Causality and Consequences

Things Have Stopped

We’re reporting here from inside the station tonight while outside, throughout Isidis, a riot is raging. We urge all of our viewers to lock your doors, stay in your homes, and defend yourselves if necessary…
[Coverage continues live into the next day. The station is not raided, but the sounds of gunfire can be heard outside the studio, and the reporters and crew hide more than a few times to avoid giving away their presence. Eventually, morning crew arrives, and the reporters are relieved. They do not leave, and can be seen a few times in the background.]
After the chaos of last night, the only choice we have is to rebuild a better tomorrow. We’ve received reports of several press conferences happening, and we’ll cut to those as they occur, but for now, the police have provided us a list of names for those who are missing or presumed injured, but who have not been located. If you have any idea where these people are, please call the number below immediately. [The list has several salient entries, the most notable reproduced as follows:
Corvin Chambers
Sid Pastures
Tonio Kröger
Jason Fisher
Trinity Han
Grace Jones
David Knight
Amber Joshlin
Brother Beck Francis
Amon “Daniel” Harper
Gustav von Aschenbach
Hans Castorp

Clips from the Paper
The Isidis Herald, Reporting

Plans on the Floor, B3

City Hall has gathered together in these trying times to attempt to find solutions to the several problems facing the city. From continuing problems with water, food, housing and power shortages, to land allocation concerns raised up from recent proposals. A vocal minority, backed by the American Energiewende, has spoken in favor of tax-breaks and incentives for private residences and business that choose to grow food or otherwise help provide fruits or vegetables. Their opponents cite the concerns over fresh water and the limits to the Aquifer. The city is also considering a small-scale, locally operated agricultural experiment on the land that used to be Ashbrook Heights, now that the debris has been cleared out. Opponents have noted that those areas of the city would need to be rezoned, concerns which the Mayor waved away, and the continuing need for more, and more dense, housing. Thanks to the contributions of a few key citizens, more permanent structures for the refugees are being raised up, although the paperwork necessary to legitimize those structures is still incomplete, with Mr. Perez making several hard pushes into the relevant offices.
So far the discussions have been just that, discussions, but everyone can hear the pens scraping in the background as new legislation is obviously being drafted.

Citizens Concern; State of Emergency? A4

Several citizens have sent letters to both our offices as well as City Hall in recent weeks, expressing concern for the increasing levels of violence in our reporting, as well as within Isidis itself. Several nights ago the wholesale slaughter of a group of Colombians, under suspicion of association with the Cartels, was reported on; the same night a shooter, also suspected of involvement with organized crime, attacked a women’s Boutique in Riverview. Coupled with the destruction, seemingly by explosives, of the Dockside Control Tower 2, and increased gang activities in the housing areas by the freeways, more thefts reported in Hippie-town, a general increase in violence against people in Warehouse Village and University Junction, and the recent dissolution into physical assault at the Harper Science Conservatory, the view looks pretty grim.
It is the stance of this paper that the police of Isidis are more than capable of handling the situation. If you suspect yourself of being in danger, please call 9-1-1 immediately and retreat to a crowded area or safe space. While our holding facilities are currently straining at capacity, other cities have agreed to our requests for temporary holding of criminals. Do not let that influence your decision to seek help! If the situation worsens, the Mayor has already gone on record as saying that marshal law and the intervention of a State of Emergency is ready to go. In the meantime, it is advised for citizens to aim to return to their homes well before dark.

That Drumming Sound...
A Rooftop, Downtown

Sasha breathes. The noise is still there; the maddening pulse of this city that grows and shrinks without reverence. He can feel the tug of the Dark Mother’s broodlings, someone with strange and forbidden arts. Someone that calls to him. Along the thread of the pulse he can see her magics, primal and demanding, but shadowed, detached. Unavailable.
At least to him, now. He breathes again, deeper this time, the tang of frozen salt burning into his sinus, filling with water and the deeps. Like a swift current, he lets the ocean take him where it will, down the streets and alley mazes, the pulsing growing louder, pounding harder. He does not fear, but he feels the anticipation of knowing the ground is getting closer, the sand brushing against his belly…
Soon the current drops him at the foot of a condo tower. He sidles through the shadows towards the service entrance down the alleyway, the bellhop throwing his cigarette down as a voice calls from within. Sasha is nothing more than darkness as he slips through the closing door behind the bellhop. He sees the sweat break out on the back of the young man’s neck. Sasha’s hunger sharpens his reflexes, but he knows he gains nothing (or not enough) from showing this punk who’s boss. Towards the stairs, up the tower; midway switch to the elevator for a couple of stories and then back to stairs. No need for the gym tonight. Finally he’s at the roof and the pounding noise is louder than his footsteps, louder than his heartbeat but just as furious. He hears singing bubbling up from inside the beat, a harmony against the percussion.
“I ran to the tower, when the churchbells chimed
I hoped that they, Would cleaaaaar my mind.”

Sasha opens the door, subtlety aside.
“They left a beating, in my ear.
That drum still beating, loud and clear.”

He approaches the Singer, smells the quicksilver blood of werewolves on him, notices the swaying, the singing, the drunken look in all-too-clear eyes that have danced to look at him. Sasha finishes with the chorus, his Russian accent obscuring some of the sounds.
“Louder than sirens, louder than bells
sweater than heaven, harder than hell.”
The wolf’s eyes burned and he starts walking towards Sasha, humming the song. Finally he stops.
“Yes. I see it now. ‘As the water fills my mouth, it couldn’t wash the echoes out…’” The beating in his head has stopped and Sasha stares at the werewolf. Suddenly he throws his head back and screams… which melts into his next words seemlessly, all the passion of that primal scream still tapering out.
“This story is true. I walked the darkest paths of the Shadow Wilds, the deepest trods where no light shines and I found myself at the base of the darkest ocean. Black water on white icebergs, and everything was cold. Even my fur would not save me and so I threw myself into the ocean and gave myself to the water fearing I would die but I did not. I drifted along the currents of the frozen stream and lost the feelings I once had and instead I found a deeper darkness in the depths and found I could breath the echoes of an ancient song, the pulse of salt within my veins. I gave myself to the Ocean.”
Sasha nods. “Da.
“And then!” He can tell there is no rest for this wolf; there is no reprieve for this unfortunate soul. "Then in the darkness a figure approached me and I knew the fear and terror of human lunacy and the creature was furred and beaked and swam through the oceans it was easily two hundred feet long and three times my height in the Father’s form. Its maw opened to eat me but before it closed I sensed its confusion and it shook its head and I swam out from it and it chased. I knew I could not outrun and soon I stopped to fight and I knew the song then. I knew what I would need to do. I knew the Dark Mother’s mind for just a brief instant as the beast stared its one eye into my head and was then gone.
“I knew how to find you, Sasha.”
“And who are you, so blessed by the Dark Mother?”
“Me? I am Eric… I think. I feel like that was the last name I was given, but I don’t remember… too many… too much swimming.”
“I think Luna has you by the… how-you-say? Short and currlies?” Eric laughs.
“Luna… The silver mother blesses me to sing and always gives me a song and sometimes its just quiet enough I can do what she wants.”
“What’re you doing in Isidis, cousin? I have seen no others of your kind?”
“A shell has broken. The shadows approach and Luna calls me here. To call you, to start something, to meet you. I do not know. I hung upside down and knew a charm and it was a charm of giving, a gift that brings fellowship. But Luna does not explain.” Eric grabs Sasha’s face, doesn’t register the gun under his chin that surely was not there a moment ago. “Perhaps you can. Perhaps in that light-less depth you have an answer, something about why we are here?” He pulls too close, both eyes blurring and he’s practically speaking his breath into Sasha’s mouth. “Something about WHAT. IS. MOVING.” Abruptly he lets go as the gun fires, the bullet sailing upwards and backwards over Sasha’s soldier.
“Cousin, you cannot do these things. Let go of Luna’s song—”
“I CAN’T!” An echo among the buildings: can’t… can’t… can’t
“The Dark Mother walks these streets and the Pregnant Moon throws his arms around her shoulder. Call your Brood, I’ll call my pack, we’ll have a Hatfields and McCoys party.”
“Let us not, Cousin. I have no Brood.”
“You lie; the Dark Mother will call them. With the next watchtower.” A pulse of sound returns and Sasha falls to the ground. “What do you mean—” Eric is gone as Sasha stands.

Casual Conversation
Along the Streets

A middle-aged man in coveralls sidles up next to Corvin along his walk. He wears the insignia of a towing service, “Ariadne’s Towing and Assistance”. The two walk in silence for a time, mana slowly accumulating into their older frames, seeping in like the cold chill of fall. Finally the tow-trucker speaks.
“I see what you’re thinking Corvin. The coming conflict.”
“But you don’t think it’s the Invisible Masters?”
“I do, but I also think that these rash decisions aren’t helping.”
“So I’m crazy?”
“I would never call my mentor crazy. Not after what you’ve taught me.”
“We all have our parts to play. The worst is I can feel the threads being pulled, manipulated. I know I’m being rash, that I’m bound into this role… but I just can’t stop myself. Any news?”
“The Drinkers are well and truly outside our purviews. Hans couldn’t track down the Hallow, and Tadzio couldn’t boost any of our signals wide enough to get a fix.”
“How do we lose an entire cabal, Gustav? Worse, how do we lose a Hallow?”
“I can’t tell you, Corvin. Because I don’t know. But I will say we’re all distracted, weakened even, from not having Tonio with us. Hassan isn’t quite… jiving into the mix. He’s a good kid, and a nice change, but… theme is theme. If something is hiding them… well, I wouldn’t say it’d be hard to do.”
“Another of the Wise?”
“Possibly. But why would the Council-?”
“Because they have too few for themselves. And not strong ones either. They have means and motive, even if it dumb. I’ll keep looking. We’re on the verge of conflict, and I hope it isn’t with them…”

Isidis Channel 3 News
On location with Jessica Ritter

“Thank you, Megan. I’m standing outside Warehouse Village, where only a few months ago the first ever Isidis Art Festival was held. Unfortunately, the air here is much less festive today than it was then.” The camera pans around Warehouse Village, showing various art installations, graffiti, and sometimes plain, handwritten signs, that feature recurring motifs of standing against oppression. Jessica’s voice continues over the footage.
“In addition to the state laws that have opened up the land west of the Interstate for development, Mayor Alfredson has also introduced a few laws of his own; laws that have their greatest impact here. Calling them his Isidian Reforms, the Mayor has issued a set of laws that residents are calling ‘draconian measures’. With me I have Mr. Perez, who has been invaluable to the city’s refugee population.” The footage pans back the two of them on the street, cordoned from the rest of the district, even though there are few watchers.
“Mr. Perez, can you summarize the laws that the Mayor proposed for us?”
“Certainly, Jessica. Now a lot of the laws proposed deal with questions of eminent domain that have been reinforced with the new rulings coming out of the state, so its a hard fight ahead of us if we want to counter these propositions before they get added to the city charter. But in a nutshell, the Isidian Reforms allow the government to purchase any land, regardless of habitation and at value, for the purposes of city improvements.”
“That sounds pretty loosely worded, Mr. Perez.”
“It is, Jessica, but it gets worse. Not only would the city be buying the land at value, which greatly undersells the current owners and could further negatively affect the economic stability of the city, but it also allows the government to defer payments on the land until the new improvements are completed and the city receives tax money from them.” Jessica looks stunned.
“Suddenly a lot more of this art makes sense. But why has the biggest uproar been centered in this district, Mr. Perez?”
“Well, Jessica, a lot of the inhabitants of the Warehouse district are… lets call them temporary inhabitants. Many of the titles for these properties are questionable, and ownership has been an ongoing legal working for several years now, with no real forward momentum. The Warehouse Village, which many people believe the Mayor had in mind when he crafted these laws, is basically a free ticket land-grab for the city.” Jessica jumps in.
“Without ownership, and without having to pay until the city receives tax revenue from them, the city could just claim them, force the artists out and do whatever they want with the land.”
“Exactly right. Now don’t get me wrong, Jessica. I’m all for civic improvement, but not if you have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”
“Thank you for your time Mr. Perez.”
“Thank you for having me Jessica.” The camera turns back to Jessica. “Well Megan, quite disturbing news on the civic front there.”
Megan responds from the studio with Jessica’s footage on the right, off-set. “Indeed, Jessica. Any comments from anyone else?” Jessica’s footage starts roaming around the district again as she responds. “The Dean of Physics from the University of Isidis has gone on record saying that the measures proposed are tyrannical, and the solutions to the problems of Isidis overpopulation is not in creating more homeless, but in incentivizing the re-education of those who would wish it. I also reached out to Nikki Swift, but was unable to secure a comment; however her publicist did say that Nikki was concerned about the measures and was still formulating an opinion on the matter. Back to you, Megan.” Jessica’s footage hovers, the street signs for the intersection of C and D clearly visible next to an empty lot…
“I find it reassuring that Nikki Swift has taken an interest, being one of the biggest actresses out of Hollywood right now. But now, the weather.”

In Triplicate, Please
Somewhere safe...ish

Charlie has calmed down, and after some finagling the three Stimatics have come together to relax and comfort each other. The Ring stands near them, enjoying Viktor’s coffee and discussing plans and problems. Without warning the very quantum fabric of the Demonic souls shivers as what will be and what has been mesh for a brief instant; Chad’s arm gives the audible “click” of moving gears, but he does not scream. The Stigmatics have gone still and quiet, sitting together in a rough triangle.
When they speak it is as one.
“The time is out of joint— O cursèd spite! For we have seen that which has been, and filled with revelation we must share.”
Charlie begins. “In the beginning was the Egg. A shell of perfect portions, borne by its Four Guardians. When it finally ceased its rolling and began its long rest it was allowed to be by the Great Father, for his work in its presence upon his face had been completed. And so it stood, unblemished by the tracts of time, until those that wander found and colonized, and built. And their City was built upon the ashes of something old, but they were kept safe by the shell.”
Chad continues. “But lo, the cracks! Existing within and without from its very nature a being breached the shell forged in times past and spurned its inhabitants. This Ivory Fire bore into being a force that could defend and protect, for it knew that in the time to come, it would crack the shell, for it was what must be. And when its unquenchable need finally made itself clear and the workings of the Great Machine were cracked, then did he turn his eyes back into what he had wrought, and began his long journey to return. Without his guidance, the shell could not bear the pressures, and finally it fell away.”
Viktor picks up the revelation. “And the Lord spoke. ‘I am the Light which brings to you Joy and Safety. I am that which has granted you paradise, and you, you have scorned it and cast it aside. You have allowed it to be broken.’ And the people trembled in fear of his fury, but the Lord was cold, implacable. ’Now I return, now you will bask in my presence again, and I will climb the highest mountains and drink from the lowest depths and I will find that which has vexed me. Those who have sinned are right to tremble, those who have cast aside my gifts are right to fear me. I am the Pillar of the World. I am the Destroyer of my enemies.” As the three Stigmatics collapse, a man, approximately 30 years of age appears in the room, his loosely woven robes reveal the hint of a tattoo on his shoulder, a gleam of scales.
“This… is not where I was expecting.” He looks down at the collapsed Stigmatics. “Things are moving. I had hoped to appear in front of my compatriots, but apparently you are the most powerful gathering of Seers right now. Several important things are happening right at this moment, I can’t stay, I have to move onward, keep looking, seeing the future and writing down what happens so I can help everyone best. But I have a warning: The City is open. Right now…-ish. The state legislature is lifting statutes that protect Isidis. Ostensibly for the purposes of building a power plant, but what no one… or well, very few people have seen, is that this also opens up the flow of Shadows. The God Machine wants to eradicate that which makes this city what it is, but we need that. Well… the future needs that… I think its the future for you… Anyways! He must be slowed down, if not stopped completely. You will find allies amongs the Shadows in the years to come, but you will also find enemies. Isidis needs a new Vigil. Breach the membrane, stop the God Machine… and watch the news.” The man disappears, but the TV turns on to the news station.
“Donny, I’m hear outside City Hall, where Mayor Alfredson has just held a press conference. Coming hot off the heels of the announcement from the state legislature, the Mayor called an emergency meeting of the city council. After speaking to one of the Council members who refused to go on record a very clear picture emerges. The Mayor challenged all opposition with irrefutable logic, pulling facts and studies that had been prepared perfectly to oppose everything the Council said. Very unlike the Mayor, but the final decision being that the city will continue with the plans of the American Energiewende in order to bring solar power to Isidis and the surrounding areas.”

A room in the Ferguson Tower

The assembled fall to silence as Corvin enters the chamber and sits as Heirarch. Suede and a lanky man spattered in paint stand on either side in front of him. He takes a deep breath and speaks.
“On this day and in this hour the Consilium of Isidis stands in Tribunal. Councilor Suede, Master Thyrsus, has levied a complaint of Abuse and violation of Secrecy against Tonio Kröger, second-degree Master Thyrsus and wielder of the Crown of the Four. State your case, Suede.”
Suede steps forward, her movements predatory and dangerous.
“For those not “in tune” with the happenings on the Other side, all of us felt a Hunt, a perversion of spiritual hierarchy called the other night. I knew that it was the Crown by the way my associates of the Shadow reacted. When pressed, Tonio admitted that he was called by the Crown to Ember Hill, where a being-as-human was absconding with something from the manor. This ‘second-degree master’ called a Hunt for an undefined something, who stole another undefined something, which already belonged to the beings who took it. " A pointed look from Suede at Corvin is not lost by anyone in that room. “The sheer weight of Hubris should be his punishment, but yet again, Tonio stands before the Consilium unrepentant.”
Corvin speaks after she steps back. “Who is your witness?”
“Any number of spirits, the testimony of an information broker, and not leastly, Councilor Beck, Adept Obrimos.”
Councilor Beck steps between the two parties, facing Corvin. “As a neutral party, fellow Councilor and Disciple of Spirit I corroborate the usage of the Crown.” He steps back into the whispering mass of the assembled. One woman, dressed in a sharp business suit, seems to be unable to decide whether she should stare her death-wish at Corvin or Suede. The Hierarch waits for the crowd to silence. It does not take long. “What is your defense Tonio?”
“I was called by the Crown because one of our longest spiritual allies was disturbed. So I enforced the rule of the Crown, as is my right by pact, to intimidate and accomplish my goals.”
Suede pounces. “And did you? Or was the item returned by other means?”
Corvin does not intercede, and in that heartbeat where cognition becomes realization the woman in the suit steps forward. “Silence, Harpy! You break the Iron law by speaking out of turn.”
Suede laughs, “Really? We’re here to talk about Gold and you bring up Iron while your Factotum says nothing. You left your post, whore. Let no one forge—”
Enough!” Corvin stands and moves down the dias, coming closer to Suede, she does not flinch. “If neither of you can withstand the decorum of Tribunal I will dismiss this matter and forgo redress from either party.” He looks at the woman in the suit. “Stand down, Claudia.” The staredown provokes not a single measure of noise from anyone present. Claudia eventually steps back and Corvin turns to Suede. He whispers quietly to her. “I swear to you Suede, word as my power. You know how this goes. If you do not abide the rules I will curse you until your bones are dust in the hourglasses of eternity.”
Tonio stands, his face unflinching before the exchanges around him. He does not answer the question that Suede posed, instead presumably continuing his rebuttal. “I invoked the powers that are mine to invoke for reasons that are within the boundaries of the pact sworn by this Consilium into its Charter. I have done no wrong.”
Another deafening silence. Even Claudia seems stunned. Corvin can only stare at Tonio, while the effort that Suede is expending not to laugh could be considered commendable. Corvin looks at the assembled. “Suede, what is your suitable redress?”
“Give me the Crown.”
“Such a thing cannot be done. For the safety of the Consilium the method of transference is known only to myself and the Crowned.” Suede fumes ever so slightly. “Nor can the Crowned be banished or executed. And we have not the means to imprison Tonio since the Censorium was lost.” She fumes more.
Fine. But I demand some degree of censure Hiearch. These crimes cannot go unpunished for the sake of the Wisdom of all of us.”
“And Censure you shall have. I take your words to be a remittance of judgement unto the Office of the Hierarch. Tonio Kröger, from this moment forward your titles as a member within the Silver Ladder are stripped by my power as your Deacon. Your status as a second-degree master is no longer recognized until the passing of a season, at which point you may once again demonstrate your fitness for the titles—” Tonio’s look of horror is echoed by Claudia’s voice as she steps forward again, this time Tadzio steps after her. “Hierarch, the punishment of a Gold law with a violation of another Gold law seems hardly to be in the course of Wisdom.”
Tadzio joins her cabal-mate, “I agree Hierarch, as Factotum, this is not only unorthodox, it goes against—”
A staff appears in Corvin’s hands, and he slams it down into the marble tiling. “I am your Deacon and your Hierarch! I have seen the futures that await us and I promise all of you I am the lesser of your evils.” His eyes burn with a fury bordering on zealotry as Claudia, Tadzio and Tonio are forced to their knees. He stares into the back of Tonio’s head. "You fucked up Tonio. You acted so far outside of human interest that I have no choice but to levy these punishments. I cannot endorse your presence as the Hearthmaster of Mann’s Mountain. Until you can regain your fitness to be a master I am strongly advising Sentinel Hassan, of the Janni to be the Hearthmaster. I cannot rule this to be law because your cabal is your sanctum, but I promise you, all of you fucks better like and decide this to be the right answer or so help me, I will find all of your secrets and I will put you through hell while i dig up every last shred you know under the auspices of “validating your loyalty” to this Consilium." Even Suede seems uneasy at this turn in Corvin’s demeanor. He sits back down, leaning forward with the staff.
“You are all so obsessed with your own little playthings that you haven’t realized what comes next. You haven’t seen the corruption spreading within us…” Nero and Suede and Beck and all the members of the meeting look at one another in confusion. Only Corvin’s eyes stay fixed, no longer focused on the present. “The Invisible Masters are here, and their will supplants and obliterates our own. We have no Freedom, and every day we slide closer to Tyranny, and none of you Have. Bothered. To. Notice.” Nero is the only one who will chance stepping forward. “Corvin, our enemies are growing rapidly, yes, but they are not coming from our own kind.” Corvin slumps back into the chair. “You would say that Nero… Fiddle away at your pipes, watch the city burn…” An uncomfortable quiet settles into the room until finally Corvin rouses himself, the staff gone.
“This Tribunal is concluded, my judgements are rendered.” He walks off the dais and out the door.

Location: Various

The elevator dings. When the doors open, the Consul is at his desk, reading the newspaper. He sets it down to look at Nikki as she comes in, and stands. The paintings on the walls are gone, and the office is… bare.
“Jumping ship, are we?” Nikki glides forward smoothly, gracefully settling into one of the chairs; she slides the file folder onto the tabletop as the Consul sits back down.
“Nothing of the sort, my commission was… delayed.” The Consul picks up the report and thumbs through it. “Very thorough. What will you do with your asset on the inside?”
Nikki gracefully shrugs. “We haven’t decided yet. Whatever it is, we’ll be careful. The monkeys may not be aware that we’re… meddling just quite yet, but we’d like to keep it that way.”
He opens a drawer and pulls out two batteries. “One of them is half-dead, but I appreciate the… depth, of information you’ve brought me. Still no leads on our Father’s workings?”
“None that we can safely share. There’s some suspicions, but that dossier is no where near ready.”
“I see you’ve been getting close to Corvin Chambers.”
“A function of society, I promise, darling.”
“Either way, Corvin’s divided attention is helpful, we’ll need some maneuvering room in order to deal with Our Father, whenever he decides to make his move. I hear congratulations are in order.” The Consul lays down the paper, the front page of the Society section on top, old news by now, but fresh off the press: Nikki Swift Named Curator of Ember Hill.
In a café several buildings down the road. A woman sits, papers spread around her, clearly working. A paper lands on the desk, folded to the same article.
“Hello, Corvin.”
“Jeanine, would you be so kind as to explain why I’m finding out about this from the Society pages and not my trusted staff?”
The woman counters by pulling a piece of vellum from inside her jacket. When she speaks, she is clearly quoting. “‘So do I swear myself and my family to your service, until such a time as we can discover and use a weakness of character or personality, detrimental to your continued power and unknown to you.’” Finally she looks up at him. “You’ve lived so long in conflict Corvin, that your weakness is comfort. You focused on the fires so much recently that you forgot to attend to the normal, the average. All your doom-and-gloom prophesying… ‘And having seen I’ve now gone blind…”
Corvin looks down at the velum, the boundaries of a pact and promise holding tightly to him. He takes a deep breath, reaches forward and touches the velum. It disintegrates as the magic holding it together vanishes. “So be it. Now who will you work for?”
“That’s none of your business Corvin. But as a friend, I’m happy to tell you that my family and I intend to pull a Dina. I believe you. By the pricking of your thumbs and all that. Be careful, if I want to come back, I will. But now we have a choice.” She returns to his work, and feeling the Thread pulling him elsewhere, Corvin resumes his walk.

Collected Meanderings

From the Local News, a media briefing outside the Police HQ, the Chief of Police stands at the pulpit:
“Chief, Chief! What can you tell us about the increase in gang activity throughout the city?”
“Only what you’ve already heard Allison. New refugees mean new crimes. Not to say that they’re all bad, and I’m sure Perez will comment on that one, but the fact of the matter is that desperate people do desperate things, you have to in order to survive. The Police Department is working with the city to get aid disbursed to the refugees to help alleviate the problem at the root, and we wholeheartedly support some of the programs that Mr. Perez has set up, and will be proposing to the City, for that purpose, but there’s only so much aid, and way too many people. The results are inevitable.”
“Can you speak to some of the more… ardent “city beautification” programs?"
“If, Jeff, you’re referring to the borderline ecoterrorism of some of these groups by introducing sometimes invasive species into our city through their self-proclaimed “guerrilla gardening”, then I have only inappropriate things to say. Rest assured that anyone caught using one of these “seed bombs” on city property that has not been zoned for that purpose, or worse, on private property will be arrested and charged to the fullest extent of the law…
“Now if you’re just referring to people who wanna spend time cleaning up trash, well… I’ve always supported those projects. No further questions.” The police chief smiles and waves, the clip cuts out.

In the Society pages of the Isidis Herald
“The bevy of local and extra-local weddings and celebrations has left the Ember Hill calendar booked solid for weeks. Rumors are flying fast and furious that Nikki Swift, film star extraordinaire, made famous for her role as the heroine in the remake of Nosferatu, has been considering the position of Curator for the Ember Hill property. Such as it is, this has only added fuel to the fire in regards to the popularity of the cities greatest Historical Landmark. Time will tell what the Historical Society thinks of such an illustrious personage holding the Curatorship, especially after former Curator Stephen Kepler, Jr. (son of the noted Lawyer) was whisked away by love and romance to far-away Baltimore.”

The Eager Cult Boy

Rohtzan sat across the table from the young man, looking him up and down. He appeared to be in his young twenties. Short blond hair, blue eyes, a thin and unimposing body, Zach had recently graduated with his BA in business.

“Bartholomew tells me you have quite the ambitions.” Rohtzan said emotionless and cold.
“Yes sir.” Zach adjusted in his seat, nervous in front of his demonic master.
“How old are you?”
“24, sir.”
“You can use full sentences.”
“Sorry sir.”
Rohtzan thought about rolling his eyes and showing exasperation, then decided against it. His face remained calm and collected. It was always relaxing to hold these meetings, as rare as they may be. The two sat in a secluded and secreted away meeting room. Well, the warded conference room in the back of the coffee shop owned by another of his cult members. Phillice really does make good wards. They blend in smoothly with the decor. Without knowing they are there and what to look for, one would never know it’s there.
“You opened a business. Tell me about it.”
Rohtzan prepared himself for another quick answer with little room to ‘offend.’
“It’s called ‘Moon Drawn,’ it’s an art supply store and gallery. There are three sections to it really. The main store in the front. A gallery to the side, and in the back are work-rooms, six rooms set up with art-desks, easels, and other other art supplies. Artists rent them to get their work done with easy access to the supplies they need and the peace and quiet that comes with it. Many of these artists then use the gallery to showcase their recent works. In the first four months, I’ve already started showing a profit. I’m looking to add a kiln in the near future and…” Zach realized he had started rambling. Quickly shutting his mouth, he mutters “sorry” softly and looks down at the table.
“Please, continue.” Rohtzan really wasn’t listening. He was digging through the boy’s mind instead. Looking at memories, hopes, and dreams. The deeper into thoughts that he dug, the more concentration it took. Zach continued to explain about his business, his handful of employees, his regulars. Rohtzan new he’d remember it all, so he heard it all but wasn’t really listening at the time. He could replay the conversation later. This was the good part though, he was finally seeing the mannerisms, expressions, accent, and common terminology that Zach used.
After about twenty minutes, Zach seemed to become more comfortable talking with Rohtzan Azamox, demon master of Ordinem Retiacula Azamox. Taking advantage of this new found comfort, Rohtzan began to ask the young man about his childhood, friends, family, personal life. Zach was fascinated with the utter calm ocean expression, so Rohtzan kept it that way.
“Sir, may I ask what it is you desire from my business?”
“Did Bartholomew not tell you what this was for? I guess he wouldn’t, now, would he?”
“No sir, only that you wished to speak with me and that I could be of service to you.”
“It’s not your business I seek. Though I may grant you power that would greatly help you in your endeavors.”
Zach’s interest was more than peaked.
Rohtzan continued, “I’d like your soul. In exchange, I will grant you telepathic capabilities.”
Zach almost fell out of his chair with how fast he moved to the edge of his seat, “Sir, anything for you!”
Ah, I love how much of an honor the cult sees a soul pact Rohtzan thought. Placing the parchment with elegant calligraphy spelling out the deal of the contract before him he let Zach look at it. Watching his mind, Zach was examining the beauty of the contract and not the details. "You must sign it in blood, " Rohtzan said as he placed the cult’s ritual athame on the table by the contract.
Zach nervously took the knife, just as his leaders in the cult taught him, he took the small copper bowl, and cut the side of his palm, pushing out just enough blood to place a small layer in the waiting dish. Taking the small brush he dipped it in the blood and began to sign his name to the contract. Rohtzan in turn signed it as well, using his own blood.

Zach blinked, his thoughts betraying that he didn’t feel any different, but that didn’t stop the rush of endorphins from the sheer excitement.

For the first time in the meeting, Rohtzan broke his frozen facade and gave Zach a small smile. “Come, let us sit at one of the front tables. I will teach you how to use your new gift.”


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