I am the future, the next era of the world, the gremlin that won't let you go.
"I am the future. I am the next era of the world. I am the gremlin in your coffee cup that’s saying come drink more. I am the blinking, one-eyed god that lures you to your computer and steals your time. I am lost and found. I am loved and loathed. I am worshipped and neglected. I am the antediluvian alacrity of archaic doubt and the immutable, incontingent love of everything else.
I am a shepherd. I am in control of hundreds of thousands of lives, people and animals: their souls, ideas, individualities. They are only as individual as I am because each of them is under me. I can control their every move, every desire, even their thoughts. They do not know me but whenever they doubt I am the one that steers them into certainty and whenever they begin to fade away I am the one who has the power to bring them back to the fullness of life. I am their god, their little god that allows them to live and love and fine their own stories to tell. I created their world, the world which balances on a baseline, ever trembling on the edge of a precipice. I have duties, sometimes people have to fall over the edge of the precipice, into troubles and traumas and pains that I construct and arrange – I do this because no one can live in a perfect world and know happiness. Sometimes I let them go entirely. Death is a necessity. The first time I killed a man it was simple, old age is a beautiful killer. I sobbed until I was sore. But it’s true what they say, killing becomes easier with time and practise. The first time I killed a woman, she was murdered by a man I manoeuvred into position, a man I had given the will to kill. I was distraught, but I did not cry. I even kind of enjoyed it. That is the scariest and most beautiful thing about this power: the tendrils of unadultered, perfect enjoyment at the control I have. The thrill at destroying a life, at seeing the world crumble down around them and those who loved them. I could put it back together but I just don’t want to.
There is such beauty in suffering. "
These are the words of The Author: found on every computer, mobile and probably even the minds of his victims, had we only succeeded in reaching them before they died. He likes to leave his message, his tag, so that the humans know who he is. So they begin to notice the pattern and begin to fear him. The Author desires a perfect world. No crime, no pain, no suffering. We understand that and so too do the people of the Earth. The Author kills but he gathers supporters, he massacres yet they love him more, he forces cooperation but the people are willing to give up their free will.
That is not why we were put on this earth. That is not the reason for the Immortals to awaken, for the Children of Above, Between and Below to be called back.
We are Sanctuary - a group of Immortals, humans who were given unique gifts, embodiments of the gods of the ancients, the mythologies of the past. From Freyja and Thor to Zeus and Aphrodite, from the Nagas to the Vampires, the Angels to the Nephillim and the various Demons of Hell. There are Animal Gods, Shapeshifting Gods, Classical Gods, Demonic Gods and yet we all have a singular purpose, to protect the world from imbalance, from human antagonism and in this case... from people like us. When gods ignore the calling then they have to be destroyed and reborn. That is the way of the world.
ALRIGHT THEN: Essentially the plot is that in the not so distant future, the world is shifting again: in politics, economics, religion - the international community is experiencing a period of transition and its stability is weakened, easily disrupted, contorted or destroyed. And there is a force that has decided to use this to its advantage. This force, an entity known only as The Author is rising, using its ability to create and manipulate the actions of humans to seek its own ends: worship, immortality, power. The Author wants to control and there are those that easily succumb to it, those who follow it and worship it and come to feel love for it. The Author desires a perfect world. No crime, no pain, no suffering. It is so easy to see why it so swiftly appeals to the masses.
But this is not right. Everyone knows, even if they don't believe, the stories of the war between light and dark. These are not so far from the truth. There are 'immortals', people who have abilities beyond those that normal people possess and beyond those that the average human can understand. The light and the dark aren't really at war though: there is a balance between all things that humans deem 'good' and those things they consider 'bad'. This balance is maintained by the 'immortals' and when the balance is tilted too far away from the norm things can happen that have the potential to destroy the balance entirely and leaving the world in chaos. Incidences that have nearly done this have been occurring throughout history - the War on Terror, First World War, the collapse of the Austrian Empire, the French Revolution, the Spanish Armada, the fall of Rome... The list can go on.
The Author is one of these people - just another human albeit one with a gift - but like so many immortals its aims have become selfish, the preservation of the balance is second to the whims it feels, the desires it has. It wants a perfect world but at the expense of free will and without free will the world would begin to rot and that is something that the immortals cannot have.
So in a place called Sanctuary: aka 'Monster Hospital'; the immortals are gathering again. They are calling all those who want to preserve the world and protect Gaia. They Call. And that’s how we came to be here.
Pretty much same old same old:
1. Add within 7 days or I'll skip you (unless you have a valid reason - this can include 'I've been busy' - and need extra time)
2. No PERFECT characters - 'gods' have flaws too, they do have human attributes as many of them were human once (eg. Aphrodite would obviously be perfect beautiful but she could also be vain, easily made jealous, insecure anything but perfect.)
3. If you want to go graphic with the violence and nudity (I have no problem with this) LET ME KNOW so I can up the rating.
4. Don't kill off each other.
5. Design your own character with a small blurb (see below) about them and send their description to me and I'll add it below with mine. Don't bother with bioblocks at the end.
Hadrian Nesbitt Dr Matticakes Myra A 21 year old man with dark, caramel hair and silver eyes. He's has a tall, lean build with broad shoulders and toned body. His skin is a tanned colour but his back has dark red scars etched into his shoulder, lettering in a language that he's unsure of himself. As quiet and pensive as any philosophical mind, he's easy to not notice unless he makes his presence known. He has the gift of Knowledge, by seeking to know things about a person, object, place he can use a strange form of telepathy to fully understand it. Memories and futures (though the latter is less secure) he can seek it out using his mind. Some call him the Reader.
Tegan McMillian Professor Q bought a house! Twenty-two, with shimmering gold eyes and brown curls that seem also to sparkle gold in the sun, Tegan is a very striking female should she choose to be. Lithe and supple, with skin the color of the Mediterranean peoples, it is very difficult for people to look away from her if she has chosen to draw their attention. Playful and teasing, Tegan is a trickster and is often not to be trusted, but she has little true maliciousness in her (if any at all). Her pranks are fun and charming, designed to both display her clever wit and highlight the weaknesses of others (which she can see in others as fault lines--it is her gift to know and understand them, as all her kind was once given to know and understand every soul they guided to the Underworld). She is a messenger, adept at communication of all sorts, and a prodigious stealer of information and things. But she is not cruel, unlike so many other trickster gods, and is rather an extension of Order and Reason. Tegan is the latest embodiment of Hermes and is often called the Messenger.
The Aesthete not_finished You will know it by the star tattoo on the base joint of its index finger and the accompanying sleeping moon on the base joint of its thumb. A customary salute of recognition is to point to the cosmos, as Plato does in The School of Athens, for the Aesthete will take any form that suits its whims, and is as mercurial and shadowy, in its own way, as The Author himself. Or so it would have people believe, but being as human as the next, and with its ever changing guises, it has begun to lose sight of itself, and $lowly the aesthete’s mind has become… unhinged.
Reynard the Fox .Wolfie. - He appears to be in his mid to late twenties, of medium height and a slim, muscled build. His skin is golden tan color, with crimson red hair that falls to his chin and strange gold eyes. The embodiment of a fox in more than appearance, he is cunning, clever and quick-witted, and can often be self-serving and abrasive. While some consider him untrustworthy and fickle, when he commits to a cause he gives his all without hesitation. He is swift, if not the strongest, but he can take a beating and still get up for more, time after time. A gambler and a trickster through and through, he excels at lies and illusions, though he usually just uses these skills to steal and cheat at cards.
Leila Amara Rucksajit Flex 5th birthday just gone. A half-Thai, part Turkish, part French artist socialite Leila is small, skinny, high cheekboned, with pronounced brows (frowning in concentration), pouting lips and strangely pale, despite the golden tinge of her skin. Her hair is lustrous and Black and she appears to be around nineteen She smokes too much and appears beautiful but ill, overtired and weak, not to mention enigmatic or apathetic, (hard t’ tell). She is the Personification of Nyx, the ancient Greek Goddess of night, born of chaos, and origin of the fates, dreams, toil, retribution, deception, friendship, age, strife, blame and free will. Extremely powerful, but so reclusive and lazy that noone remembers what those powers are; just that even the hot head Zeus is terrified of her. Immortals tend to gather around her; the reincarnations of the darker characters that surround her, but also Artemis, Philotes (friendship) and the trixter gods. Her ability to call these people together could perhaps be her most used ‘Power’, even if it is not one.
Merryn Atamarie glarkks- Vivid blue eyes were given to her by her father while her Maori mother passed along smooth bronze skin and long black hair with soft loose curls. This 21 year old woman holds a stunning figure and the confidence to use it to get what she wants. Her smooth long legs, and the sway of her hips are often used as tools for her enjoyment. She doesn't fear consequences or Death for she is the latest embodiment of Miru, the Maori/Polynesian Goddess of Death. If anything she embraces Death. She can be both cruel and kind, evil and good. Her power lies within the waves that can engulf a soul, in the flames that burn the souls she deems unfit for the afterlife, and in Kava-a drink none should accept from her. Most would call her a demon goddess who cannot be trusted. She would gladly agree. Freedom is so much better than resposibility.
Conall Sigard Zephyr Shenkiken - Usually just goes by Fenrir as that's who he is incarnated of. Has yellowish-green eyes and dark obsidian hair. Conall has medium skin with his hair grow down just above his shoulders. It has an unkempt and wild look to it curling in wavy strands across his brow and ears. He's tall and has a lean, but well muscled physique. Generally wear blues and blacks, and has a long, thin, silver ribbon around his neck and hanging against his chest that is actually the chain Gleipnir used to hold Fenrir to the stone Gioll until Ragnorak. Attached to the chain and embedded through it into Conall's skin is a piece of the stone that he was once chained to. Conall is quiet, but devious and sly. Has a very instinctual way about him and acts quickly, yet not immediately, to any outside stimulation. Has an uncanny knack for seeing through the falseness in things. He's easy enough to get along with via the good looks and the charm, but will lash out quickly if crossed and is immediate in taking revenge. Because of his silence and youth it's difficult to tell what the guy in his early twenties is thinking, or what he might do if that chain and stone weren't capping his powers.
A Note from The Reader
I am writing this document as a memento of my experiences. It is a story that I know, that I have read. It is a tale that I have lived, an autobiography the likes of which you have never seen or heard before. I know where I stand now and where I stood then but the outcomes from here... if only I could read them all. I will note it down, the most honourable of tellers, because I am no Author, I merely read.
That’s what I do... I read things.
I read everything. From the ancient, spoken stories of the skalds to the terrifying tortures and furtive secrets of those that mingle around me. I have to think certain things in order to find answers but there is nothing that can hide from me.
I read how in the primordial maelstrom of antediluvian alacrity there are those who did not tread unassumingly down a straight fairytale track, those who did not follow the path laid out for them on stones so ancient they crumbled into the earth and become dust. Those were the ones who fought, realising the contract they signed with every precise movement, every flash of steel, every grunt of effort. They glanced upwards and bared their sharp white teeth, looking out over to the rising sun.
I read the memories of those who have lived before, back in the days when gods and spirits and pure thought walked with men. When sunlight used to fill and spurt from the hands of angels as bright, contagious energy. I have the knowledge of when dryads, laying in the dappled shadows, saw beauty for the first time in the luscious greens that flickered bright and dark in the alcove of trees. I can see the Fates leaping from one soul to the next and revelling in the uniqueness held there… And because I know these things I can always know the mourning that encompasses those like us when they think of the way man forgoes this beautiful world in the lieu of industriousness and technology.
I could tell you about the crepuscular haze of bosky rivers and the inscape of it all. The delight I can tell you of that was felt by the draconians and serephire in the delicate balance of feather and wind as they flew, fragile beasts and beautifully known by all as they danced on thermals… But as time slides past the memories become more obscure and more obscure still, less easy to hold on too... I am the only one that knows them because angels and demons and creatures of spirit don’t have my gift. For me time itself is entirely containable... Each moment is an eternity that is still too short to diagnose.
I’ve become distracted.
But you see... this is why I am the only one who remains able to tell you this story, about me and my companions and what we’ve done and what we are about to do. I am the only one and since I cannot but disappoint myself in lying, I will tell the truth – there will be no narrator so honest as myself.
Prologue: Because every Story needs an Introduction
“This is it then?”
“Look here,” She spoke softly, fixing her eyes on his, “You know that in this world... people like you and me... we’re... we’re not meant to exist. We’re pieces of magic. We’re the dark, Byronic heroes and the beautiful, seducing fiends of fiction. Don’t ever think that this will be easy: there are places that you don’t realise exist and that’s because until now, you weren’t meant to and if we think you’re a liability-”
“I know. I know. I get it. This is it.”
Her eyes softened, “I’m sorry for shouting Little One, but you’ve got to understand that beyond this archway is a new world for you, a secret world, a world both above and below the place you call home. This is... this is... a sanctuary for people like us.”
The boy with silver eyes merely nodded and let her take his hand, letting himself be lead at the front of all the other young newcomers that the woman had led to this dark, unassuming archway. That was all the place was: an archway between two blacken-brick walls, graffiti lined and damp smelling. It was possible to see the other side of the arch, the rain soaked shimmer of the road beyond. The crowd was mostly quiet, a slight hum echoing as occasional worried whispers skittered from mouth to mouth – what were they meant to think? This didn’t feel any safer than the places they came from.
They stopped. There was a gap in the dark that they children all noticed as they crept after the woman with yellow hair. She ushered them forward. The boy with silver eyes did not try to follow immediately. He was watching her, eyes flickering slightly, chin slightly raised as he stared up at the pale throat and the curls of yellow below her ears.
“I would never have guessed Goldilocks was a dryad,” He said slowly, enunciating the nouns, “They never mentioned that in the fairy stories.”
Glancing sharply at him, eye brows raised, she took her eyes away from the stream of people for a moment, “They never told me little boys were such nosy creatures either.”
He grinned, “You should have read the stories then. We’re like cats. Curiousity wants to lure us somewhere all the time.”
Shaking her head, she let go of his hand, “You’ve read too much now. Go on ahead, I’ll have to close the gap.”
Nervously he dropped his arm and nodded, turning and peering into the darkness, “I don’t see anything.”
“You’re not meant to. Go.”
He frowned so little, dimple like wrinkles creased his eyebrows together before he stuck his head through the darkness and tumbled head first into the hole. Shaking her yellow head, Goldilocks followed after him, her hand tracing the air as she did, zipping the hole in the world closed until the next time it was necessary for use.
That was how everyone arrived, he soon found out, they stepped through a hole in the fabric of the world and plodded on into the World Above, Between and Below. Or Above, Below and Between. He never quite got it right. From there they were tested, asked to demonstrate their Immortal Gift in a small room that could have a floor and no floor whilst still standing on it. Someone was explaining something as they were told what they were expected to do. The boy with silver eyes looked at the speaker and thought the person could be Jack the Giant Killer because of the club on his back... but he wasn’t sure.
“We always bring you to Sanctuary. Once a month we gather people like you from London Real or New York Real or Edinburgh Real, depending on the day. We always pick you up in the capital cities, even if you come from somewhere non-descript and safe, because the communication channels are smoother and more secure where there are more people. That’s how I came to be here, that’s how Gabriel and Loki and even Father Christmas came to be here. A soul is noticed: it’ll shine out amongst the rest of the little threads the Fates play with and most of the time that soul is rescued. Because of this there’s a constant flow of souls, in and out, the guides drawing them in and teaching them what they need to survive, giving them options that they’d have never had in the Real.”
The tested began in the background, privately sectioned off. Some performed expertly, others blinked and shrugged and didn’t know what to do. One girl literally shrunk on the spot because she didn’t know what to do, only, that was what she was meant to do. She was actually one of the Little People.
The boy with silver eyes was looked at, asked to do something and he said that if he did the tester wouldn’t like it. Eventually he did as he was told and the tester really didn’t like it. It was sad.
After that they were sorted into three catagories. Gods, Mythologicals/Legendaries and Constants.
“Gods are pretty much humans that inherit the spirit or essence of an Immortal. They’re eternal, flowing forces that travel through bodies throughout the millennia. The human ‘host’ is still there so they have really, really long lives but most eventually opt to have the ‘god’ move out of them and they regain their mortality. They’re powerful. Really powerful.” The man he thought of as Jack said, “They make sure people fall in love right and make sure the moon cycles aren’t playing tricks and stuff. The lunatics? They were the moon going wrong. Then again so was the Black Death, there are quite a few mistakes made by Gods.”
Chuckling he explained on, “The ‘mythologicals’ or the ‘legendaries’ are more like creations of Gods. They can be really powerful but there are only a select few that are ‘Original’ or ‘Born’ that way... those are the ones that come in with you lot. Things like vampires and witches and draconians. See that kid with no shadow, he’ll be one of them. Yeah, we think they were probably mind-children of Creator-Gods, gods that can make new things and new ideas real, but probably before they came to Sanctuary.Oh yeah, welcome to Sanctuary by the way.”
“So yeah, legendaries and mythologicals. Very confusing beings. A lot of them can transfer their ability but still retain it (eg. Vampire bite equals new vampire) but they’re not immortals like actual Immortals, they just get to live for a couple hundred years too long.
“And then there’s Constants. That’s the Angels and Demons that technically no one knows where they came from. There’s a balance between them and they become almost completely mortal in the Real World. As long as they reside here or in the World Above or Below, they’re virtually untouchable. They can have kids but the kid will inherit traits of their fathers or mothers. It’s tricky. Most of it is.”
Jack gave the child next to him a slap on the back, “You’ll have demon blood in you. You got the red eyes and hair like one. Nothing to be ashamed of. We need a little dark in the world otherwise we’d be blind. You’ll get the jist as they go. Everything has its weakness, everything has its strength. The thing is to learn your gift and use it like a proper Immortal. You’ve got a purpose now. We don’t allow for deviants.”
They were split and split again and again until there were so few left that the boy with silver eyes was almost concerned. Then a voice crackled through the air over head and he was lead by a shadow through a door and sat in a chair to wait. Hadrian Nesbitt was there for three days and when he woke up, one eye was silver and the other was black.
ONE: The Beginning
Hadrian sat in the lecture theatre, bored out of his mind. Studying history and philosophy, he’d chosen his ‘Real’ degree with the belief that since he had already been taught most of the worlds history and could simply speed-read the bits he needed, he’d have an easy time at university. He’d been right. He breezed the classes and the essays and the assignments and the extra credit projects and he’d already won two prizes for each subject. The University of Edinburgh treasured him among their students, the mysterious boy that had transferred from a school in England that they’d never heard of and which passed with publishable work from first year. It was easy, just as he’d hoped, but he hadn’t gauged just how boring he’d find it all. If he’d only done Maths or a science.... He groaned into the pages of his notebook, ignoring the glances of his fellow students. Secretly they all wanted him to struggle with something; he could read their faces easily.
Giving up on concentrating he pulled out his blackberry curve, scrolling to see if he had any messages. He had three voicemail messages from Goldilocks and two from Theta and one from Anubis that he frowned at for a moment, wondering what the demon god wanted... Then there was a missed call, eight missed calls in fact, from the one number he’d never thought he’d actually ever read. Why were the Three calling him? Shivering with subconscious anticipation, he glanced at the clock, two minutes to go... he could just leave... even though it was rude.... He itched to go.
He began to pack away, grin fighting to stay off his face. As he did he plugged in headphones to his phone and began to listen to the list of messages.
“Hadrian!!! Pick up your phone you useless boy! Get to the arch and come home, we’re calling a meeting.” Goldilocks’ third message ranted down the headphone to him and he winced at the shrill tone despite his curiosity as to why there was a meeting being called after so long.
“Meet me after class.” That was all from Theta’s first message and then the second: “I’ll be the blond girl with big boobs that you fancied in Sixth Form.” The voice that echoed in the second message was different to the first and he smirked slightly, trust Theta to tease him.
The lecture was coming to a close and he quickly stood, dashing out of the class with his voicemail still playing. Sure enough in the eaves of the William Robertson Building Theta stood, blond haired and curvy instead of tall, lithe and brunette as she had been yesterday.
He grinned, “To the arch?”
She nodded with a rosy smile that lit up the heart shaped face. He moved to kiss the top of her head, the girl he’d fancied was only five foot two after all, “I’m so excited.” He added as they stepped out of the shade and into the hot summer sun.
It was a Thursday, the kind that leaves the whole world sagging into a listless, wallowing slur. Clouds spilled down from the sky and swamped the Edinburgh streets with a hot mist that made the thermometers on the walls perspire. It was nearly midday and for the first time in years the temperature was teetering above thirty degrees centigrade. Men sat outside their coffee shops and tea houses, heavy as the damp, salty air drifting in the sea breeze; women sagged in chairs they’d pulled out of cafes, clutching at tonic water that had been cold only minutes earlier but now was verging on lukewarm.
It was anomalous and no one could quite pinpoint the cause of the strange weather. The Immortals knew though. The balance had been shifted in the last few months and everything was dangling on the verge of chaos.
“How old does a man have to be to understand right from wrong?”
Hadrian looked down from the sky and his thoughts and frowned, “What’s that?”
Theta placed her hand in his and he felt her telling him to read and he couldn’t resist.
It was an aging man, with one time dark hair now mostly grey and his skin had become the leathery wrinkles of all older fishermen who had spent their lives in the sun and salt and wind of the dorsetshire coast. Settled comfortably in the shade in the husk of an old dinghy, he was content to listen to the twittering of the swallows that nestled beneath the drains of the roof and for any murmur from the wind that would tell him that he could once again walk down to the bay at the bottom of the hill and hoist the sails on the wayfarer.
“Well it’s these bloody MPs… you know… you’d think they’d step down or I don’t know… admit they’re all in the wrong and try to do something about it rather than just like… you know, lie and pretend they’re open to openness and continue to be selfish or whatever.”
His fourteen year old granddaughter was reading a supplement, the Times or the Telegraph, he wasn’t entirely sure which but she was trying to have an opinion on everything now that she was ‘old enough to not be a kid’ and therefore ‘had to be taken seriously’. It was rather endearing.
“MPs are just people, Seph, they’re going to make mistakes and they’ll end up being punished because of it.”
“But the question is: why don’t they just do the right thing?”
“And what’s the right thing?”
“Being a good MP and not stealing things from the country!” Seph looked affronted as she spoke, blue eyes creased into a frown, “There’s a money crisis and expenses are wrong!”
“Hm.” Leaning forwards, he glanced at the open paper she had spread on the grass and squinted to see the headline, “But of course the expenses were put in for a good reason-”
“-to give them more money.”
“No. No. Because people who are MPs sometimes have to travel hours to get to meetings and they need a second home so they can have a place to live nearer their work as well as in their constituency and such. There are some reasons which are perfectly viable. The expenses themselves are not the issue; it’s how people use them.”
“So the people are bad.”
“Not necessarily. They might have had a good reason. Most people who do bad things have good reasons. Or at least a good reason for them. That doesn’t necessarily make it a ‘good’ or ‘right’ act but it makes sense of the act.”
The look on Persephone’s face was vacant. He had lost her and he knew he needed to stop talking at that point.
“Don’t worry.” He said with a smile, “They’ll learn.”
“Because the God that’s ridding the world of bad people will teach them...” She murmured, perking up again on his last words, “That’s what the newspaper says. They’ll be taught. And the MPs need to be careful because God doesn’t like corrupt people.”
His face melted into a mix of surprise and horror, “No, no, Sephy, the deaths that have been happening, that’s not right. That’s not how people learn. You’ll see, this ‘god’ you speak of is simply a terrorist organisation and what they’re doing is wrong.”
“You don’t really think that do you?” She cocked her head, “But they’re saying that loads of people have been dying because they’ve been doing bad things that God doesn’t like.”
“I most certainly do think that. You can’t teach people how to be good using fear and you can’t change the world with terror. Not permanently.”
“I hope you’re right. I don’t want to die if I forget to brush my teeth or something...”
Smiling again, he realised Sephy still didn’t truly understand the world and he sat back in his chair. Suddenly his face twisted in pain and his hand went to his head. His mouth drooped downwards and blood began to pour from his nose.
Within minutes the man had contorted into a crooked, question mark as his brain haemorrhaged. His face, that crinkled, merry face was a slumped, sagging mass of useless muscle; his arms were twisted in pain and dangled at an awkward angle to his body. He made a slurring, choking noise but his mouth wouldn’t move and his granddaughter stared in horror as yellow fluid oozed from his ears. Tears of blood trickled uselessly down his cheek as she screamed again and fled into the house for a phone.
When she reached her mobile she found she had a message on her screen “There is such beauty in suffering. Love from The Author.”
Screaming, she dropped her phone, curled up in the corner of her room and sobbed –
Theta snatched her hand away, “That asshole.”
“That’s why we’re... being called?” Hadrian wondered aloud.
“No duh, you think?” Theta bit back with a glare.
Shivering, he couldn’t help but feel decidedly small, “We’re also targets aren’t we. As long as we’re out here. If we blew out anonymity...”
The blond at his side nodded her head and sighed, “Sorry to rain on your parade but you might not be as cheerful as you usually are... not for a while anyway.”
Silently he agreed but he said nothing, turning his thoughts to Sanctuary and trying to figure out who else would have been called back...
|A soft chime and the noisiest vibration she’d ever heard alerted Tegan to the ninth text message that had reached her phone in twenty minutes. Again, as she had since the beginning of class, she reached into her pocket and silenced the blasted contraption that lay entrapped within, caught up in the machinations of every day life. She felt a kinship with the device, if such a connection could even be possible with an inanimate object, for Tegan sort of understood its dilemma. Enough people had ignored her over the years, even when she’d relied on parchment and ink instead of satellite technology to communicate her messages, and turned her away because they didn’t have time to listen to important information. But, damn it all, she was in the middle of an examination and the vibrating could be heard halfway across the bloody room!|
“Miss McMillian, is there something the matter or are you pursuing a career as a switchboard operator?” The professor slid his glasses down his nose, gazing out at Tegan with blue eyes bright with feigned annoyance and no little amusement. Grinning just slightly, Tegan shook her head and took up her pen again to finish the essay component of the exam. “No, sir. But if you paid closer attention, you’d realize that the messages are set to a coordinated rhythm and are, in fact, giving me the answers to the test as we speak.”
Chuckling, Professor Kentworthy shook his head. “Tegan, please shut the phone off unless it is an emergency. Or at least put it on silent. I imagine the sound is disturbing the others.”
Tegan wanted to reply, even going so far as to open her mouth, retort just at the edge of her tongue, but her classmates were already staring at her with annoyed expressions. None of them could boast of a close relationship with their professor or of the history of Rome, and her conversation as much as her phone irritated them. She was Kentworthy’s darling, fluent in Latin, knowledgeable of Ancient Rome in a way that seemed the product of underhanded methods. How were any of them to know she had lived it in a way? Not as Tegan McMillian, of course, but the Messenger within had lived for millennia. And the Greco-Roman world was its birthplace.
She was British, herself, which was kind of ironic. Not a single ounce of Greek blood flowed through her veins, but the spirit within her didn’t seem to care about that at all. So here she was, an ancient Roman scholar living in Britain, playing football every night and the clubs every weekend with her band. She never studied, but knew it all, drank a little too much wine and just generally played the nuisance wherever she went.
It was a damn fine life to be living. Except for the Author. That asshole certainly put a damper on things. He might as well have jammed a stick up everyone’s ass the way they acted whenever he came up. It certainly sucked to be forced into anonymity when that undermined her very existence. Mostly, it just made things boring. But Tegan abhorred boring. As such, she abhorred the Author and everything he was doing. Even if the order he created was so very harmonious.
With a wave of her hand, Tegan silenced the phone, feeling yet another wave in the ether signaling yet another message. One of the benefits of being Hermes was her ability to control almost anything related to communication. But she wasn’t psychic, or anything, which sucked at a time like this. Ten texts during class, not to mention the three or four times the phone had jingled out the voice mail alert, could only mean one thing: Goldilocks was calling.
And that meant Tegan needed to finish this test as soon as possible before Goldi sent her three little bears after her. Or, because Goldi was hardly a wuss, before she personally kicked Tegan’s ass from one side of the universe to the other. There weren’t a lot of people Tegan respected—mostly they just amused her or, if they did manage to anger her, they were just a bundle of nerves to be manipulated—but Goldilocks was one.
Truth be told, Goldilocks was one of the few entities that Tegan actually feared a little. The woman was formidable and had very little humor. And, for all the fears and fault lines written across her soul for Tegan to read, the woman hardly allowed her weaknesses to hinder her. Basically, she was immune to Tegan’s antics, and that made her an anomaly in the universe. Tegan hated anomalies almost as much as she hated being bored, which meant she and Goldilocks were not exactly friends.
But they were allies. And this many messages from Goldi could only mean that the Author had finally overstepped the boundaries and some sort of war had formally begun.
She had to get to Sanctuary. But first, she had to finish this test and Mark Antony was not one to accept being tossed to the wayside. Tegan knew that first hand. She’d met him in Sanctuary a few years back, when he’d been Dionysus. The wine god had always chosen the weirdest bodies and Antony was no different. Too bad for Antony that the Author had finally found him. Tegan, though she’d been called a different name at the time, had mourned deeply for the loss of her friend. He’d been a good man.
A final flourish ended the paper and Tegan slipped from her desk, slipping between purses, backpacks, and errant feet with the grace of a dancer. She missed the winged sandals; they’d gone the way of the satchel when electronics had rendered both obsolete. Now she carried a Blackberry to do her job. It took some of the joy out of it, but Tegan was still one of the quickest movers of the bunch. And when she was in a rush, she could move.
“Done, Professor Kentworthy.” Tegan slipped the blue book onto his desk, smiling as she did so. “I’ll see you next semester, right?”
“Of course. I assume you’re continuing with Latin?” The man met her eye and raised his eyebrow just slightly. “Or will you be moving on to something else?”
“Ancient Greek, actually. You’re teaching that, right?” Tegan could feel the phone vibrating again and danced on her toes, eager to leave and get her ass to the archway before Goldi flipped a shit and dragged her there forcibly. She could be there in a few minutes, despite the distance. Winged sandals or not, Tegan could fly if she needed to, and she could feel the energy building in her legs. Sanctuary itself seemed to be calling for her now, calling for all of their kind.
Something really was wrong.
“I am. But it appears that you are anxious to leave, Miss McMillian. I hope there is no emergency?” Professor Kentworthy leaned back in his chair, not quite able to keep his gaze at eye level. Tegan knew he found her almost irresistible—a student who shared his interests, with whom he could communicate, and beautiful to boot. She encouraged the attachment, actually, because it amused her to do so. And Professor Kentworthy was pretty good-looking himself, so there was definitely potential there for him to become more than just an amusement.
But, considering what was going down, maybe that wouldn’t happen. She should have done something about Kentworthy sooner, she supposed. Oh well, there would be time for fun later. Hopefully.
“There is, actually. All those texts are from a friend. Pressing matter of some urgency. But I’ll see you next semester!” Tegan smiled and sauntered from the room, wiggling as she did so just because she was never very good at letting things go. As soon as she stepped from the room, however, she did something stupid.
She flew straight to Sanctuary. Partly because she didn’t want Goldi to kick her ass, but mostly because she could feel that something just wasn’t right with the world. And the world was her duty.
Leila idled on the battered sofa, sitting half on her worn leather jacket, thumbing a hole by its exposed pocket, and half on Mathieu, who was gesticulating wildly and talking a mixture of french and english to Luna. Her heels- hand made, hand painted- rested on the short barrel that served as the table in the seedy bar, and she mused that it was not for this setting that Kirkwood had envisioned them.
Zeros was crowded tonight, as always. The atmosphere was asphyxiating; the heat from the bodies of all the artists and models and vagabonds of Paris mixing in a room that was, in all honesty, about fifteen metres squared. It was always this way, and the fact that Leila had turned the back room (if the two sofas and a barrel that barred access to the toilets counted) into her office was a source of constant amusement to her more dignified friends, who refused to come at all. The dirty, young, pretty things of Paris and their music spilled out onto the rue Amelot just outside, clutching their Zero-cocktails and their cigarettes.
She elbowed Mathieu as his movements became too erratic to make him a comfortable perch. He winced and proceeded to nuzzle her neck, which further annoyed her as the beanie hat that he was wont to wear made her hair go static. Honestly, she was never quite sure why the embodiment of the Norse trixter god had invaded her and Paris after all this time apart; flown over from Toronto with no notice and turned up on her doorstep; all very well and good except for the fact that she only had one double bed and wasn't entirely sure how long he intended on staying. He got away with it on charm and massages, but his tendency to wake up in the mornings was rendering Leila more and more irritable. Especially because it made it that much harder for her to randomly sleep with her friends. She sighed, glancing at Luna, who was sullenly glaring at her glass and muttering something about ambrosia.
"Stop. moving." She growled at him, turning to examine his handsome features. Despite possessing such a chiseled visage, his eyes still seemed somewhat dopey to her. Possibly all the pot that he had picked up in Canada. He wasn’t a fire god for nothing. She settled her weight backwards, pinning his arm to his side before giving his dopey eyed-grin a slap.
He wiggled his jaw, face showing not a hint of shock, "For someone so ill-looking, you pack a punch!"
Grinning at her, he laughed - it was a frequent joke that despite looking like a quiet and fragile girl in this body, her attitude was very masculine, almost mysogonistic. She was in the strange limbo of being treated like one of the guys the majority of the time and yet they still wanted to sleep with her when they were drunk, and probably sober too but no one was stupid enough to try that one on. It was a bizarre situation, and probably why she ended up hanging out mostly with guys; because she found it normal. But then again, it meant she was never out of a comfortable chair or pillow. She shifted her weight and kicked him in the leg with her right ankle.
"Oh thanks hun, I appreciate the compliment. Should I remind you that this is my territory, my domain, and that it is MY nightspot? And you, my trixy darling, are currently MY chair.” Leila flicked her hair into his face, her voice raised but her eyes smiling. “And stop flirting with Luna when you know full well she's not going to sleep with you."
"Mmm. Yummy. Your hair smells like pomegranate. I take it that you want another drink then?" he drawled in his bizarrely sing-song Australian-Canadian drawl.
"Yes, and guess whose paying for it? But not here. I want revenge…. so we'll move on to somewhere more expensive. Besides, its almost 11 and this place runs out of zero zeros fast on a friday night. Clement and Jean-Phillipe are waiting for us at the canal." Clement was a vampire, Jean Philippe the son of a Demon and a french poet. They were waiting with a crowd of normal friends, but Mathieu was the type who didn't really pay attention to anyone unless they interested him, so it was a waste of breath to suggest anything different. Leila turned her eyes to examine her chipped red nail polish.
As she stood up, about seven people in the crowded room reached for their clothes. It wasn't as if she particularly asked them to come along, merely that these guys followed her because they found it entertaining. They had been for centuries, all over the world. Her previous incarnation had left a deep seat of resignation behind her, trying to lose the assortment of immortals was nearly impossible, even when she disappeared without notice they were lured to where ever she was without trying. She didn't do anything, she was far too lazy to do much at all. She glanced at Luna who sat on the sofa, her pale hair and athletic body immobile.
“Not coming then?”
"You know I love you Leila, but there are all these... men... surrounding you." Luna muttered, Her glassy blue eyes glancing disdainfully at Mathieu, who grinned back at her.
"It's not like I tell them to." Leila drawled, "They seem to have designated me as one of the guys at some point or other when I wasn't paying attention. But then they think its hilarious fun to mess with me, because I'm female. Its no win."
She was about to head out, standing slowly as she shook off a dead leg. You would have thought that being the reincarnation of Nyx, she would have mastered the art of not crossing her legs and giving herself a dead leg every night. Jacob, an incubus, had crossed the room and was now draping himself over her shoulders artfully and grinning at Luna, his scarf falling in folds on Leila's shoulder. Although both had come down from Sweden to Paris, and both were old friends of Leila in her various forms, they loathed each other. Jacob thought that Artemis' latest human embodiment was a stuck up priss, and she insisted that he was a randy bat.
"Dude. Leeeeeeiiila, layla, leila. You know you love being part of our motley band. That's why you don't bother escaping us. Although why you insist on hanging out with that one is beyond me. She just doesn't understand how you're are bro...."
“Because I need someone to counter act your man whore-ishness. And she is the most badass strait-lace I know.” Leila countered, seeing the ire rising in Luna's cheeks.
It was at that point that the barrel serving as a table started to vibrate. Leila stumbled towards it, making Jacob double over, to reach her iphone where it sat on a pack of Golden Virginia tobacco. Stalking out of the bar, letting it ring for the ten seconds it took to cross the tiny space, the regulars recognised her pissed-off pace and jumped out of the way. She answered it as she reached the doorway, the miasma of sweat and alcohol fading into the sudden clarity of the night air, before being assaulted by a wave of tobacco.
"Goldi, goldi, goldi. Now why are you calling me at such an early time?" She drawled into the phone with a twinge of a Parisian accent trilling through,"Did you really expect me to be awake?"
It had been a while since Goldilocks had bothered calling her. A Dryad in origin, she was close to Leila, because Leila was close to Artemis, the friend of all the nymphs. It helped, Leila thought to herself, that the one female friend she bothered to keep up with on a permanent basis was on Goldi's good side. It meant that normally she was left alone.
"It's night time, Leila, you're always awake at night time. That's why I called you now and not at a time that would be considered reasonable for everyone else."
Goldilocks sounded worn. Leila frowned. Tired sounding Goldilocks, a phonecall in the middle of the night to an immortal who was so lazy that they usually left her to her own devices, knowing that there normally no chance of making her do anything helpful. It all sounded vaguely melodramatic.
"Something's the matter then? Why are you calling me?"
"We're calling a meeting.
"Ah. So… waking the sleeping giant?" She said in a pitched, arrogant tone that made Goldi laugh.
"Last time I checked you were a small eurasian female body. No giant. Maybe 5"4?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know you'd never call me if you wanted something done."
"Sorry, Leila, you know you're a respected character but you're not the person we'd call if we were in desperate need of help."
Leila glanced down the calm of the streets, which seemed to be so overwhelming that it could not be perturbed even by the noise seeping into it from the bar. The night should have been crisp and clear, but its effect was somewhat destroyed by the light pollution from the city underneath it. She sighed in mock sadness. Maybe it was time that she exercised her powers more. But there wasn't much place for night and dark except in the wilderness. That and... she really couldn't be bothered to do anything of the sort. For a moment, she basked in the warm night air and sighed as the starlight bathed her skin, envelopping it with familiarity. Had anyone noticed, the stars seemed to glimmer brighter as she stepped out onto the pavement and into the crowd of smokers, gathering on the asphalt of the empty road. She had nearly forgotten the phone.
"Are you listening?" Goldi hissed, waking her from the stupor.
Goldilocks began to explain and as she listened, the phone sandwiched between ear and shoulder, she rolled a cigarette. The conversation was short, and she was licking it closed with a feline dart of her tongue as she listened to the murmuring on the other end of the phone.
"So basically, because of this major imbalance caused by this Author you want me back in the field but you're really after....?"
"Your motley crew."
"I object. They’re not mine. They self assemble. I have nothing to do with it. It seems I just pick locations and they pick on me."
"Bring the self-assembling gang. And it is your fault because you create a place where they can gather. Every time."
"Its not my fault people prefer darkness when they’re having fun.” Leila murmured petulantly. “Surely their phones are ringing anyway?"
"Yes but they have been for nearly two weeks. If you came to Sanctuary, they're sure to follow."
"Wasting phone minutes then." She hung up the phone and glanced at the messages. There was one from Reynard. She read it and frowned. He would be at the Belvedere de Sybil, in buttes Chaumont waiting. Why did the opening have to be in the 19th, behind the locked gates of the buttes Chaumont park? Better than when it was a quarry, she supposed. She turned and saw that all eight immortals that had been in the bar were now sprawled in a line on the pavement, bored, glancing at her expectantly as they sat in their various stated of intoxication. Even Luna. It was rather worrying that this rambling, raggedy bunch were entrusted with powers that kept the universe in balance. Good thing the universe wasn’t designed to be kept in order, because then everything would be royally fucked.
"I take it you got the call too?"
“TECHnically it was a BBM.” One of the boys muttered. "I suppose its natural that Tegan has a crackberry. But damn those sandals were cool."
"Douche. But man is she is fine now. Not so much as a guy."
Leila sighed. "Do I really have to remind you of that time you were reincarnated as a girl with a permasquint? Honestly. Women are not objects you know. And Hermes was a fertility god so he was still getting more than you. When she was a he. Fucking genders. Which bastard thought that one up?"
She glanced once more at the street, the matte black emptiness absorbing the starlight, and then winced at the thought of four metro changes. It was so much easier when people had faith in the existence of winged chariots. Nowadays transport smelled of piss even when Bachhus and the maenads hadn't been near it...
|“I should kill you,” Ysengrin said quietly. He wasn’t looking at the man sitting across from him. He smoked a cigarette and stared at the table where a game of poker lay disturbed and unfinished. He ran a hand through his dark hair and a sigh escaped his lips with a gray cloud of ash and soot. Then his eyes rose and he met his brother’s petulant look dead on. Reynard stared back at him and his gaze was unreadable because he worked to be that way. He could bluff his way out of a jail cell and had before, but his brother had a way of looking through him sometimes.|
“You won’t,” he told him. He wasn’t sure if it was a statement or a dare. Sen didn’t seem to know either, but he laughed quietly, flicking the blackened end of his cigarette into an ashtray.
“No,” he said. “Probably not. But I should.”
Then he sighed and kicked his chair back, using the remote to click the television on. The moment had passed and Reynard felt relief slip through him, quiet and unnoticed. He didn’t like being afraid of his brother, but he was, because he had never been able to trick him quite as easily as he could anyone else. Bold faced lies slipped from his lips as easily as truths and Sen was the only one who had ever been able to distinguish fact from fiction because half the time Reynard didn’t know which was which either. He lied compulsively and habitually and to anyone who would listen.
“A body was found dead at the corner of fifth and main today, and it appears to be the work of the Author once again. Witnesses say the man was crossing the street when he abruptly dropped dead of unknown causes. A message was left on his cell phone, promising that justice would come to the wicked. The man was registered sex offender Albert Conklin, and this recent death has prompted a fresh round of debates about the Author.”
Sen snorted. “Can you believe this tripe?” he asked, shaking his head.
“No,” Reynard said, pulling his brother’s pack of cigarettes across to him. “But he’s got a good racket going.”
His brother snorted, resting his boots up on the table. “Only you would say that, Reynard. The man’s a menace, if he’s even a man.” he said, and Reynard hated that derisive tone in his voice. He sighed and settled farther down in his own chair, foot bouncing up and down because he was restless and there was so much to do in France and instead he was taking abuse from his brother because he’d done something stupid again.
“It sounds like a good deal if you’re a human though,” he said, pounding a cigarette out onto his palm and putting flame to it with a flick of his lighter. “Isn’t that what everyone thinks they want? World peace? That’s what all the hot chicks in their bikinis swear by. Anyway, if you’re a mortal it doesn’t sound like such a bad deal. Give up your free will, because who uses that anyway, and you never have to worry about being mugged or shot or raped again.”
Ysengrin snorted. “You’re a moron. We’re not human, so we know it’s a load of bullshit.”
Reynard shrugged. “Just making conversation.” His brother was flicking through channels, stopping on some national geographic special about an exploding whale. He sighed, tapping ash off the end of his cigarette and reaching for his coat. “I’m going to the bar,” he said, waving a hand at his brother. “Don’t wait up for me.”
Sen rolled his eyes. “Stay out of trouble,” he said, and there was resignation in his voice that said he knew that would never happen.
Reynard shot a grin at him and lied through his teeth. “I always do.”
╪ ╪ ╪
Someone was punching Reynard in the face.
He felt his nose crack and the skin split under the man’s fist and maybe he would have fallen to the ground then, except there were fingers wrapped tightly in his tee shirt where the man was holding him up off the pavement. Another blow struck him in the temple and his head snapped back with an audible crack. There was blood trickling from the corner of his lips and dripping onto his shirt and ground below him.
He started to laugh. He couldn’t help himself.
“The hell is wrong with you?” he heard the man snarl, and then he was being punched in the jaw. His head fell back and he couldn’t stop laughing because he was getting the crap beaten out of him and the man didn’t even understand why yet. He felt the fingers in his shirt relax and then he was falling to the ground. A kick landed in his stomach and he pulled his arms down around his head to protect his face, though it didn’t really matter at this point. “What’s so funny?” the man was shouting, and another boot landed in his lower back. The man was panting and heaving now, going all out on Reynard with fists and feet.
Laughter bubbled out from between his lips and he rolled over onto his hands and knees, red dripping down to the pavement in thick droplets. “You’re just so stupid,” he said and then he was laughing so hard it hurt, though that might have been the bruises beginning on his ribs and across his spine. He felt the boot land in his back and then he was on the ground again, laughing weakly into the concrete.
The blows finally stopped after that. “Crazy drunk,” the man spat. “Don’t ever try to cheat me again.”
Reynard was still laughing as he rolled over into a sitting position. There were cards lying around him like confetti, spades and kings that he had shoved up his sleeves and gotten caught pulling. Sometimes he wasn’t quick enough, but this time he’d done it on purpose. He pulled his cigarettes out and lit one as the man started to walk away. The bitter acrid smoke stung at his split lip. “I’d be more concerned about the cheating your girlfriend’s doing,” he said nonchalantly. The man turned around and Reynard grinned at him. It was a feral and wicked thing. “She has a very talented mouth,” he added.
The man’s hands curled back into fists and then he was stomping across the alley with red surging into his face. “You’re dead,” he snarled at Reynard and he had no doubt the man was going to do his best to make it so. He just smiled back at him because this was his favorite part, because even if the man did manage to kill him and beat him into the pavement again, he still had a happily cheating girlfriend to go home to. Reynard always won this game, one way or another.
Then he heard his phone go off.
“Oh excuse me,” Reynard told him, reaching in his back pocket for it. “I have to take this.”
“Too bad, pal,” the man spat and then he was reaching for him anyway. Reynard rolled out of the way, flipping his phone open and pressing it to his ear as he hit his feet. His wounds stung but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Years of dealing with his brother had made him very adept at taking a beating and this guy was an amateur compared to Ysengrin. He smirked as he dodged another hit because he didn’t want the sound interfering with his call.
“Hello,” he said cheerfully into the receiver. A fist the size of a ham swung at his face and he ducked under it, dancing down the alley. “I’m a little busy at the moment, so if you could make this quick that’d be great,” he said into the phone. The cigarette still hung from between his lips but between the phone and the lousy ape coming at him he couldn’t spare a hand to smoke it and it was making him annoyed. The man roared and put his shoulder down to charge Reynard, so he dropped to his knees and rolled under his arms, popping up behind him and kicking him in the back.
The man hit the wall with a thump and his face was read and enraged when he turned around.
“Reynard,” came a quiet, feminine voice from the other end of the phone. He rolled his eyes because it was Goldilocks and the woman only ever called when she wanted something. He wasn’t a big fan of people wanting things from him because that meant he was responsible for something other than himself. Responsible was certainly not his middle name. That was Ysengrin. “We need you to come back to Sanctuary for a meeting. Get to the Buttes Chaumont park, now please.”
“Right now?” he asked, turning to the left to dodge another rage-blinded attack.
“Right now,” she said tersely.
He sighed and ducked under a swinging fist because he was fast when he wanted to be and just as he was thinking that one slammed into his jaw again. He heard it crack and he cursed as the cigarette flew from his lips and landed on the pavement. “Fine,” he snapped, and then slammed the phone shut because there was another hit landing in his stomach. The third hit he dodged and then he was punching the man back, his fist cracking into his face. He cursed as his struck the man in the nose because it made his knuckles crack and it hurt.
“I’m sorry,” Reynard told him as he stumbled back. “It looks like it’s time for me to go.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” the man snarled at him and then he was charging again, fists swinging at the red haired man with wild abandon. There was a split across his nose and Reynard was quietly proud of himself for that because he had snapped it in one hit, and he usually didn’t punch quite so hard. Then he dodged away from the incoming attack, fending off a fist with his arm and cracking the man in the side of the head again. He roared in rage and grabbed the smaller man by the shirt, pulling him in to hit him again.
Reynard ducked and felt his shirt ripping as he dodged behind the man. His hand closed around his wrist and then he was yanking it behind his back and pushing up with all the force he had. There was a crack as it snapped under his fingers and the man howled as Reynard pushed him into the wall. “I said I have to go,” he told him again, and there was dry laughter in his voice. “So I’ll see you around.”
╪ ╪ ╪
He was using the tattered remains of his shirt to soak up the blood pouring from his nose when Leila showed up.
He shot her a grin though it was partially faked because the entourage she always had on her tail annoyed him. They were too much like him and he was happy with there being only one of him. He gave her a hug and she pressed the oh-so French kisses to either side of his cheek. He heard a chuckle from the man standing behind her and shot him a glance. “Nice shiner, Rey,” Matheiu said with a dirty grin on his face.
Reynard bared his teeth at him. “Why thank you. Would you like one to match?”
“Now, now boys. Play nice,” Leila told them, rolling her eyes.
Reynard grinned, slinging an arm around her shoulders. “Well for you, maybe I’ll try.”
|There was a small crowd of children standing on the grassy precipice. The slope behind them crackled down to nothing, to broken buildings leaning out of the steep valley banks, to rivulets at the bottom that showed cities far beneath the slumbering water. On the other side was nothing. We don’t mention it. Old stone constructs leant into the trees near them, impossible to tell where the mossy chipped flint ended and the shivering green and twining branches began.|
Theta sat cross legged in the midst of the young crowd. They had asked her to turn to a Jabberwocky now – rather an amusing request, as it was not twenty years since she had met with the creature on the wayside. Cricking her neck she stood (currently masquerading as Miley Cyrus in a bear suit) and spread her arms ominously. With a flamboyant lengthening of limbs and rippling of skin she stood over them, biting jaws and catching claws waving. They laughed and shrieked, though the tiny moon-goddess they were looking after didn’t seem to know whether to giggle or cry.
It was old work, vaudeville work, but it entertained her as much as them.
“Ne, ne” a little Japanese half-cast with papercut eyes and a curly mop of hair chimed in “you are lying, you are not a god. The gods are in human bodies, they cannot change. You must be a were-shifter, or a bakemono like me” his half hidden brake-light eyes glinted with hope. The demon-children were rare and always seeking others of their kind.
“That is what the Sanctuary thought at first too,” she said, reverting to a mouth that floated, Cheshire like, in the air. “They thought me maybe a meteor goblin, a Tengu, when I played tricks in my early years.” The young boy nodded in recognition. “But I was too irreverent of their laws. So they thought me perhaps the old man of the sea, a more isolated resurrection. But neither Sinbad nor Telemachus recognised me. Then they thought me the witch Creddiwen, or maybe her servant boy Gwion, Merlin’s predecessor. But you know, once upon a time it was not so rare for the Gods to change forms. Even if that is not common now, perhaps it is just a matter of.. time.”
Theta turned then, to a child herself, a young boy immersed in freckles with large eyes and orange curls. He took the hand of Arianrhod, their moon-goddess host, the star and moon just visible where his speckled fingers curled around hers. She smiled absently and walked the group over to the ramshackle broken building near them, where they would return to the Sanctuary centre. Te had not mentioned to them the truth of his nature. Nor would he ever mention it to a living soul. The only one who had ever known had stolen the truth, had read it that day when Te had been called up to test the small boy with silver eyes. That child had been sworn to secrecy. And Hadrian was honest to his word.
After the moon-boat had taken them on a brief flight through starlit water-skies they had arrived in the massive haphazard construction that was the Centre. They docked calmly and Te went on his way, in search of the other Gods. Having arrived early with Hadrian he had been free to explore, parting ways as the reader went in search of his labyrinth of a library. But now he felt Leila beckoning as, no doubt, everyone of any use in all the worlds would be, and knew resistance was pointless.
A few corners down the way and he met her languishing in Odin’s hall, her usual cast of tricksters and vagrants juggling for her attention. For many years now Te and Leila had been the last of their generation, Leila who had survived of sheer apathy and Te who was inconstant, uncatchable, too mad to be tried fairly, let off again and again at trials on pleas of harmless insanity. The goddess looked up in recognition of Te’s child form. She knew the history of this one – he grew up to be thin and pained and pendulously popular, ricocheting between an almost god-given magneticism and magnificent falls from grace.
“A moment of your time, old friend?”
The two old gods shared a wary acquaintance, too different to co-exist, but too distracted to care. Now, however, the aesthete had one request to make of her before all the inscrutable events of the future where set in motion. The crimson crowned fox-man next to her sat idly flicking a lighter to his cigarette. He looked up, and then from the approaching child to the goddess and back in confusion. Te held up a small hand where he stood at the bottom of the steps and Reynard blinked and smiled. Like Odyssues so Te was recognised, like Jesus, by those scars. The whole ambiguity of his world was penned into those little blemishes – the stars, ever fixed, ever guiding. And next to them the visiting moon.
“Reynard dear, how do you feel about getting a mature whisky for these two elders?”
“I don’t know, sweetcheeks. Whisky for a minor?” The dark haired girl was leaning playfully on his shoulder. “Fine little ones. Whisky all round.”
The fox darted down the wide steps as Te clambered up them, off to the cabinet in the dining hall nearby.
“Nyx, I..” Leila looked up sharply as Te mumbled from the pillow he’d seated himself upon. She knew when he called her Nyx that she was speaking to the true constant, the inner god that even the aesthete no longer recognised.
“I am old Nyx. And power ages bitterly. I grow tired of human society, of their whims and woes, and all the sanctuary’s wonders wane before me, now. I want some quiet place to hole away and fade away, I feel every day more like a fox that sees its uncheatable adversary, sees death sitting calmly before me. I just need you to speak to Miru for me, my dear. Ask her just the one last favor on my behalf. There is no need for the council to know. They would have me live the next century through too, if they could. I just need some rest, old friend. I need some rest once this is done.”
Leila examined her nails for a time. Then she sighed heavily, the frown over her sunken eyes deepening for a while and;
“Oh, man up dear would you? You are one of the few people in the world who literally can. I promise you, she’ll get round to you when it’s your time, and it will be your time sometime but till then stop courting her so ardently. And enough of this Nyx business sweetheart, now you make me feel aged.”
Te smiled childishly. It had been very cruel to ask such a thing of the goddess, especially in such an innocent form. But Te was cruel. Anyone who knew anything in the sanctuary knew that. And the shifter-god knew it most of all. Blame gifting the colour-blind with a love of art, if you will. Blame condemning a truth-seeker to the constant pressure to follow beauty. Blame what you will. There is always something to blame.
And yet, Te found himself thinking, as Reynard slinked back up the steps with a tray of Waterford crystal – yet there is one in this world who no longer thinks anything of blame. The King devoid of justice. Justice mutilated and beaten under a crown that had no meaning. The Author, the tyrant, the wayward son. In his worst moments Te might have felt some kinship with the deviant, the mad Lord. But there was something the shifter could not forgive, something that stuck in his throat and jarred with him and angered him. And terrified him.
Every message The Author had sent had said it, every time he killed, and every time Te felt the meaning move closer to him, bring him closer to some nameless future fear. That man was playing with him, was taunting, even testing, him.
“There is such a BEAUTY in suffering”
|Goldilocks skimmed down her phone again till she reached the M section. “She’d better pick up.” she growled in an irritated tone meant for only her ears. She looked up as she blew a curl out of her line of vision and met the gaze of her colleague. “What?” she asked with a bit of a bite to it.|
“Well?” was all he had to say as he ran his hand through his blond hair.
Goldilocks sighed. “Just about everyone we need is on their way but I’ve got a few more left but-” the phone rang for the fifth time before going to voice mail again. Goldilocks glared at nothing in particular as she used more force than needed to slam her phone shut before standing up. “But I’ve got a few airheads who think they’re above their duty.”
Jack smirked. “So what’re you gonna do?”
“Me?” she stopped and stared at him for a moment before grinning. “Oh no, no, no… not me- we. You’re going to go find that pain in the butt Merryn and I’m going to go deal with another case.”
Jack’s smirk disappeared. He even took a step back. “Eh… Merryn? Why do I have to go get her?”
“Because she’s not answering her phone.”
“So what makes you think I’ll be able to do anything?” he asked.
“Oh come on, Jack- I’m sure you can think of something. Be creative- trick her into coming if you have to.”
“Well where are you going then?”
“I did say I had a few airheads didn’t I? The other situation’s far to delicate to be leaving it to you. Merryn on the other hand I can afford to piss off.”
Merryn smiled to herself, getting closer to the edge of the cliff and leaned up against the tree that had grown at the very edge. From Below someone could see some of its roots jutting out, as if it were reaching for the water below. The sun was finally setting and as usual, the colors were beautiful. She wondered how many messages would be waiting for her when she turned her phone back on again. Some people could be so annoying in their persistence to get a hold of someone. They never think that maybe after the third time- maybe, just maybe that person doesn’t want to talk to them. Merryn looked down at the swirling waters below and smiled a little bigger before looking back up at the sky and whispering quietly enough that not even she could hear her own voice. “Wait a while, oh sun and we’ll go down together.” It was quiet out there, away from humans and gods along with the messes they made.
“Merryn,” a stern voice called from behind.
“Or not…” she murmured under her breath as she turned around. “Jackie old boy- good to see you.” she said sarcastically. He glared at her.
“Why did you turn your phone off? You know the sanctuary’s been trying to contact you for over three hours now.”
Merryn shrugged her shoulders. “Yea… sorry ‘bout that. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood to jump at command today.”
“The Author is striking again. We’ve got stuff to do.” he watched as the woman smiled and began walking towards him. She pulled out a small flask and uncapped it, taking a swig before she held it out towards Jack. He scowled. “You’re a real piece of work Miru. Still as selfish as ever I see. The humans need our help. Even if they didn’t, its our responsibility to take care of the Author.”
“What do I care what he does?” she asked, slipping the bottle back into her tight leather vest as she walked past the giant killer towards her motorcycle. She got on it, putting her hands on the custom handles. “It doesn’t concern me any. I still get to do what I like, that’s all that matters.” she informed him in a friendly tone of voice.
Jack’s eyes flashed. He turned away from her shrugging his shoulders. “Well I suppose there really isn’t anything I can say. If you don’t want to come, I cant make you.”
Merryn looked at him, hiding her surprise that he’d skipped some sort of long lecture on how it was her duty as a god to help the mortals. “No… you can’t.” she agreed. She smiled in approval of the simplicity of this encounter with Jack.
“The fact of the matter is, if we don’t want to help them, we don’t have to. Of course if the Author continues with his murders then wouldn’t he technically be stepping in on your territory?”
Merryn froze and eyed him. “Ah… so that’s your angle this time around is it?” she purred.
“No angle. Just the truth. He’s deciding who’s fit to kill and who’ll live. He’s kinda undermining you isn’t he? I mean all these years you’ve been the Goddess of Death, picking and choosing who you wanna drag down into that hell of yours but now… its really kinda silly to ask for your help on this one. I mean… we don’t really need you. If we do fail though, well then you won’t be having any souls to burn in that oven of yours. No more devouring them either.” without another word Jack began to walk away. “Sorry for the inconvenience Miru. You can turn your phone back on- we won’t be bugging you anymore. See ya latter I guess.”
“Fuck you Jack.” Merryn hissed, starting the engine up, revving it so its loud purr broke the once peaceful silence of the little park she’d found. She kicked the sidestand into place and drove off, sending gravel and dirt up in the air as she took off.
Jack smiled, pulling out his phone and hitting 1 on speed dial. “Yes Jack?” Goldilocks sounded a lot less pissed off than before.
“Yea, she’s on her way.” he grinned.
“Joy.” Goldilocks replied with dripping sarcasm.
“I thought you wanted her there?” he asked.
“I’m not the one picking who comes this time around. These are orders from Red.”
“Oh damn… well it’s a good thing I was able to get to her then. She’ll probably be the last to show but I imagine she’ll start heading over in the next fifteen minutes.”
“Good job. Meet you back up at Sanctuary.”
“Right. Later.” he shut his phone and slipped it back in his pocket.
Merryn cursed again, the word disappearing under the roar of the engine. The Author was overstepping his boundaries and she’d be damned if she let some egotistical inexperienced god on a power trip come trampling in on her turf without a fight. She turned a corner sharply, her head coming dangerously close to the road. A car honked its horn as it drove past her- the driver thinking he’d take her head off, she was so close. She didn’t flinch. As she righted herself she looked up at the sky. The sun had gone down. She smirked to herself and turned around another corner, hearing another car honk at her. She would go. They needed her help anyway. If things got too boring she could always bail. It’s not like they owned her or anything.
|It was a green field that he rested in on a sunny day full of warm breezes and a humid front coming in from the northeast. The beauty of the field with it’s green and grey-brown trees standing overhead was overcast by the stagnant heat that began to settle. A boulder sat in the middle of the field with a tall young man leaning against it. He looks somewhat out of place with his black shirt covered in vivid blue designs and dark blue jeans. He had The open grey hoodie over his clothes wasn’t making it any cooler, but it would be sundown soon. For the moment, however; it was still the white and yellow which reflected off of what little silver shown on what appeared to be a ribbon wrapped around his neck. Closer inspection of his face would show he was obviously bored. A giant yawn issued forth from his body. His mouth opened wide enough to possibly swallow his own fist, but closed abruptly leaving a tear on the corner of his eye that he wiped away before groaning and standing up.|
“Could today have been any more dull?” he asked himself scanning the street a few yards behind him. Cars rode by slowly with just a few pedestrians on the sidewalks underneath the tall buildings. Brick, trees, and boredom. “This isn’t my kind of place…” His ears moved. Hand shooting into his pocked, he reached for a missing cell phone. Smirking a bit to himself, the young man remembered he’d hurled it earlier. Wherever it was, it was ringing. “Sorry, Fenrir doesn’t do cell phones.” he said putting his hands in his pockets and heading towards the street. It was time to do another once over in this city, and see if he could find anything of interest. Reaching the other side of the street meant getting odd glances from the older men and women there. The man who called himself Fenrir didn’t care.
Several minutes passed by leaving the sun to drop beneath the horizon some. Fenrir pushed through an alley walking briskly toward the other end passing a couple seeking refuge from prying eyes. They ignored his passing with their passion against the nearby wall. His ears perked again. That phone was ringing again. Whoever it was wasn’t very smart. They should know he didn’t ever keep his phone with him for more than a day.
“Conall.” came a familiar voice.
“Jack, you know I prefer Fenrir.” came the reply. He exited the alley looking immediately to his right seeing Mr. Giant Killer himself.
“Yeah, well you know Goldi prefers you not to eat, throw, burn, smash, or sell your phone. What if something important came up?” he asked giving Fenrir a wary eye that told him perhaps this was the case. With a sigh Conall aka Fenrir walked with the now moving Jack,
“What could it possibly be?” he asked. Jack nodded,
“The Author is doing his usual.” Fenrir shrugged,
“What does this have to do with me?” he asked pulling the hood on his hoodie down revealing shoulder length black hair and a pair of sea-foam green eyes.
“She told me you’d say something like that. Come now Conall, what better do you have to do? You‘ve been doing nothing for quite a while now. Don‘t you need a little adventure?” Jack asked inquisitively. Fenrir sighed being able to tell how little sarcasm was in the last sentence. That meant he was serious. As much as he hated him using his mortal name all the time Jack was right, he was bored out of his mind and getting worse. He hadn’t seen a hot woman in days, and there didn’t seem to be any major events going on. Dull was an understatement. Admittedly, it was his own fear of keeping any technology the gods gave him that kept him from using that cell phone. He habitually ran his finger down the ribbon on his neck thinking about it. Maybe he’d just get one for himself and find some numbers he could call in these situations. So far, he had a better chance finding a party or a plaything at Sanctuary, and the fact that this crossed his mind told him that he probably did need something constructive to do.
“I don’t know. I was thinking of getting a haircut or something. You know I hate when it touches my shoulders.” Fenrir joked. Jack did not laugh. He finally sighed again, “Okay I get it. I’ll come help, that is until I find something better to do.”
“I don‘t know what‘s up with you anyway. It seemed before that you were content just sitting around doing nothing. Now you‘re so restless you‘re practically twitching.” Fenrir couldn’t deny it. He did find himself rolling his eyes disdainfully over things he’d seen more than once here. Then again, he’d been hanging around this city for far too long. It wasn’t really like him to be this unsettled. “Is something wrong Conall?”
“Why do you do that Jack?” Fenrir asked curiously. Jack raised an eyebrow,
“What? Why do I do what?”
“You tend to call everyone else from Sanctuary by their immortal name and yet I always get Conall. It confuses me. Why don’t you just call me Fenrir like everyone else?”
“I like the name.” came the reply and a pause. “Fine, is something wrong Fenrir?” Jack said reissuing his question. Fenrir thought about it not finding a real answer. It was probably something simple. It happens.
“It’s these damn hormones man. Think I need release? Cause you know, sometimes guy‘s habits change and such if their tank is full.” he asked without flinching. Jack didn’t react immediately until Fenrir smirked.
“Smart ass.” he managed a chuckle, “I hope you were joking.”
Running was always fun. It was better when there was someone to chase you, but just pushing your way to top speed at your own pace was entertaining enough to make a wolf smile. If he really got in the zone Fenrir could push a pace that exceeded most common vehicles, but it didn’t always seem to be a ready ability, and people generally notice when a guy sprints past something moving at thirty-plus miles per hour. He let his feet glide along the sidewalk without making heavy clomps like most would. It came naturally. Part of him hoped to do something intense once he was at Santuary like storm into the Authors hidden fortress of chaos and bring down the tyrant with his bare hands. The other part of him hoped they’d just tell everyone to try and be on the lookout so he could leave quickly. The grinding buzz of a motorcycle bit into his thoughts and his head whipped to the right seeing it coming up and shredding it’s way nearly completely sideways around a turn then shooting just past a yellow light. There was a familiar scent along with the exhaust. Whoever was riding, was from his destination. Fenrir smirked feeling his legs move faster as he cut through an alley seeing a wall up ahead. “Maybe I’ll practice my parkour…” he said to himself tearing his way in a sprint up the wall and keeping his dash forward once hitting the top. Jumping the gaps in building was easy, but all of this made him wonder what he could do without this damn ribbon/chain on his neck. They called it Gleipnir, and it was uncomfortable as hell. Supposedly his innate abilities were chaotic and difficult to control.
“It’s for your own good.” Fenrir mocked remembering the chain and the words of Odin who spoke of it. That guy -ironically- always pissed him off. He didn’t even has the whole missing eye thing going like the cool version in the mythology books. He was just a dick. Not able to help it, he scratched at Gleipnir as he cleared another gap seeing another ahead. This one had a taller building behind it. His inner tail wagged as the terrain got just a little more difficult. Leaping at the building he caught the ledge above him lifting hard in a burst of strength and getting his feet on ground the continuing his run. He immediately slid underneath a piece of piping and jumped over an air conditioning unit on the roof. He must’ve been at the store if that was the case. The building sitting wall against wall was a bit higher letting him sprint up the steep increase and hop over the side railing moving ever forward.