush to his lady's side; honestly, he had it bad for Nikki and I did not want to be there when he and Bugs finally butted heads over the future queen of the Western Court. Ms Grimes and Mister Lodgeman were also with us representing the faculty and soon we were joined by Kohenes, Curunir, Ualea and several faefolk who likely had either met Nikki and Aunghadhail over the year or called The Grove home. I also recognized several members of the Mediwhila Tribe joining the procession from my brief stay at their Lodge following my fight with the fomor mercenary Sgaothaich McEirnan, it figured that they would be here as Queen Aunghadhail literally created their therianthropic people.

Eventually I noticed that Tatanka had materialized next to Pejuta at about the size of a full-grown Saint Bernard, I then noticed Mrs. Carson near the back having a brief word with the avatar of the Lakota's White Buffalo Woman, I guess that she was feeling a little guilty given how I heard that she and Aunghadhail had a huge fight just days before the late Queen's final heroic act. One by one everyone who knew Queen Aunghadhail in one aspect or another said their peace, even Pejuta who manifested the White Buffalo Woman herself and hugged Nikki with the words, "We are at peace, we grieve with you."

As the speeches and eulogies went their course I turned to Morrigan, "To be honest I'm surprised that you aren't going to speak, you were there in the Western Court during her reign; plus, you having been serving as a regent in her stead."

"I was the commander of Queen Venraniel's special forces, I never really knew Queen Aunghadhail as well as I would have liked; The Kodiak knew her on a very personal level after he saved her life from the servants of the Invaders, Rythax and Ptesanwi both knew her as peers in one manner or another. I was the servant of one of her fellow Queens so I knew off her on a professional level but not enough to properly speak about her now- to be honest I wish that Nikki had reached out to me more so that I could have had the chance." The ancient sidhe sighed in deep regret, "Isn't that the way of things though- you are never able to make time to get to know someone and before you know it they are gone, I suppose that's the lot that I drew oh so long ago."

I looked at my mentor and former head-mate and knew that something about this went beyond simple grief; Morrigan had probably gone through this too many times, I guess that it goes to show the people who want to live forever don't really have a clue what kind of curse that really is- oh what fools we mortals be indeed.

Powers Testing Lab K - Whateley Tunnels
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
8:57 PM
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

I quieted my voice as the radio on the other side of the room began to smoke. "Well done Beatrice," Sorcha said as she walked up to me. "Your aim and control is improving more and more every day, eventually you'll be able dent metal with sustained note out of the water."

"Thanks Sorcha, and thanks again for helping me train." I replied as I smiled at the older mermaid princess.

"Think nothing of it Bea," Sorcha said as she ruffled my hair. "So where are these friends that you say wanted to meet me?"

"In the next room," I explained as I maneuvered my non-motorized wheelchair from Doyle out of the practice room and towards the observation room. "Anna couldn't be in here since her spirit boosts her sense of hearing."

"Yeah I could imagine that could be painful when you’re dealing with ultrasonic notes that you can hear." Sorcha winced as she followed me out.

"Are you sure that you don't mind doing this?" I asked not wanting to offend someone who was potentially going to be family.

"Why would I mind, its fun to meet new people; especially when they're not trying to impress my dad or impress my sisters." Sorcha said as she rolled her eyes.

"I thought that there wasn't that much competition for guys in the refuges?" I said remembering the gender disparity.

"Oh there's competition all right," Sorcha chuckled. "They compete to show that they would be better choice to father me, my sisters' and their companions' offspring. Personally I'm glad that I don't have to put up with that anymore, I swear if I hear one more traditional love sonnet I'm going to scream as hard as I can."

We entered the observation room as my friends stood, while Sorcha sat down and transformed into her natural form her tail displaying her burnt-orange tail and tangerine fins that complimented her coral skin. Following her lead I did the same showing my indigo tail, royal purple fins and periwinkle skin.

"Whoa," Ree said as she took everything in, while Anna just stared in silent wonder. "This is so cool, and you're really a princess?"

"Sometimes I wish that I wasn't but yes I am." Sorcha replied welcoming the fact that the attention was merely that of genuine curiosity and admiration rather than those of someone who wanted something of her.

"Why don't you like being a princess?" Anna asked as she finally found the courage to speak up.

"Because everyone wants me for my station and my birthright rather than of me as a person," Sorcha sighed, "Take it from me miss, being the real thing is a lot different than what you might read in a storybook; remember they call it Romanization for a reason- the reality is far different. I'd much rather settle for just being of royal lineage rather than the royal family, all the perks of protection from Dagon's Curse and none of the pain-in-the-dorsal protocol."

When she said it like that it made me wonder about how my uncle Qingu would feel about this when I rescued him; here I was being used to rope him into a political marriage with six princesses, one of whom was physically younger than I was- it was really something to think about for the future.

Unregistered RV
Outside Rachel, Nevada
9:37 PM PDT

The Syndicate agent looked at the door as the final two players in this affair entered the motor home, "It's about time, I thought by your reputation that you were usually more punctual."

"Do not begin to lecture me," Professor Id stated as he sat down causing the RV to rock as it settled to accommodate his bulk. "I am here because Dominus requested my expertise to create something for him and my associate Slither here to retrieve it."

"Yes," the Syndicate Agent explained as he turned over a series of folders to everyone present. "Now Slither you need to infiltrate the Groom Lake Military Facility and retrieve the items that are being studied there at 0900 hours. You will need to do this then and no later because they will be moved to a secure storage vault at that point until they are turned over to a representative of the Justice Battalion at 1900 hours."

"No sweat," Slither said with a stretch. "I've infiltrated that base before to acquire items and information for clients before."

"Good, now remember when you acquire the articles you are to substitute our forgeries and make your way undetected to the rendezvous with Slyde at the enclosed coordinates by 1100 hours. She is then to assemble the package with what Professor Id has provided us and then make her way with the now ready package to the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas; you are to look for a courier matching the description in your folder."

"Understood," the newest criminal to go by that moniker explained. "You can trust me do what you pay me for."

"Just remember you are not to put these on yourself," Professor Id explained as he opened the briefcase. "These bracers are made from a material that will molecularly bond with the skin and then seal shut; the only way to get them off afterwards will require surgery and skin grafts."

"Don't worry, there's no way I'm putting those things on." Slyde explained as she shut the briefcase and took it. "Having things like this in the long term only make you a target."

"You are a very wise woman Slyde," Professor Id stated as he got up. "Now if you would please wire the other half of my fee into my account."

The agent in question pressed a few keys on his laptop afterwards Id's phone rang. "Very good your payment has been received, now if you excuse me now that our business is concluded I need to go outside to dissolve this quick clone."

"Very well," The Syndicate Agent replied as Professor Id's quick clone left the RV, before staring at the objective of this operation. "In a week, the Captain Cosmos's Zodiac Gems will be sold to the highest bidder."

Ledoux Residence
Boulder City, Nevada
9:54 PM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

"M-m-mom," I said as I struggled to get the words to get the words out, I knew that this wasn't going to end well but I still had to try. "Do I r-really have to give up boxing?"

She shot me a glare as she set down her glass of wine that made me feel like an insect. "Paul Jacob Ledoux," she snarled in a tone that I had never heard before, great my full name I was in for a world of trouble now. "Are you questioning your mother's good judgment?" Mother asked as she set down her glass of wine.

"Let me ask you, who decided to waste away her youth raising you when she could have just as easily let the state deal with you?" Mother asked as she got up for her seat at the kitchen's bar.

"Who took care of you all these years?" Mother began to slowly walk towards me.

"Who sacrificed her dreams to give you a decent home and see that you got into a nice school?" I backpedaled as she stepped closer.

"Who let you stay here when you decided to let the entire neighborhood of your deviant tendencies?" I tripped over the ottoman before I fell against the wall.

"And you dare to want to keep hanging out with those delinquents who encouraged this sort of behavior in the first place!" Mother stood over me with more hellfire in her eyes and brimstone in her voice than a southern evangelist.

"B-b-but I thought that it couldn’t hurt to ask." I tried to say as meekly as I could.

"That is your problem child," Mother said as she drew back her right hand. "Thinking is obviously not your strong suit." Then she slapped me as hard as she could across the face, I could feel as that wristwatch that she never seemed to take off connected with that weird new scratch on my fa-


Once again I was seeing what felt like the world through super-fogged lenses, and barely hearing just what was said aloud.

"N... ...m...r ...h... ...u a...v... ...n ...e ...k... t... ...r...e t... ...o...r ...i... ...n ...e...a," A male voice that I recognized as hearing somewhere before said to a figure in front of him, "...h... i... ...l...e ...n...h t... ...t... f...h... o...i... t... ...e...f... t... ...h...l l... ...n...g... ...o ...u...l ...u... n...d.... ...m...b... ...e... ...h... w...c... ...i... y... ...t ...l ...m...; ...t ...l... h... ...o... p...n... ...n ...e ...s... ...r... y...r ...o...g... s... ...n... l... ...r ...e...l... r...g...e ...u- ...o... ...o."

"...n...r...d ...r ...r...p," A woman, different from the one in the vision that I heard earlier today said in a professional tone. Wait a minute- I know that voice! "...s... r...e...r ...o... m... ...o...w ...h...g... w... ...u... e... ...f ...h... ...a...g...n."

Ledoux Residence
Boulder City, Nevada
10:07 PM MDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

Just like this afternoon the odd moment was over and I felt my cheek begin to sting as my mother was shaking with fury cradling her now sore wrist as she shouted, "Go to your room child, you are grounded until I say otherwise, you are not to leave this house unless I say so is that clear!"

"Yes mother," I responded on reflex as I went up to my room. Yet something about that moment stuck in my mind, while I knew that I had heard the man's voice before somewhere the other woman's voice in that conversation I knew without a doubt was my mothers.

Something was going on and my gut told me that she was involved in it, I took one look at the poster on my wall and for once decided that I was going to defy my mother for the first time ever. With my door shut, I unpacked my empty gym bag, and began to pack some changes of clothing as quietly as I could; okay Danny invite accepted, I guess that I'm going to Sin City after all.

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4 years 5 months ago #27821 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 5 Notes

Zūn zhě - Chinese for "venerable one", the proper way to address a Buddhist monk.

UED - Unmanned Explosive Device basically any explosive that does not have to be manually triggered; includes land mines, naval mines and certain types of IEDs.

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4 years 4 months ago - 3 years 6 months ago #28760 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 6

Saturday April 21th, 2007
Storage Facility
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - New York Chapter House
New York City, New York
12:47 AM EDT

Just an hour ago when Greygus arrived with his assistance Quinn Mayer sighed in relief, as it turned out Scratch had just sent a few select members of her Sweeper organization to assist in the move, which was being coordinated by Shuffle himself. Overall, it was one of the better case scenarios that Quinn could hope for, Greygus was well known as a fairly amicable agent who only resorted to violence when it was necessary and made it a point to avoid needless bloodshed like the plague. As for Shuffle while it was true that he was the leader of Erzabet Scratch's private army, he was also a strict professional; what mattered was finesse and the result, he wanted his squads to operate like a scalpel not a chainsaw.

Indeed Quinn's men were working like a well-oiled machine since they didn't have to worry for their lives, they began handing off the crates to Greygus who inspected the contents according to a manifest for that vault, which was full of drawings that were so realistic they looked like the works of Raphael himself- who knows they might have been. Which was good since all each sheet in the manifest had other than the drawings, were the names and a list of precautions to take with the items in question. One thing was for sure the Obsidian Circle did not want to risk anyone outside themselves in knowing what any of this stuff could do; of course that suited Quinn just fine, after all he felt that if he did know he'd never be able to sleep soundly again.

"What the heck are these things?" Taylor Brenson asked as he picked up a flat broach shaped like a bird with a man's head.

"Those are Bak-Ba and you had better hope that you never find out what they do." Greygus said in a nonchalant manner causing Taylor to carefully said the vaguely Egyptian piece of jewelry back in the box.

The better part of an hour passed as Greygus inspected each crate and Shuffle's team moved them into a box that was assumed to either be a wormhole to another dimension or to a portal to a warehouse owned by Erzabet Scratch. Either way that box was likely something that Quinn would never want to go near.

Everything was going along well until Greygus inspected one crate, "What the heck?" Quinn looked and recognized this as the crate that Taylor dropped yesterday; he knew that they were going to be in for hell if the doofus broke anything.

Instead of yelling at anyone, Greygus picked up one of the two crowns from the crate, pulled blunt knife from his belt that Quinn recognized as a disencanta and touched it to the crown. The crown instantly faded leaving behind a plain looking rounded stone; Greygus did this again to the other crown and yielded the same result.

"Is there a problem Greygus?" Shuffle asked as he approached the ancient operative of the Obsidian Circle.

"You bet there's a problem," Greygus said in obvious concern. "The two Royal Atlantian Diadems that Madam Eventide placed in Black Vault Four have been swiped."

"Are you sure that it's theft," Quinn said as he approached the two super-villains hoping to use Greygus's known laid back nature and Shuffle's professionalism to avert a very fatal encounter with The Obsidian Circle itself. "Maybe she just misplaced them."

"No, those are two things that Madam Eventide would never take any chances with," Greygus explained with absolute certainty. "There are only seven of Royal Atlantian Diadems in existence, and those two were the only crowns that the Obsidian Circle has in its possession that remain unclaimed."

"Mister Mayer," Shuffle said as he firmly assumed command of the situation. "Please bring all of your staff here, I wish to question them individually."

"Everyone is here if you want to talk to them, well everyone except Greg Paulson he was feeling really sick; heck our lookout called from Manhattan General a little while ago, they say that it doesn't look good." Quinn said as he explained the situation. "That is the problem with this place, so many of the practitioners insist on putting their own security spells up; and most of those who do never come by to perform maintenance. Last year one kid was moping near Troll Bride's vault and then was turned into a silhouette on the wall by a mystic discharge took us a week to scrub off the residue."

"Don't worry Erzabet Scratch, will see to his quick recovery so that he can join the rest of your men when I question them." Shuffle said as he got back to supervising the move.

"Whoa, there's no need for your boss to take the time out to come here all the way from Dallas on our account." Quinn said more than a little shocked at how the events were snowballing out of control.

"Mister Mayer I assure you that it will take no time at all for Erzabet Scratch to see to this matter," Shuffle began to explain. "She is already in New York itself to see to other matters."

That last statement made Quinn and all of his men very nervous, was Erzabet here to take over the New York Chapter House as she had the ones in New Orleans and Chicago? Even they had heard how messy that last one was. Several nervous hours went by for Quinn and his men as they continued their earlier work of shipping the contents of the opened Dark Vaults to their new location, wherever the hell that was.

The tension in the air finally came to a head when Erzabet Scratch herself floated in around two-thirty in the morning, Quinn had seen photos of her before but they failed to do justice how unnerving she was in person- or whatever the hell she was.

Her cloak draped over her in deceptively thin shifting layers gave the affect that she was shrouded in a mixture of smoke and darkness, nothing could be seen under her hood besides a pair of curling horns that jutted out of the hood and her own glowing crimson eyes. In one of her clawed hands, she clutched a bag made out of black sackcloth, which had a disturbingly familiar heft to it.

"I apologize for taking so long gentlemen," Scratch said in an eerie echoing yet melodic voice that chilled Quinn to the bone. "The amount of memory charms that I needed to cast at Manhattan General took me longer than anticipated, however I believe that I have an answer to our mystery."

Quinn and his men froze in horror as Erzabet Scratch removed the severed head of Greg Paulson from her bag clutching it in her firm grip, "Do not feel alarmed Mister Mayer, this is not your employee but rather a crafted changeling of him that was checked into Manhattan General in his stead. You can get the materials to create them cheap at any goblin market since the Faeire Courts rarely make use of them, and I will show you why."

"You see the reason that the Courts no longer use crafted changelings is a simple one, because a piece of the changeling's body can be used for spells as an adequate substitute for a piece of an ordinary person. Unfortunately since the process that grows them is magic in nature they are not viable enough to handle the entropic nature of curses; however other kinds of spells such as tracking spells work just fine."

Erzabet returned the conjured changeling's head to the sack and with a slight gesture made it disappear while producing a white Japanese paper lantern, with the kanji 毘沙門 on the front in red, in its place. "This is a Lantern of Bishamon I used a piece of the cultured changeling to make the candle inside, and once I light it will illuminate the most recent locations of his treachery."

WIth a subtle gesture of her left hand, the lantern was lit, and sure enough, the crate with the advanced illusion stones that Greygus had set aside earlier glowed an angry crimson. However, this was not the only place in the room that was showing red; the door to Black Vault Eleven and an all too familiar area in front of it were as well.

"Ooo, someone is obviously tired of breathing if they decided to steal out of that Vault." Greygus said as he looked up from his own work. "Erzabet can you be a dear and prepare a tharmatergical dousing spell, I'm sure that Quinn has a few maps that you could use to pinpoint our sticky-fingered Darwin Award Nominee."

"There is no need," Shuffle explained as he approached his employer. "I have a photographic memory, and recognize that face. The exact same time that I disembarked our flight from Austin this afternoon at JFK International Airport, I saw someone trying to hide amongst the throngs of passengers so I paid attention to the reflection in the window; sure enough I saw Greg Paulson was at Gate 7 boarding Flight 17 bound for Boston."

Erzabet Scratch's crimson eyes flared like blazing coals beneath her hood as she connected the dots on just what that information implied. "Greygus please finish your work here I need contact the others with what we know, while we have no firm proof at the moment we shall have to prepare for the most obvious scenario. It appears that The Necromancer and his Children of the Night have just issued a declaration of war against the Obsidian Circle, and if this proves to be true then Charles Darrow must be taught the consequences of his actions."

Hall of Echoes
Celephaïs, Ooth-Nargai, The Dreamlands
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

I had just finished viewing the orb containing on the History of the Mesopian Refuge and it took me a little while to take it all in. While it was true that I knew most of the story already, what I knew was so- clinical, it was like there was a degree of detachment; these spheres of knowledge let whoever was learning from them delve far more closely into events. I was able to swim among the merfolk of the Refuge’s markets and take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of a part of my heritage that no longer existed.

I was able to watch as my grandparents met for the very first time in the waters where the Persian Gulf met the Indian Ocean. I already knew how beautiful Grandmother Tiamat was she had even showed me herself as a mermaid during one of my visits, however my grandfather the late Triton King Apsu was pretty gifted in the looks department himself. I had giggled at the time over how many of the available teachers at Whateley would likely be trying to gain his attention if he were still around, granted if he were still around he wouldn't be single.

Also while Apsu was handsome in his own right, my uncle Qingu was in another league entirely, somehow I didn’t think that all those mermaid princesses were merely resigning themselves to a political marriage and a chance to bear a Triton into their bloodline. I mean Qingu was a freaking Adonis, and trust me as a girl who saw everything that Aphrodite did during Ancient Greece; I knew both what Adonis looked like as well as what he was like as a person. There was a reason that Aphrodite and Persephone both desired that Cypriot's company, heck even Athena and Artemis were tempted to give up their vows of chastity to get him between the sheets.

I mean hell a part of me actually cursed myself for being Qingu's niece; still I was getting a cool aunt like Sorcha out of this- as well as Evania, which was a little disturbing then again given the lifespans of merfolk she was probably going to wait a few years before the ceremony. ‘Note to self, when you rescue Uncle Qingu do not keep photos of him at Dickenson, otherwise your dormmates will never leave you alone about meeting him in person.'

"Learning about your family young one?" Greyback asked as he padded over to me, it was weird now that I think about it but I don't even think that I have seen the old wolf take human form before. Come to think of it why does he even look so old in the first place, he's the same age as Mrs. Redstag and the two are both Sidhe?

"Yeah, I learned a lot about my grandparents and my uncle, not to mention the fact that one of the mermaids that Utu's djinn violated was my uncle's fiancé; no wonder Apsu had to handle the diplomacy himself." I said as that scenario left a gross taste in my mouth. "It didn't say what happened to her though, but something tells me that I need to hear it even though I won't like the answer."

"You are correct on that account child," Greyback said with a heavy sigh. "Do you remember what the mermaid's name was?"

"Yeah I found out that her name was Heda," I replied easy enough despite the fact that the orb did not cover the war between the Mesopian Refuge and Utu's own City of Brass.

"Child none of the denizens of the Mesopian Refuge made it to the safety of the refuges in the Faerie Lands or the Jade Heavens." Greyback said as he bowed his head at that sad truth, "The only inhabitants of the Mesopian Refuge that were unaffected when Dagon used Apsu's remains to cast his dark curse were your mother Thaletté and your uncle Qingu. As for your grandmother Queen Tiamat, the reason she was remained unaffected was not only because she was not truly a mermaid, but also because she was also well beyond the power of the curse."

"Heda as with all of the other merfolk of the refuge were twisted by the curse into the first Deep Ones, and to add insult to injury Dagon took the creature Heda became as his mate." Greyback took a moment to pause before he finished his explanation-

"Who is now known as Mother Hydra," I guessed although I wanted to throw up a little in my mouth at saying that. "Am I right?"

"Unfortunately, Dagon likely counts her as the trophy of his victory," Greyback said as he averted his eyes. "The sight of what Heda, the mermaid Qingu had intended to declare his first queen, had transformed into was what drove Qingu to attack the djinn early. By the time Tiamat had returned with the first wave of reinforcements from dragons of the Western Jade Heavens and the djinn of the House of the Blazing Disc Qingu had just fallen in battle, it shall be your task to save him from the results of his folly."

"And then the two of us break Dagon's curse and everything is fine." I said repeating what I knew so far."

"No child, you see any spell that has ever been successfully cast may cast again. Besides there is one more condition for the curse to be broken, the one who wields its power must also perish. In order for all of the merfolk of the Eastern court and those share their bloodlines to truly be free- Dagon must die, still I have seen that this will soon come to pass as others set a plan in motion ages ago. It is your duty to free Qingu and make certain that the two of you cast the counter-spell before another of the Anointed Deep Ones takes his place!"

"Anointed Deep Ones?" I asked already knowing that I wouldn't like the answer- no matter how it was phrased.

"Deep One's who were blessed indirectly by Dagon before they were fully changed, and thus maintain their sanity rather than just being a bestial thrall." Greyback elaborated on his statement. "They usually used to be the high priests in Dagon's cult, should Dagon die the anointed will battle each other to the death for the privilege in taking his place as the high priest of Cthulhu. If the curse remains intact when the final anointed takes Dagon's place, then this abomination will become the curse's new anchor, but enough about that for now child, I have a favor to ask of you."

"Yes Greyback, what is it?" I asked curious about what the old sidhe spirit wanted.

"Look in my bag over there for a small white box," Greyback stated, not having any reason to do otherwise, I did as he asked and got the box out. "Good now you'll find two decorative combs inside, give one pair to Faolan this evening and make sure that the two of you wear them firmly in your hair when you got to bed. Hold onto the box and it will travel with you into the waking world; oh and for good measure make sure that you do not let it leave your person- this is important."

"Alright," I said staring at the small box. "Just one question, why is it white, is it because wolves are colorblind?"

"No, it was just cheaper that way." Greyback said in a nonchalant manner that made me feel more than a little foolish for asking in the first place.

Poe Cottage
Whateley Academy, New Hampshire
6:00 AM EST
POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West

I got up to my alarm which was also causing Candace to stir in the top bunk, my week of combat evaluations by Itou and Tolman were over and I'd managed to pass. Granted I tied in my match against Jobe and lost against Nightbane but still I don't think that I did too badly. Okay I still had Morrigan's evening training but the only real problem I had during the rest my Freshman year (besides my Algebra grades) was the Combat Final in Arena 99 which could be against anyone in the school- well except the seniors or Tennyo.

At the very least I could enjoy the weekend, which was making me nervous for a different reason- it was going to be my first date- my first real date with a girl. Okay granted that it shouldn't be that scary anymore given that I was also a member of the fairer sex now and had been for months, but still it was my first real date and knew firsthand how hot Candace was given her habit of sleeping naked. I wish I knew why she was so focused on me though, heck, she started hitting on me the moment we met back in New York at the award banquet- granted I gave her a good scare when she met me out of costume for the first time.

Okay, so I'm not bad in the looks department either (at least outside of exemplar mega-babe territory) even before I got the faerie glamour (glad that I can turn that to mute), still maybe I could get the answer out of her about why she was so insistent on dating me ever since we met. I headed to the shower with my bathrobe and morning kit and noticed I had beaten the line and that there was still an unoccupied stall. I got in and let the shower work its magic, well without turning on the special settings that is the last time I did that it made my legs feel like they were made of pudding.

Still after making an extra-special effort to get myself ready I stepped out of the shower to find Ayla and Alex ogling via the vanity mirror as usual. I shook my head at the sight honestly I know that there were a lot of hot girls in here, and that most almost all of them like girls as well- but the novelty of seeing other girls naked had worn off after about a month.

What can I say between being able to see a good looking girl in the mirror anytime that I wanted and having a roommate who slept naked, the thrill was mostly neutralized- granted waking up to said roommate in the above condition cuddling with me got one hell of a reaction out of me. Okay I was a wolf at the time but I still like human girls even when I'm a lupa. (It's a legitimate term look it up, I refuse to refer to myself in canine form by the b-word.)

By the time I had returned to our room Candace was already getting dressed, "Geez Randi, took a little long in the shower today; were you trying out the special settings on the shower head?" Candace asked with a sly smile on her face.

"No," I blushed at the memory of the one time that I gave into that particular temptation. "I just wanted to do a good job with my hair for our date that's all."

"Well thank you for going to the extra effort on my account." Candace smiled as she sauntered over to me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. "I'll pick up breakfast from Crystal Hall so all you have to do is get ready and go to the bus stop in front of Shuster."

"I know where it is Candace," I said blushing red once again. "Just let me get ready." I put on my collar and hit the gem that I put casual clothing inside which given the school's dress code I hadn't used in a while. The magic in the jewel activated instantly as I changed into the outfit that I set place inside it earlier this week, nothing overly fancy just a nice forest-green blouse, a calf-length gray skirt, black leather shoes, and a charcoal beret to hide my ears. Now that I was fully dressed I applied something of my own invention, at first glance it looks like a couple of red beads connected by some elastic, however whenever its tied around something- like say my tail it creates an aura of unimportance making the object unperceivable that is unless you knew it was there.

After I finished preparing, I headed down to the bus, granted I knew that we likely weren't going to be the only ones headed to Boston today but at least none of the Kimbas were allowed there anymore- the last thing that anybody needed was a fourth Boston Brawl.

Morrison Family Home
Arlington Heights, Illinois
7:00 AM CDT
POV: Chandra Defrank

Today was the big day after all, I didn't want to psych myself out after all if Victor actually kept up he'd know that today wasn't just any Basketball game. No this was our half of the State Semi-Finals- this was when the last game our team had last year while Candace was team captain and I intended us to take state this time so that we could all show Candace the championship trophy when she came home for Summer Vacation.

"Are you really sure that you don't have any special advice for today Chandra?" Marlina asked obviously a little nervous today.

"Just give a hundred and ten percent like you've been doing and remember what we were working on during practice and you'll do fine." I said as I patted the seventh grader on the back. "Just remember this is a team effort, as long as everyone does their best and works together everything will be fine- and try not to focus on the ice cream."

"You and your ice cream captain." Marlina giggled while we climbed into the van so that her dad could drop us off at school, granted it was a little uncomfortable in the back what with the temporary seat and all.

"That is right the ice cream is my precious- gollum- gollum," I grunted with a weird look on my face causing her to laugh at the silliness of it, which was good- the worst thing possible for a player was to over think or dwell on a game before they got there. Still I had something else to be nervous about, this van was not meant to ferry or than two passengers.

Okay I knew from experience that the inside of this van was filthy it was normally used to haul gardening equipment after all. I was glad that I packed two changes of clothes for today and a couple of trash bags because I soon as I got home I was washing what I was wearing- twice. I hope I had time to clean up before the bus picked us up for Moline, because I did not want to show up for the game smelling like fertilizer and looking like I went five rounds with the flower bed.

Berlin Train Station
Berlin, New Hampshire
8:32 AM EDT
POV: Bea Carson, Rose of the East

The train was about to arrive and Pendragon was busy laying down the ground rules for those of us who were here. As predicted, there were several students along on this trip. Granted this was hardly surprising given the rumors flying around school that this might be the last trip to Boston that any student from Whateley would ever be taking.

"Now remember on this trip we have several rules to try and keep from having another incident like the last Boston Brawl," Pendragon began to explain as he stood side-by-side with other juniors and seniors- many of them in the Cape Squad. "The first rule we will be traveling in groups using the buddy system, everyone is to travel in groups of at least two each at all times."

"Also every group will be accompanied by a junior or senior level student who will act as chaperones. If any student intentionally separates from their chaperone they will be subject to a week's detention, you must also clear where you are going with your chaperone beforehand; so no traveling on impulse. I know that this might seem unfair to the lot of you but understand that we are doing this to for your own safety, the Children of the Night have been targeting one group of student's in particular in Boston and they might try to take unrelated students hostage to gain access to them."

As he began to wrap up his speech the train to Boston pulled into the station, "Now everyone received an envelope this morning before we left the Academy, inside are the name of your buddy if you are not traveling in a prearranged group and your designated chaperone if you do not already know them."

All around everyone began to open their envelopes, fortunately I had already looked at mine and knew that I would be traveling with Heartbreaker and Gloriana today- I also knew what was about to happen next. One by one, the sheets that the others pulled from their envelopes went up in smoke thanks to a spell of Ms Grimes from the Mystic Arts Department- and the fact that it was printed on flash paper.

"Well, ready to go?" I asked Heartbreaker after I guided my chair over to her.

"As long as you remember to keep your promise," Heartbreaker conveyed as tough as she could although I could tell that underneath the facade that it was merely concern for her friend Jello.

"I plan on it," I explained as we made our way to Gloriana. "I only hope that my uncle can help me gain a better insight into my powers so that I can help her."

"I didn't know that Miss Carson had any brothers that were still around." Heartbreaker said with an ounce of curiosity.

"No, on the other side of my family," I explained a little more cautious with the details given Heartbreaker's career plans. "The more aquatic side, he's in a bit of a bad situation right now that he needs me to bail him out of."

"Not gonna tell me everything eh? Good- you're learning." She smiled as we got in line to board the train with our escort.

"Yes Eve," Glory stated as she turned to us with a knowing smile of her own. "She's learning that you're not really as much of a bad girl as you make yourself out to be."

POV: Randi Bridges, Rose of the West

Candace and I boarded the train with Saladin, thankful that we were getting a fellow Posie as our escort who wouldn't spread around the fact that our day-trip together was an actual date. Still I looked around to take a few peeks at the other students, interesting Aries was escorting sis and her friends; at least Heather would be in good hands today. Solange was nowhere in sight- not surprising there was no way anyone in Admin would let the Little Witch trio within a hundred miles of Boston unless they were flying over it while bound for a different destination.

Hmm- Stonebear was escorting Crux and Strato, and Firecat was doing the same thing for Draco and Asklepian- honestly, if I didn't know it was her I wouldn't have seen through the illusion. Deuce and Palleon had Stormwolf with them looks like they wouldn't be up to anything, that guy didn't just have a stick up his butt- he had a freaking sequoia. Hmm, curious Astio and Drakaina were walking with Nephandus; I didn't know that Admin trusted Astio enough to be an escort given that he was a new student (not counting what I knew about him).

Finally, we were aboard the train, I took the moment to stretch out while Jane hopped from my shoulder to perch on the overhead rack. I wonder why trains aren't more popular these days, I mean you can use them to get around easy without being molested by the TSA and bring you own food aboard not to mention that you have a lot more room and there is less chance of being near a baby whose upset due to the change in air-pressure. It was a crying shame that the train station back home shuttered after The War because a lot of folks could have used it to relieve the congestion along I-20 and I-30 from the morning commute to Dallas or Fort Worth, granted with the fact that the man who modernized the city was in the automotive sales buisiness that was hardly surprising.

"So have you young ladies decided how you will be spending your day in Boston?" Saladin asked as well mannered as always, you had to admire the guy. It took guts to come out of the closet like he did- especially when it would earn him a death sentence in his homeland and eternal damnation in his religion (of which he was a devout follower).

"We'll be doing some window shopping in Downtown Crossing, you might be asked to carry a few things while we're in the area itself." Candace said with an impish grin on her face. "But don't worry Randi's purse will take over after we're out of the shopping district. Then we're going to see a movie over at the Boston Commons 19."

"Let me guess, is it In the Land of Women?" I said citing the name of a recently released romantic comedy, yet another part of being a young lady that I had yet to adjust to enjoying.

"Nope, Disturbia," Candace explained honestly surprising me. "I know how much you like Hitchcock movies Randi and I heard that it was someone trying to draw inspiration from Rear Window something I remember watching with my grandparents."

"Yeah it was one of his best films; almost every critic alive recognizes it as a masterpiece, and for once their right." I replied anxious to hear more about the day that she had planned for us.

"It's decent enough; I saw it last week with my boyfriend in Berlin." Saladin said to the two of us. "Disturbia that is I don't think that I have ever seen Rear Window."

"Remind us to loan it to you sometime," Candace said as she went back to itinerary. "After that we're going to have an early dinner before coming home- Saladin do you mind if I tell you I want to keep that destination a surprise for later."

"Certainly, you can tell me when we're out shopping while Randi is using a changing room." Saladin agreed as I stared out to window to enjoy the scenery.

"Say can we stop by the Holocaust Memorial on our way to Downtown Crossing?" I asked while taking in the New England scenery that I hadn't gotten to see too much of in my time up here.

"Randi, isn't that a little insensitive?" Candace asked while eying Saladin, "Sayyid is taking time out of his Saturday to help us, and you want to bring up a matter of Middle-Eastern tensions!"

"There were more groups persecuted then than just the Jewish people Candace," I said as I made eye contact with my date and roommate and whispered, "Including one group that all three of us have in common. Besides remember when we met Doctor Quasimodo in New York, his second wife died during the Kristallnacht riot and I want to pay my respects."

Hidden Cave - Hesperus Peak
La Plata Mountains, Colorado
6:12 AM MDT
POV: Zhen-yu Chen, Rose of the North

It was finally time to make my move; I was finally going to get out of this damned cave for a while to be around ordinary people for a while. I had finally learn enough from Master Wujing's lessons to keep a human form going for a good long while, and with whatever clothes I planned on to boot. If only Kelsey knew that martial arts and transformations weren't the only thing that I had learned.

Part of my meditation training had been about opening up my perceptions, and in doing so I had discovered something that I had been completely unaware of before now, one of the walls of this cave was an illusion- nothing more than a trick of perception deceiving you into seeing something that wasn't really there at all. Man was Kelsey sneaky, the exit to this place had been staring me right in the face ever since I had arrived I had just been unable to see it.

I packed a few supplies in one of the bags that Kelsey had left laying around and transformed. After a minute I had assumed my old form dressed in weather-beaten clothing like I had been back-packing cross country, an important and necessary disguise that I would have to maintain for a few hours until I arrived at my intended destination. Once I had everything together I let go of my transformation, it was still early in the day and my normal form was better for handling rugged terrain, especially given the amount of walking that I'd need to do before I could hit the interstate and catch a ride.

I hoped that I had been discrete enough in asking about the surrounding area; at least I knew that Denver was out of my reach for the time being unless I learned how to fly given that it was on the other side of the Continental Divide. Still the city of Durango was close enough and anything that dared to call itself a city had to have something in the form of nightlife, especially when it was out in the boonies like this so that folks could let off a little steam; besides it had a college and where there is a college there are parties if you knew how to find them. I mean everyone back home knew that if you didn't at least provide for people to have a way to do that legally they'd find their own ways, there was a reason that Seattle had the reputation that it did.

Carefully I made my way southward, not directly south given that there was the rest of the La Plata mountain range in my way. I began to make my steady decent now that I was finally in the open air. I already knew that I was beginning to make my way west instead of south; however none of that would matter once I was out of the mountains and into the woods of San Juan National Forest I just had to start going south again until I hit Interstate 160. I knew that there was a dirt road that Kelsey and I had took on our way here that would shave several hours off of my trip, but once I hit the freeway it would be a lot smoother sailing.

Yeah, enough training for now and enough of that damned cave. I stopped and clenched my fist to the sky while I screamed at the top of my draconic lungs, "Mark my words world, 'Tonight I'm going into the city to party like an ordinary teenage girl and nothing is going to stop me from doing so and enjoying myself!'"

Man did it feel good to get that out of my system, seriously who needs mystic places of healing just getting outside to vent and work off my frustrations was enough. Okay I wish I was out partying with my friends back in Seattle, but that couldn't be helped I mean here I was climbing down a mountain about to go forty miles cross-country just to get to the nearest city in Colorado. They were back at home in Seattle over a thousand miles across three states in another time zone, plus they haven't even seen me in months, I had just turned into a pen pal from out of nowhere to people I had known my whole life.

I stopped again to shake those thoughts out of my head, "No you mustn't think that Zhen-yu, you will see them again; maybe not for a while but you will see them and when you see them you can share this whole experience with them while they tell you what the rest of the school year was like."

That hit another sore spot, the school year was almost over, and you had lost so much of it there was no way to play catch-up. Forget the graduation trip along Route 66, you're going to be held back playing catch up as a freshman while they've become sophomores. No, I need to put the future on the back burner for a while and take it as it comes, I need to live in the here and now. I did my best to stop dwelling on the past as I continued my trek toward the interstate and the city of Durango.

South Middle School - Front Lawn
Arlington Heights, Illinois
7:45 AM CDT
POV: Chandra Defrank

"Cutting it a little close as usual Ms Defrank," Coach Mulhulland said as she stared at her watch from outside the full-sized passenger van that our team used to get to games. "I wish that our team captain would show a little more punctuality."

"Sorry Coach," I apologized as I boarded the van and headed to an empty seat in the back. "I just don't want to show up smelling like I got in a fight with the Home Depot's gardening department."

"Yeah Coach," Marlina chimed in with a hint of embarrassment. "Chandra can't help it the cargo seat in my dad's van is a rough ride, and the back often smells like fertilizer."

"Okay team," the Coach barked as she started the van, "Today's one for the record books, so I want to see everyone bring their A Game out there! So when you hit the court today I want to see you play to win, do you hear me ladies- to win. Let's put a trophy in that case that doesn't say third place state on it!"

"Yes ma'am!" We all shouted in unison as we hit the road, it was at least a three-hour drive between Arlington Heights and Moline.

Ledoux Residence
Boulder City, Nevada
6:14 AM PDT
POV: Paul Ledoux

I could hear my heart hammering inside of my chest as I worked my way around the house, granted mother had left five minutes ago but there always a chance that she could come back at any time. I believe that I set a world record for fastest complete shower, before I made a mad dash back to my bedroom. This would be cutting it close, I needed to get dressed and get out the door and around the corner before she came back. After I got my clothes on I grabbed the bag that I had thrown together the other night and put in my stuff from the bathroom, nothing big just my comb, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant.

I took a deep breath and peeked my head out the front door, fortunately mom's car was nowhere in sight. It was now or never I locked the door on my way out- no reason to make her any more pissed at me than she already was and calmly made my way to the corner where Danny's bro and the guys would be waiting. I almost had a heart attack when I saw a Civic rounding the corner- however I was in luck it was a white not yellow like mom's car. I made my way further and further and could almost hear the Mission Impossible theme playing in my head as I did so, 'Cool it Paul- Ethan Hunt you are not!'

After what seemed like forever from my perspective, I rounded the corner to fin everyone waiting in Danny's brother Matt in his Hummer. "See bro," Danny laughed as I opened the back door. "I told you that Paul would show; now you have to own up."

"Forget it Danny," Matt shot back while I was buckling up in the back seat. "I'm not sneaking you into the Spearmint Rhino!"

"Ah come on," Danny all but whined. "Why not?"

"That’s because if the bouncers didn't kill me mom would!" Matt shot Danny a withering look. "Paul is your mom really okay with you going to Vegas for the day?"

"No- but something weird has been going on lately," I explained after tossing my tote-bag in the back. "She's been acting weirder than usual and I need to get out of the house to think."

"Alright, I understand." Matt gave in as he started up the Hummer. "We've all been there at one point or another, and as long as you're willing to deal with the consequences when you get back I'll let you tag along with us."

"Thanks," I said as we hit the road. I already knew that I was in hot water but what the hell- Las Vegas here we come. I mean you only live once right, I mean I was already in trouble with mother; how much more trouble can I really get into at this point?

Drucker Residence
Round Rock, Texas
8:37 AM CDT
POV: Joan Drucker

Wearily I opened my eyes to find two things, Mallory drools in her sleep and late night Chinese gives Erika dragon breath. "Geez- I hope we have enough Scope," I muttered to myself as I got up not that General Tsou hadn't achieved victory over me last night as we were watching The Breakfast Club.

Speaking of breakfast, I thought to myself as I went into the kitchen to get started on mine and found Nicole drinking a very large cup of coffee with enough creamer in it to kick it into borderline-latte territory (without the steamed milk though). Out of curiosity, I took a peak at her laptop and saw that she was reading a few articles via EBSCOhost, probably for her report.

"Hey, looks like you girls had quite the party last night," Nicole smiled as she took another sip from her large steaming mug.

"Yeah, not that I haven't been to slumber parties before," I said as I went to pour myself a bowl of raisin bran, "Just none of them here." I opened the fridge and rooted around for a minute to find two things, we were out of strawberries and someone drank the last of the whole milk. What a wonderful start of the day, I resigned myself to mom's one-percent- thank goodness she wasn't buying skim *bleck* anymore, and filled my bowl.

As I sat down at the table, I turned to look at Nicole and asked, "Do you have any coffee left?"

"Not until after you're out of middle school sprout," Nichole said as she finished off her cup and went for a refill. "Too much caffeine when you're young stunts your growth; you don't want your mom to be stealing your clothes forever do you?"

"Not gonna happen," I said as I gave her as dark a look as I could through my bleary eyes. "Now gimme!"

"Sorry- last cup and the beans are going in the liquor cabinet." Nicole remarked as she swirled her cup in hand for emphasis. "Just go back to sleep when you finish breakfast, you're still young enough not to know what a luxury it is yet."

"Can't you just magic yourself a full night's sleep whenever you want to?" I asked resigned to the fact that once again the brewed bean of adulthood had eluded my grasp.

Nicole laughed and shook her head, "Nope, it doesn't work like that; now eat your breakfast and go back to sleep, you had a long night and you've likely got another one ahead of you tonight."

"Yeah don't remind me," I grumbled after swallowing another spoonful of cereal.

"Don't worry I'll help some with the prep work, just don't bother me afterwards; this paper is a third of my final grade." Nichole explained with a weighted emphasis while I kept chewing my bran flakes.

Throne of Sanguine Opulence
Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom - San Francisco Chapter House
Old San Francisco, California
6:47 AM PDT

"Your eminence," a man said as he burst into the room and immediately dropped to his knees. "I bring you news of great importance!"

"As it must be for you to not only ignore protocol, but also interrupt my meditations when the sun has barely risen upon this land of barbarians and mongrels." A man in dark red robes trimmed with golden embroidery proclaimed as he glared at the man with a look of pure contempt. "Now tell me your news, and then I shall decide by its importance whether or not your impertinence has made your life forfeit."

"Yes great Xuè-jīn Mùshī," the nameless man said not moving an inch or raising his head. "The Yáo Xīyì that was stolen from us by the barbarian sorceress child who dares lay claim to the title of the Wayfarer has revealed herself; she is currently in Southern Colorado. Would I have your permission to contact mercenary's in the area to see to it that our property is returned to us?"

"We are the Zhāoshāng de Yōuhuàn, what need have we of mercenary's when we can utilize our own assets!" The current Xuè-jīn Mùshī shouted in outrage as the room around he glowed red with his anger.

"We have no assets in Colorado my lord," the nameless man began to explain while simultaneously pleading for his life. "We cannot reach further east without drawing ourselves into conflict with Lord Khamsin who we have confirmed is a newly revitalized Lord Ataxia; furthermore it is too close to the territory of Erzabet Scratch."

"Yes I recall the condition of the last spy that my predecessor sent into her territory; Scratch returned him to us by way of FedEx, and the rather small package was sent cash on delivery." Xuè-jīn Mùshī recalled now far calmer as the truth of the situation was now evident. "Very well, put out a contract to all available mercenary's in the area but be discrete on the details otherwise they might be tempted to keep our property for themselves."

"At once your eminence," The nameless sycophant rapidly left the room leaving behind the Xuè-jīn Mùshī who smiled in the dimly lit room, confident that unlike his predecessor he could hold onto this source of wealth and power.

Last Edit: 3 years 6 months ago by Insane Hiker. Reason: spelling consistancy error

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4 years 4 months ago - 4 years 4 months ago #28761 by Insane Hiker
Insane Hiker replied the topic: Songs of the Compass Roses - One Wild Weekend
Part 6 Notes

Disencanta - a mystic device that causes timed enchantments to discharge prematurely.

Lantern of Bishamon - a Japanese paper lantern with the kanji 毘沙門 on the front. If you place a candle made using a piece of your target (such as a hair or fingernail), it illuminates the site of their most recent misdeeds.

Crafted Changeling (addendum)
Faefolk no longer use them for cradle snatching purposes since their use tend to draw the attention of seasoned practitioners of the mystic arts, many of whom are far less tolerant than they were in the old days- and more willing make use of iron. Also a sample taken from a crafted changeling can also be used to track the individual it was imitating using tharmaturgical tracking spells.
Rather than taking such a risk these days faerie swap out a the child to be taken with an one of their patron's offspring (who said patron deems expendable) and place the changeling under a strong glamour to appear as the kidnapped child.

Anointed Deep Ones
An anointed deep one refers to any of eastern court decent who receives the blessing of Cthulhu before they fully succumbs to the transformation into a deep one; this blessing means that they will complete the transformation without losing sentience the first of which was Dagon.

Xuè-jīn Mùshī - WIZ-5 equivalent (Imbued)
The Priest of Blood-Stained Gold is the title of the chief warlock of the Zhāoshāng de Yōuhuàn the group that founded the San Francisco chapter house of the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom in the mid Fifties after the Los Angeles Chapter House fell apart figuratively with the 'disappearance' of its founder Lord Ataxia, and then literally when the Kern County Earthquake disrupted the spell that held it together.

The priest of their cult or Xuè-jīn Mùshī, is only chosen when after his predecessor is retired when he is no longer seen as useful. When a Xuè-jīn Mùshī is retired the Demon Lord takes his power back turning the old priest into a pile of bones and gold dust, the members of the cult then use his remains to perform a bone-reading to determine the identity of his replacement.

Zhāoshāng de Yōuhuàn
The Merchants of Suffering are a cult centering around the Demon Lord of the Hell of Blood-stained Gold, lead by their high-priest the Xuè-jīn Mùshī they seek to gain wealth harvested by the pain and suffering of mankind. Of course this means the racketeering, extortion, as well as the trafficking of weapons, narcotics and even people.

Although they make extensive use dark magic to maintain their dominance the Merchants of Suffering are not above using more mundane means and have deeply entrenched themselves in the Chinese Underworld as one of the corner stones of the Triad and the criminal underworld of Southeast Asia. Their influence has grown over the years and has infiltrated deeply into the Ruling Party in China and into several facets of the Underworld on the Western United States including the San Francisco chapter of the Grand Hall of Sinister Wisdom.

Situated in the ruins of Old San Francisco buried under China Town this site acts as the hub for most of the Dark Magic Activity on the Western Seaboard. It is also fairly inclusive in that unless one swears their eternal allegiance to their patron the Demon Lord of the Hell of Bloody Gold, they can only access the meager outer archives, however they are not above seeing to the needs of those who are not a part of their cult for the right price.
Last Edit: 4 years 4 months ago by Insane Hiker.

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