>Back from hell and reporting for duty. “Thanks for the food,” you say, actually pretty grateful, “It was good.”“Glad you enjoyed it,” she says, affecting a curtsey and murmuring something in French that you won’t pretend to understand. You blink, and fix her with a look, curious. The ponytail seems like a weird change considering…“Wait…” you murmur, raising a hand in puzzlement, “You didn’t make that yourself, did you?”She cocks an eyebrow at you and you think you see the corner of her mouth twitch.“Does it truly matter?”“Well, kind of,” you shrug, “I mean, I’d probably feel obliged to compliment your culinary skills for one thing.”She titters, leaning over as if to stifle it from becoming a bark of laughter, “Perhaps you would. And in such an event, I’d probably feel quite flattered at the compliment.”“You know, it really isn’t that big of a deal,” you say, working your jaw around, “If it was you: thank you for making it. Even if it wasn’t: thank you for bringing me everything anyway.”“You’re welcome,” she says, her smirk now giving way to a soft grin before she picks up the tray with the empty plate and glasses and turning on her heel, sauntering out of the ward.“I wouldn’t chat for too long,” she says over her shoulder as she leaves, “You do need your rest, after all.”You refrain from asking what the point of all that was. You doubt you’d get a straight answer and, for now, that’s okay. Maybe she’s been playing this whole spy game for so long that she just can’t help herself. Or maybe she just likes screwing with people. You’re certain you won’t find out any time soon.“So, she is gone,” says Iszolda, startling you. Quite honestly, you’d forgotten she was even there, so quiet she’s been, “We are alone. There are no prying eyes or ears. I would appreciate hearing what you have to say, please.”>Christ, you actually have nothing better to do, do you?>Fine. I guess I did say that I’d tell you.>Why are you so determined to pursue this, anyway?
Links:Twitter: https://twitter.com/FrostyZippoArchive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Paranormal%20Agent%20QuestFirst thread: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2907129/
>>3264631>Alright, take a seat it'll be a long story.Welcome back Zippo.
>>3264638Nice to be back
>>3264631>Hope you're ready for one hell of a ride.>>3264682Good to have more stuff distracting my from my dental surgery pains. Even better that it's something I like.
>>3264768Dental Surgery? Shit man I had that stuff last month, I hope you'll pull through okay.
>>3264806You'd think something with warnings about being an opioid would have better effects on pain. Honestly I don't even want to take them all that much because they make my stomach upset, and they taste awful.I'll be fine though, I've had WAY worse pain.
>>3264631A part of you wants to argue, to ask why the hell she seems to care so much. But you’re tired, and another part of you thinks that she deserves an answer for waiting as long as she has for an answer.“Yeah,” you say, feeling your throat dry up, “All right. Best uh… best take a seat,” you say, gesturing to the chair that the old man and then Arnold had occupied earlier, “it’s going to be a long story.”Iszolda complies and parks herself on the chair, smoothing down her deep blue dress and folding her hands across her lap looking very much like a patient schoolteacher about to hear out a rowdy student’s baloney tale. You don’t know why that’s the image that came to mind. Not like you ever stuck around at any school for long enough to see what that was like in person.You decide to start with a preamble.“My father was a good man. The best man. His job kept him busy a lot of the time, but he always found time to mess around with this little bastard,” you half-grin, pointing to yourself with a thumb, “Everything I know today is springboarded off of what he taught me.”“Your magic?” She probes, and you nod in response. For a moment your vision blurs and you fight the tears welling up as the memories rush back. Try as you might, it’s locked in place. A dirty little corner in the recesses of your mind that you’ll never be able to scrub clean; not with drink, not with sex, not even with the rush of a successful hustle.And so, biting back the bubbling well of emotion, you open your mouth and begin to tell a story of a blazing hot summer day…>You were on your way back from hanging out with your pals at an old construction site. You were in good spirits, if a little bruised.>You were heading back from a girl’s home… Wendy, you think her name was. You were flush with confidence and swaggering on back home like the world was your oyster.>You had achieved your first successful con and it went off without a hitch. You had taken 50 dollars and no one had suspected a thing and you were oh so rightfully proud.
>>3265056>You had achieved your first successful con and it went off without a hitch. You had taken 50 dollars and no one had suspected a thing and you were oh so rightfully proud.I like to think that this was when our dad really metaphorically beaten into our heads that magic ain't to be lightly fucked around with.
>>3265056>You had achieved your first successful con and it went off without a hitch. You had taken 50 dollars and no one had suspected a thing and you were oh so rightfully proud.
>>3265056>You had achieved your first successful con and it went off without a hitch. You had taken 50 dollars and no one had suspected a thing and you were oh so rightfully proud.Got it from a right bastard that deserved it too.
>>3265056>>You were on your way back from hanging out with your pals at an old construction site. You were in good spirits, if a little bruised.
>>3265056You are a young lad again, fresh from your first successful con. Nothing especially fancy: a crook needed a way into the apartment building of his ex-girlfriend’s and you managed to convince him you had an all-access key that you just needed to retrieve from a little hideaway. Your glamour had been flawless--not a youth the fat man saw, but a grizzled, middle-aged black guy. Overcoming the racial barrier had been difficult at first, but steering the conversation had been almost childishly simple. He’d forked over the cash and you’d led him to a dirty little backalley he believed you’d hidden the key. Once there, another skillful application of illusioncraft had hidden you from sight and you’d slipped away and lost the disguise with the mook screaming for blood and utterly clueless as to your true identity.All told, then, you were pretty damn proud of yourself.You were, however, also pretty tired. It’s the longest you’ve ever maintained a personal glamour for, and there were actually a few times you’d feared you’d reach your limit and the jig would be well and truly up. A fear which brought to mind a few of your more recent lessons with your dear old man.“You’ve got talent, Adam,” he had whispered to you, his face white with fear after almost having drained yourself dry, “So much that I’m sure you’ll one day do great, great things with it. But make no mistake: magic is not something you go into with a lackadaisical approach. Focus is always key. Control is key. A light tug at the winds will be more forgiving, but if you draw upon them in full and you are not in control...”He trailed off and hugged you close, his breathing uneven, such was the fright you’d given him, “There are so many things that could kill you I don’t know where to even start.”Suitably chastised you’d felt, but there were other things mixed in there as well. A dash of resentment: talent you had, so your father told you, and yet he asked that you dial it down? Then there was the other thing: something that had flashed through you so quick you’d not been able to identify it until almost a whole year later.You’d been thrilled.To skirt life and death each time you drew upon your talents for anything more complex than conjuring up a fake apple…What a gamble.What a rush.(Cont.)
Forgot muh trip>>3266647All the same, you had calmed it down, if only to keep your dad satisfied. Soon enough, your patience was rewarded and he allowed you to practice out in the open city--provided, of course, that you weren’t up to anything more sinister than spooking pigeons and strays. Naturally, that promise hadn’t held, but you kept your limitations in mind and always ensured nothing would come back to you or your dad. It started off quiet innocently, actually. A few cheap glamour tricks with your friends and a little cheating at cards.Then you witnessed a mob con, and saw the thick stack of bills exchanged…Now, here you were, a slightly thinner stack of bills in hand, but even so, fifty was nothing to sniff at for a guy your age. You were already pondering on how best to spend your freshly acquired wealth when…>Gunshot. Closeby. Semi-automatic.>You heard a scream that chilled your blood to ice water.>You still can’t explain it, even now. You just had an awful sinking feeling that propelled you onward...
>>3266654>You heard a scream that chilled your blood to ice water.
>>3266654>Gunshot. Closeby. Semi-automatic.
>>3266654>You still can’t explain it, even now. You just had an awful sinking feeling that propelled you onward...
>>3266654>You heard a scream that chilled your blood to ice water.Oh no! Someone save the big mean werewolf from the desperate cougar!
Rolled 1 (1d2)Aight then, dice-off we have.1 - Scream2 - A funny feeling
>>3266654It wasn’t the kind of scream you’d associate with the more common horrors of the modern world. This was no maiden startled by a mouse; no youth given a frightful surprise by his friends. This had weight. It had terror. Someone had seen something and it had horrified them so completely that they now vocalised it at a lung-tearing volume.You were--naturally, unfortunately--curious.A handful of other people strayed into the alleyway, lured by the siren song of distress. You only vaguely recall their appearance as you pressed on slowly, cautiously. Murmuring abounded, already one was suggesting that the police be notified. Another whispered that there may be a murder in progress.Your pace quickened, drawing you deeper and deeper. Sweat began to slicken the palms of your hands and trickle from your armpits and from the crown of your head. You round a stack of cardboard boxes and found yourself at a crossroads, of sorts. To your right was a large dumpster, and just next to it…The woman looks young. Perhaps mid-twenties at the oldest. Her bright green eyes are wide with wholly unconcealed horror and her stark red lips are parted in shock. Her skin is pale as the milk you poured into your cereal earlier that very same morning and her clothes--a chocolate brown dress with padded shoulders and frilled sleeves, fresh, black high heels and cream stockings--were impeccably well-pressed. Dolled up for a date. You remember how the pearl necklace she wore gleamed even in the much more dim light. You remember wondering how much those might go for to the right person.You then remember how all those thoughts vanished. Dissipated into nothing as you followed the young lady’s gaze to the ground below....and the body laid down there…A hand of ice closed over your heart. You were no stranger to reports of violence and mob hits--even with the Prohibition gone, gangsters still tore up whole neighbourhoods in the rougher parts of town with seeming impunity. This, however, was new. Your first sighting of a dead body.Recognition, tragically, came moments later. The thin, light tan coat was familiar to you. Even on the warmest days, he never went without it. One of your earliest memories is of him sauntering through the front door with that thing. The woman cried out when you approached, tripping over and scraping your knee against the ground through your pants. You had ignored her, too focused.It had to have been a joke. Or your dad had just decided he wanted to get a drink mid-afternoon; had a few too many. That was all it was.The red was… more difficult to explain.You remember someone shouting for help and rushing over, dragging the traumatised, dolled up young woman away, and then asking you… something. Hands were placed on your shoulders, and that’s when you began to scream.It was your dad. What had happened? What had happened? How had this happened?(Cont.)
>>3268385Numbness spread like sickness even as you screamed and shouted your throat raw. The very world felt like it was crumbling around you and all that existed in that moment was your father’s bleeding, unmoving body and the lurching knowledge that no longer would he scoop you up in his arms and whoop in delight as you aced another of his lessons. No more would he rap you on the nose when you did something wrong or crossed a line. Never again would he arrive back after a hard day’s work with a random little gift he had just decided he’d grab on a whim.You were alone, and someone had murdered your father.The next thing you recalled was a stern-faced cop grilling you for details. He was flushed with exertion and impatience. He didn’t act very much like he cared at all that your only family was now gone. You remember not caring that he didn’t. It was still so… raw. You answered his questions. Eventually.Then, an ambulance arrived to remove the body.>You stayed with your father’s body as long as you were able, numb and insensate.>You couldn’t bear to look or stay any longer. You ran all the way back home, weeping and shaking.>You felt rage overtake you in a sudden wave. You tore off into the depths of the city looking for someone to hurt the way you had been.
>>3268392>You stayed with your father’s body as long as you were able, numb and insensate.
>>3268392>You couldn’t bear to look or stay any longer. You ran all the way back home, weeping and shaking.
>>3268392>You felt rage overtake you in a sudden wave. You tore off into the depths of the city looking for someone to hurt the way you had been.
>>3268392>You stayed with your father’s body as long as you were able, numb and insensate.He was in a sense, our Sun. And now that the light is gone, we must navigate the darkness alone.
>>3268392It felt like an entire year passed, waiting for the ambulance to show. The grumpy cop was replaced by a more sympathetic but ultimately no less forgettable officer who said a whole lot of platitudes and had a few more questions regarding the reason behind the death. After it became clear you were lost to the world in that moment, however, he too left. Not that it would have mattered otherwise, for you had no answers to anything he could have asked.You sat in the back of the ambulance with a lanky orderly who took to your presence with as much grace as a man sitting before the corpse of a father with his distraught son sitting right beside it could reasonably be expected to exhibit. You cared nothing for the awkwardness he felt. You actually didn’t care much about anything. For as long as you could remember, it had been the two of you. Your mother had died so long back you only knew what she looked like from the photo in your father’s room. If there was any other family, none had seen fit to materialise.Now your dad was gone.And you were alone.The ground had opened up and you felt like you were dropping, constantly falling deeper and deeper into an impossibly dark hole that no one could scoop you out of. The sensations of warmth or chill were lost on you and, in short order, so was anything else. Truly, you were numb to the world.Time passed. Your father received a funeral funded by his friends from the factory. They offered various forms of help. You remember none of it. You don’t even remember their faces. All that existed was the sight of the pine box lowering your pa into the earth. A small, timid part of you hoped that this might all be some sick joke--that the lid might suddenly shatter open and he’d step out, a big wide grin on his face. You’d be mad, but at least he’d be alive…Of course, reality wasn’t that kind.(Cont.)
>>3270128“So, what happened next?”You blink, dragged from the roiling sea of memories by the voice of Iszolda, who sits statue-still next to you, her expression completely free of either judgement or pity or… anything, really.“Well…” you say, noticing immediately how thick with unsuppressed emotion your voice sounds. Your cheeks also feel wet, and you think you should find that strange, “I stayed locked up at home for a long time. Then I just… came out.”Iszolda tilts her head a fraction, her brows knitting, a lack of understanding evident in that one slight, simple gesture.“You just ‘came out’?”“Yeah.”She tilts her head in the opposite direction.“Food was starting to go bad. I was hungry,” you say, shrugging your shoulders.“You are serious?” she asks.“Yeah.”“...I do not believe you. With loss of family there is grief. This I know well--there is a process.”You shrug again, “Not with me. Stayed at home for a week and then I was out and about working people for cash, learning to live.”She works her jaw around, gaze flitting off to a corner of the ward and she stares off, unblinking, like she’s pondering.“You are saying you… what is the expression, ahhhh, just ‘got over it’?”>Yeah. Is that so hard to believe?>...No. No I didn’t.
>>3270130>...No. No I didn’t.>"I just learned to function again. To live with it."
>>3270130>...No. No I didn’t.
>>3270130>...No. No I didn’t.> No one doesn't "Just" get over something like that easy, I just simply placed it in a box in a corner of my mind.
>>3270130>...No. No I didn’t.>It's the box in the living room you never unpacked, it's there, you SHOULD deal with it, but you don't. Except this box is 7' long and filled with suffering rather than old socks you never wear anymore.
Reminder that we need to flee this crazy place
>>3270130Admitting it is hard. Probably harder than swallowing the bitter pill at the start of all this madness. Predictably, then, it takes you a long, awkward silence to drum up what you want to say.“No,” you say. There. It’s out there, now. All that time you spent throwing yourself into your supernatural studies and learning the best way to either lighten a man’s wallet or charm a lady out of her undergarments... Beneath your roguish exterior, digging below the sarcasm and the snark, you finally come face to face with the knowledge that you’ve not really left that little back alley.“No?” Iszolda repeats.“No, I didn’t get over it,” you say, a little quicker than you had intended to, “That kind of thing? No, it’s not something you just… get over. It's the box in the living room that you never unpacked except this one is eight feet long and full of shit rather than old socks you don't wear anymore. That week I had after the funeral? I blanked out. I remember walking through the front door and locking up and the next thing I know, a week has passed and I feel famished and there’s no food in the larder and...”You stop, realising that the words are spilling from your mouth at a hundred miles an hour and becoming increasingly jumbled and you really need to take a breath and--A hand takes hold on your own and squeezes softly. Glancing down, you see Iszolda wrap her fingers around yours. Contrary to her practice, she’s… actually quite warm. Her hand is smooth, soft.“Whenever I had a tantrum,” she says, cloud grey eyes fixed on your own, “My mother would hold my hand to calm me down.”“...did it work?” you venture.“Probably not as often as she might have liked,” the Russian admits, and relinquishes her hold on you, “Though in this instance, I think her method has borne fruit.”“Well,” you say, taking a few slow, deep breaths, “Yeah, I think I’m, uh,” another breath, “I think I’m feeling a little better.”“Good. I would be ill at ease knowing I caused undue stress.”Right. Well.“I know what you feel. What you are feeling,” she carries on, “I was not misfortunate enough to witness their execution personally, but the news was hard to miss. It was… difficult for me, young as I was, to understand precisely what it meant for them to be…”Now it’s her turn to provoke a silence, her gaze low as she dips into her own sordid memories.“...yeah,” you murmur.You bet you make a pretty sorry pair: a young man and woman, both damaged by the loss of family. One hunted relentlessly by her own people while the other indulged in and exploited them to his own benefit.Sounds like the kind of stuff you could pen a novel with.(Cont.)
>>3271665“I am appreciative that this was not easy to speak of,” Iszolda says, changing tack completely and shattering the fresh silence that had settled upon you, “I apologise. I was unaware I would be prying into something so unsettling for you. I pressed and I realise that this was rude. I will try to exercise more restraint in future.”You blink, entirely unsure what to make of her declaration, “Thanks?” is what you settle on as a response. It’s limp, awkward, and you curse yourself for an idiot the moment it slips from your mouth.Her response in turn is to don that queer smile of hers and nod, “Thank you for your time, Adam. I did not intend for things to go the way they did, but I believe I understand you a little better now.”You aren’t entirely sure that you can reciprocate the sentiment, but you appreciate the gesture anyway. Right now, you’re actually quite looking forward to laying your head down and drifting off. You hardly did anything since your awakening and you feel exhausted.“It was… interesting,” you say in return. If nothing else, you suppose you can feel a little proud of yourself for finally confronting an old trauma. And not collapsing into a total loon doing so. It’s a long way from fixed, but maybe you can finally start looking for a way to move forward from it?Who knows?Certainly not you.INTERLUDE:>An Agent finds himself alone in a bayou>A Killer and his posse eradicate a hideout>An Old Man meets with an old friend
>>3271670>>A Killer and his posse eradicate a hideout
>>3271670>An Old Man meets with an old friend
>>3271670>An Old Man meets with an old friendI vote that The Old Man's name be TOM.
Writing the update now.
>>3271670Snow crunches beneath your shoes as you wander through the open gate. The chill of winter threatens to seep through your clothes and into your bones, but a word spoken and a ward against it is in place. While a bit of cold is positively bland compared to all you’ve subject yourself to over the years, you’re not as young as you once were, and now would be a very inconvenient time to come down with sickness.The courtyard is caked in snow. Piles of wood--long rotten from exposure to the elements--peek through the blanket cast here and there. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine how it looked when it was still occupied: servants crossing this way and that to carry out the orders of the lord, armoured soldiers conducting drills, merchants from all sorts of distant lands peddling their wares.Now all is stillness and cold. The walls which once held entire armies at bay now gradually recede before a very different and infinitely more patient opponent.You take a moment to take in the sight, and feel a twinge of sadness pluck at your heart. Nothing can last forever, this you know well. Taking a breath, you carry on towards the grand set of thick, oak double doors that leads into the keep. As you approach, they open of their own accord, ancient hinges wailing at the sudden call to action after so much time of inactivity. You show no outward reaction, but you suppose you should thank the occupants, secretive as they are, for sparing an old man some effort.Even if you have to fight to roll your eyes at the display.>Head for the Great Hall. She never could resist an opportunity to showboat.>The Dungeon is where you’ll find her, ever melancholic a soul.>Take a climb to the highest tower. She’ll be looking over the rolling landscape, aesthete that she is.
>>3273363>Take a climb to the highest tower. She’ll be looking over the rolling landscape, aesthete that she is.
>>3273363>>Take a climb to the highest tower. She’ll be looking over the rolling landscape, aesthete that she is.
>>3273363>The Dungeon is where you’ll find her, ever melancholic a soul.
Sorry for the lack of an update last night, my folks took us out for a nice evening meal. Writing now.
>>3273363Sighing, you prepare yourself for an arduous trip to the very highest tower in the castle. Being the aesthete she is, you don’t doubt at all that you’ll find your quarry up there admiring the rolling hills and snow-blanketed forests that stretch out for miles around. Even the town, once a dingy little hovel, casts an admittedly pleasing picture from this distance in the aftermath of thick snowfall.No sooner do you step inside the boundaries of the keep itself when you feel eyes upon you. Pointedly, you keep your own gaze forward. Her thralls didn’t frighten you as a young man, and they certainly don’t now you know them for what they are. Even so, they keep their vigil, blood-red eyes only just visible in the dank gloom.Quite frankly, you’re surprised Kristina allowed her home to fall into such decrepitude. The old braziers are unlit, and you suspect they have remained so for a long, long time, and darkness rules the interior; a hundred different shades of black and grey you observe in the first minute of your wandering alone.You continue on, the sharp tapping of your walking cane and the much softer plod of your shoes the only sound you hear. You pass through hallways that once rang with the march of a small army of servants and footmen. Old paintings, some faded, others in markedly better condition, still lining the walls. A few bear scratch marks that perhaps indicate attempted theft.It’s difficult to imagine that these would-be looters got very far, knowing what continued to guard this old edifice like a jealous dragon guards its hoard.The Great Hall is seemingly abandoned, though the sensation of being watched intensifies as you step through the doors--once again opened for you by your almost unseen observers. A gilded throne sits at the very head of the chamber--the seat the lord or lady would occupy when entertaining an audience--flanked by a similarly large but much less ornate twin, and stretching out either side of them, more chairs, these becoming increasingly less splendorous the further away from the throne you got. There are rows of old tables and benches; places the lord’s retainers would sit and indulge in the usual revelry and debauchery one might expect of the time. All of them have gathered so much dust you wonder if some of it may well have ingrained itself into the surface of all the assorted furniture.Grunting, you shake your head and move on. You didn’t come here to admire the distinct lack of decor.(Cont.)
>>3276129It’s only once you reach the base of the watchtower that signs of life become more apparent. The walls are freshly painted--a warm and pleasing scarlet, embossed with a rather impressive variety of floral patterns that winds all the way up the twisting staircase. Taking a breath, you begin to ascend, noting the way the patterns become ever more intricate the higher you travel, starting off as mere moulding at the bottom, and eventually feeding into colourful gold reliefs that mesh in just the right way with the scarlet they’re cast upon.Her private sanctuary, then. You imagine Kristina has a room carved out for her in this very tower somewhere, perhaps even at the very top.Sure enough, you reach the peak only to find a positively gaudy portal. No aspect of its surface has been left untouched some some form of artistry, and you feel yourself wrinkle your nose in unveiled disgust without meaning to. The eclectic mix stands in sharp contrast to the walls, which still maintain some semblance of a pretension to elegance at least with their much simpler decoration, at least by comparison. This is something that only a certain kind of individual would find pleasing to the eye, and it doesn’t bode well for your hopes of a quiet and rational conversation with the woman behind the door.Exhaling softly through the nose, you decide against trekking back down and wasting the effort of coming here, instead rapping on the door with a hand. Three sharp knocks.For a long moment, nothing happens. Yet you remain at the door. Kristina’s thralls guided you here. She knows that you’ve come to pay a visit.“Come in,” comes a voice from the other end of the door. Her voice.You oblige, taking hold of the doorknob, which is cast in the form of a roaring lion’s head. Suppressing a grimace, you twist and pull the door open.Well, your theory of Kristina having made her home up here was correct. A grandiose four-poster bed, impeccably well-made and embroidered in a manner fit for a queen, sits in the very centre of the tower. A vanity, complete with a large, clean mirror, sits just off to the side, while a small but resplendent table and set of chairs lie on the opposite side of the room, complete with a tea set. Somehow, you don’t imagine it gets used that often.The entire rear of the tower, now Kristina’s abode, has been removed; the walls torn down and a barrier emplaced to ward off the elements, allowing an unprecedented view of the countryside that spills out before you like a fine canvas.It is there, naturally, that Kristina waits.(Cont.)
>>3276131“Hello, Thomas,” she greets, her back to you. Her accent is as impossible to pin down as ever: a tinge of Italian; a bare hint of French and blended with a healthy dose of Eastern European. You tried once to discover her place of origin and soon decided it was wasted effort. Wherever it was she originally hailed from, Kristina had well and truly severed all ties she ever had with it.The woman herself is a remarkable specimen of feminine beauty; fair blonde hair falling in cascading waves about her shoulders; flawlessly clean, porcelain skin; wide, innocent eyes that shine like sapphires; an expertly-tailored dress that could have stepped right from the stage of a medieval drama that clings to her in exactly the right way. For a heartbeat, you’re transported to much earlier days, gliding across a ballroom floor arm-in-arm with the woman before you, her expression a picture study of unbridled joy.You sigh. You had expected this, but even then you can’t help but feel a pang of disappointment for the being before you. The glamour is obvious in the way she shines just a little too brightly. No doubt an ordinary man would quake in awe of the sight. To your wizened eyes, though, she is deceiving no one but herself.“Hello, Kristina,” you reply.“Why the long face?” she says, still not turning to speak directly to you, “It has been… an inordinate amount of time since we last spoke.”>You DID try to kill me, if you’ll recall.>Things have been... complicated.>I tried once. You barred your doors.
>>3276132>I tried once. You barred your doors.
>>3276132>I tried once. You barred your doors.She's a witch or a Fae isn't she?
>>3276132“I tried once, not that long ago,” you tell her, “You barred your doors.”“Did I?” she cocks her head, deep in thought, “Yes…” she murmurs, “Yes, I suppose I did. Why did I do that? Why would I have barred the gates to you, of all people my lo...”Her voice dies in her throat as she turns around and she actually sees you, taking in every line and wrinkle that time has seen fit to bestow upon you. Considering your the length of time you’ve spent on this earth, you’re of the opinion that it’s been very kind to you.“Nice to see you, Kristina,” you say with a wry grin. You watch the way her pale skin drains of colour further, to the point she looks almost sheet white. If you were a much younger man, you think the reaction might have broken your heart.Kristina surprises you, however, when she actually takes a step towards you, reaching out a trembling hand which caresses your face, her eyes wide in disbelief.“Thomas?” she asks, her voice shaky and breathless, “Is that really you? You’re so…”“Old?” you finish for her. A sharp intake of breath tells you all you needed to know--if you didn’t already--about what she makes of that.“How? Why? You were so…”She surprises you once more when she throws her arms around you and begins to weep. You feel a dim tug in your heart in memoriam of all the little moments you spent with this once formidably incredible woman a lifetime ago. Now, as you feel her thin, bony arms through the glamour and the fabric of her dress, all you can feel is pity for the shape her madness has taken. You hold her, but otherwise make no attempt to return the hug.“Kristina,” you sigh, “This isn’t a social call. I came here for a reason.”“You… y-y-y-y-you…” She blubbers, and continues to do so for many minutes more, to the point where you end up having to repeat yourself. It carries on even then, and you start to think that you need a different approach.>You knew a way of calming her down when she was like this long before. Hopefully it’ll take this time, too…>She’s unstable and needs focusing. Be firm but gentle with her.
>>3277888>You knew a way of calming her down when she was like this long before. Hopefully it’ll take this time, too…
>>3277888>She’s unstable and needs focusing. Be firm but gentle with her.
>>3277888You’d never, even in your wildest dreams, imagined that one such as Kristina could fall as far as she has. A tactic you used to employ to calm her down springs to mind, but in light of her current state, you’re not convinced it would be wise.So you lower your arms and take hold of her shoulders, gently but firmly easing her away. She’s still too beside herself with emotion to even think about fighting you, and even if she weren’t you’d hardly have to expend much more effort. Kristina never was the physical type.“Kristina,” you say, raising your voice an octave. Still she weeps. Inhaling through the nose, you raise a hand to cup her chin and raise her face to meet yours.“Kristina. Please calm down.”This time, she stops, though her breathing is still ragged with emotion. It’s difficult to fathom that this broken creature is the same person who ended a siege on her ownsome many years previous. A part of you wants to feel sorry for her. The rest is aware that her self-enforced isolation likely brought this upon herself.You never should have honoured her wish. Another costly mistake in a long, long line.“But you’re so… ugly,” she breathes, the word hissed as though its very utterance gives her pain.“Everyone ages, Kristina,” you tell her, softening your voice a fraction, “Even us.”She says nothing, staring deep into your eyes almost like she’s probing for something. More likely she’s trying to focus on the one part of you that’s changed least. Finally, shuddering and no longer on the verge of a breakdown, she pulls away, turning her head away from you.“What have you come here for, Thomas?” she asks, “In regard for… old times, I’ll indulge you. Ask your question.”>One of my people found a shard of the Sleeper in a den of Merfolk. I’m hoping you have an inkling as to how it arrived there.>We’ve seen more Demons in the last six months than over the last six decades. Something is weakening the barrier between our worlds and I need to know what.>Attacks are increasing with worrying frequency. I don’t suppose you know what the root of the issue might be?
>>3279244>One of my people found a shard of the Sleeper in a den of Merfolk. I’m hoping you have an inkling as to how it arrived there.
>>3279244>We’ve seen more Demons in the last six months than over the last six decades. Something is weakening the barrier between our worlds and I need to know what.
>>3279244>We’ve seen more Demons in the last six months than over the last six decades. Something is weakening the barrier between our worlds and I need to know what.I'm pretty sure we can look into the Shard later, right now Demons are really bad news from the sound of things.
>>3279244“There have been more Demon sightings in the last six months than over the last six decades,” you inform Kristina, “Something is weakening the barrier between our two worlds and I need to know what it is.”She keeps silent for a few moments, staring solemnly out and into the land beyond the castle. For a moment, you think you’re going to have to repeat the request, but she exhales gently and nods.“Very well. I will look for you. Give me a moment.”She traipses over to her bed and sits cross-legged upon it, back ramrod straight and arms placed delicately on her legs, her breathing falling into a slow, relaxed rhythm. To anyone else, she’d look like a meditating monk, albeit one very much overdressed. You know better, for she is one of only a handful of true Oracles still left in the world; a seer beyond compare with some very handy bonuses on top of her already considerable gifts.You stand in silence, waiting for her to finish her divinations. A minute passes by. Nothing. Then two. Three. Four.It’s as you approach the end of the fifth that you hear her resume her regular breathing pattern, and know that she is finished.“I am finished,” she states, somewhat redundantly.“And?”“There is no weakening of the worlds, Thomas,” Kristina tells you.“That can’t be right,” you respond, suppressing the urge to growl, “The amount of--”“They enter ours because they attempt to flee their own,” she informs you, “Desperation drives them, and this in turn forces more and more rifts open.”That’s… less than good.“What could provoke such a response?”She actually scoffs, “Something of absurd power, perhaps?”“Kristina…”“Whatever is behind this curious migration,” she carries on, “is ancient, and beyond my ability to identify. I’m afraid that’s all I dared to risk.”That answers your question in a sense. It also, unfortunately, raises a lot more problems. Something old and powerful enough to block even an Oracle’s sight? That’s an ill omen if ever there was one.“Well?” Kristina asks, her voice cracking with impatience, a sign that her mind is already lapsing back into her own distinctive brand of madness, “Is that all you wished of me?”You stop to consider.>Try for one more question. Her moment of lucidity won’t last forever and there’s no telling when she might be stable enough for you to visit again.>Ask her how she’s been keeping. You suspect you already know, but maybe you might find a way to prompt her not to react so poorly the next time you have to come calling.>She clearly wants you out. Best not to upset her.
>>3282263>Ask her how she’s been keeping. You suspect you already know, but maybe you might find a way to prompt her not to react so poorly the next time you have to come calling.
>>3282263>Ask her how she’s been keeping. You suspect you already know, but maybe you might find a way to prompt her not to react so poorly the next time you have to come calling.Long term > Short term
>>3282263>>Ask her how she’s been keeping. You suspect you already know, but maybe you might find a way to prompt her not to react so poorly the next time you have to come calling.
>>3282263>Ask her how she’s been keeping. You suspect you already know, but maybe you might find a way to prompt her not to react so poorly the next time you have to come calling.Sounds a bit risky but I'm all for smoothing things over.
>>3282263“Actually, no,” you tell her, “How have you been keeping?”Quite honestly, you think you already know the answer to that question, but considering the way you last parted ways, perhaps at least some attempt at smoothing things over would be prudent.She scoffs, “I thought you said earlier that this wasn’t a social visit.”“It is whatever I want it to be,” you reply easily, “And at this moment, I’d like to know how you’ve been doing since we last saw each other.”“How very much like you,” you huffs, though you catch a faint tinge of nostalgia in her voice, “I suppose it’s nice to see that some things, at least, never change.”“For better or worse,” you agree softly.A silence settles upon the both of you, one you feel you’d be wise not to break first. Sure enough, Kristina opens her mouth to speak again. This time, there is no brittleness, no shrill hint that she may be on the verge of another collapse. In its place is a forlorn wistfulness that cuts at you deeper than any sharp-tongued barb she may ever have thrown at you could.“I… I remember why I kept you out, that time ago,” she says. You say nothing, hoping that she’ll take the hint to continue. She does, “It wasn’t because you’d… well...” she snatches a glance back at you over her shoulder, winces, and almost immediately returns her gaze to the admittedly magnificent vista of the outside world.“Go on,” you prompt, making sure to keep your voice low, soft and gentle, “I won’t be upset.”“...thirty years we last saw each other previous,” she breathes. “I thought you dead for the longest time, and then, you appear on my doorstep. But what do I get for my tireless vigil? A muted apology and a request for my assistance? As if no time had passed at all?” She is practically spitting as she finishes and her breathing has quickened.You keep your silence again. What really can you say to that? An apology, however much you might mean it, won’t erase the time you lost. Truthfully, you’d known even back then that you’d taken a step too far. For all that the years mean ultimately little to you does not mean that this same mentality holds true in others.Especially not in those with whom you shared a rare and special thing.“And now here you are again,” she murmurs, her voice choked with emotion, “Once more you need my help, but you do not come to see me.”You exhale, taking a seat on the edge of her bed, suddenly feeling all of your many, many years settling on top of your shoulders like an oppressive weight.“Kristina,” you begin, “I know that there’s probably very little that will make things right between us. I let you down. For that, I will be forever regretful. I won’t tell you why I make the choices I do because you already know. You know me.”(Cont.)
>>3283806She actually chuckles; a low, humming cackle that takes you back decades, “What is that saying you love so much? ‘The War is the War?’”“That’s it. And it is. Until recently I’d thought maybe I and all my other allies had a lid on things. The past year and a half has shown me just how wrong I was in this assumption, and if nothing is done, many thousands more will pay the price for my complacency.”“Always justifying yourself,” she scoffs again, “Never time for anything but the War. What if it never ends, Thomas? What becomes of you?”>From the moment I settled on this course, there was only ever one way this would end for me.>If I am lucky, maybe I will one day find someone worthy enough to pass down the torch.>Then it goes on, and I will be there to carry on fighting it.
>>3283808>From the moment I settled on this course, there was only ever one way this would end for me.
>>3283808>>If I am lucky, maybe I will one day find someone worthy enough to pass down the torch.
>>3283808>If I am lucky, maybe I will one day find someone worthy enough to pass down the torch.
>>3283808“If am lucky,” you say, carefully, “Then maybe one day I will find someone I consider worthy enough to pass on the torch.”That causes Kristina to finally return her gaze back to you, and this time she locks eyes with yours, her expression one of muted dismay.“...who on earth could you possibly despise enough to even consider such a thing?”“It would not be a decision I could make lightly,” you admit.“It’s not a decision you could make at all!” Kristina snaps, “Oh, I do not believe what I am hearing! The implacable man, who hardly found time for anything else--after all these years--is talking of retirement!”“Is it truly so difficult to believe that I might be serious?”She levels a vicious glare at you, baring her teeth in a snarl; her abnormally prominent incisors in plain view for anyone to see as she begins to pace up and down her room, “Talk. Why this, now? Why wait this long? The very idea was anathema to you when we first met! Yet now, of all times is when you start?!”Her incredulity is as great as her ire, such that whatever malady has afflicted her mind appears to have been banished entirely. Honestly, you’re not quite sure what you expected when you decided to let her know this. All the same, however, she deserves to know.After all, however long ago they were, she wasn’t the only one who cherished all those little moments...>Whatever is coming is big. Maybe it’ll take a year or longer to arrive, but I can’t help but fear that we’re reaching an endgame of some kind, and however it ends, there’s not going to be a place for me in the world that follows.>I’m tired, Kristina. Tired of sending men and women far better than I to be torn apart by creatures who regard the concept of ‘mercy’ as irrelevant at best. When the roots of the current ailment afflicting the world are pulled out, I’ll step down and disappear.
>>3286505>Whatever is coming is big. Maybe it’ll take a year or longer to arrive, but I can’t help but fear that we’re reaching an endgame of some kind, and however it ends, there’s not going to be a place for me in the world that follows.
>>3286505>>Whatever is coming is big. Maybe it’ll take a year or longer to arrive, but I can’t help but fear that we’re reaching an endgame of some kind, and however it ends, there’s not going to be a place for me in the world that follows.
>>3286505>I’m tired, Kristina. Tired of sending men and women far better than I to be torn apart by creatures who regard the concept of ‘mercy’ as irrelevant at best. When the roots of the current ailment afflicting the world are pulled out, I’ll step down and disappear.
I'm sorry about the drop in posting over the last few days. Our wifi at the house has been having absurd connectivity issues and we've no idea what's causing it.>>3286505“Something’s coming, Kristina,” you tell her, “Something big. Maybe it won’t arrive this year, or perhaps even within the next two, but something is at the root of all the problems we’ve had to deal with over the last fifty years. I thought we’d halted it then. I was wrong, and now I can’t help the overbearing feeling that we’re approaching an endgame of some kind,” you break eye contact with her, gazing out over the snow-glazed horizon, “However it ends, there’s not going to be a place for me in the world that follows.”Kristina is quiet for a long time. So long, in fact, that you wonder if perhaps she’s going to turf you out and decline ever to speak to you again. Once again, however, she surprises you by stepping forward and wrapping her arms around you.“I once thought that maybe I’d tempt you away from this life of yours,” she murmurs.“Would it be strange for you to hear that I thought you might, too?”She smiles; a small, slight and sad thing, and a part of you curses yourself for a damned fool as you ponder on why you let her go. That you had not an inkling that she would end up in this state is no excuse. She deserved better than this. Instead, she got you.So, you take what is hopefully the first step in what might just fix all of this.You lean in close, bringing your lips level with her left ear, and start to whisper softly. The words are ancient; a language from a culture long lost to history, but you weren’t the only student of this venerable tongue. Kristina listens in rapt attention, her eyes wide as you relay your message; all the things you wanted to say to her and never got the chance to, spoken in a language only the two of you know.Finished, you draw back, and feel a warm tinge of satisfaction in the way she stares up at you, all trace of her ill humours wiped away.Then she pulls you back down in order to press her lips against yours. The kiss lasts all of a instant, and in that same moment, she drops her glamour, allowing you to see her as she truly is: a thin, wizened old woman with sad, sunken eyes and a complexion ravaged by time as wholly as your own.Truthfully, you don’t think she’s ever looked more beautiful.Like all moments, however, this one passes, and the two of you pull away from one another reluctantly.(Cont.)
>>3290369“I’m sorry,” is all you can bring yourself to say.“Better late than never, as my mother used to say,” she replies, choking out her last handful of words as she wraps her arms even tighter around you and leans her head against your chest, “Am I dreaming, still?” she breathes.“Not this time.”There will be consequences for the choice you’ve made, you’re sure. For the time being, however, you’re content to indulge in something you want for a change.The War can wait for a few minutes…>One more Interlude.>Adam is bored in the Infirmary ward.
>>3290375>>One more Interlude.
>>3290375>>>Adam is bored in the Infirmary ward.Back to it.
>>3290375>One more Interlude.
Aight, another side-story. Pick an choose.>An Agent finds himself alone in a bayou>A Killer and his posse eradicate a hideout
>>3293357>An Agent finds himself alone in a bayou
>>3293357>An Agent finds himself alone in a bayouI'm sad that it's not "A Killer finds himself alone in a bayou." so we could cut to a character trying to wrestle with a magical alligator.
>>3293357Your name is Matthew Dawson, and you are in deep shit.It was supposed to be easy: run a little errand for the boss man, give a few recent recruits some extra field experience, return in time for a hot meal and some of that mouth-watering apple pie courtesy of Courtney the chef.Now, everyone’s dead, or good as. Dryads do not fuck about.You’d think being the boss’ pet shooter would give you a little more leeway in this sort of world. So much for that, a sour little voice mutters in the back of your skull. The skinny little shit you were sent to neutralise brought damn near the entire swamp’s worth of tree spirits down on you, and not only did the ensuing carnage see you violently separated from your team, but the rakish little shitgoblin swanned off with a smarmy smirk that set your blood boiling.You’d have taken the hit and called it a day, but that irritating little grin as he watched some good people ripped apart…Now it’s personal.There is, however, a silver lining. There are only two potential ley lines the former druid can make use of in order to spirit himself away. Both are reasonably close by and the ritual he needs to invoke in order to make his getaway will take time. One is, predictably, located on the other side of a screaming horde of dryads and god-only-knows what else lurks in this hellzone. The other is a longer hike away in a much quieter corner of the swamp. The gears in your head are already turning even as you stamp down with a thick-soled boot and crush the head of a dryad to splintering fragments. The spirit proper shrieks past you with a howl of fury at having been denied fresh blood. It’ll find itself a new host, but you won’t need to worry about that unless you plan on sticking around for a few months which, incidentally, you don’t.Racking the slide of the shotgun you brought along, you unload a sheet of buckshot and shred another shrilling dryad. The creature staggers, but doesn’t drop as you hoped it might. You’re also out. Hm. Ducking the wide, vengeful swipe it takes at you, you ponder on your next course of action even as you reach into one of your ammunition pouches for one of your more special loads.
>>3294968>Make for the closer ley line. The druid’s cocky, he’ll think that he can hide behind his pet trees. Obviously this means you get to show how wrong the smug asshole is.>Head for the further ley line. The closer one is the obvious play and surely he knows how long he’ll need to set up his little ritual. It’ll be a long and wet journey, but at least you’ll be heading away from the swarm of murderous tree spirits.And pick your special ammunition:>Vorpal Rounds: Bullets that penetrate the target and warp to another dimension inside of it, literally ripping chunks of its guts out along with it. Perfect for the individual who wants his targets to stay down.>Tracker Rounds: Fire a single shot. If it lands, all further shots until the magazine/feed is empty will home in on the location of the first shot, arcing around cover to do so. First-shot tracking round can be deactivated with a spark of power--which is as easy for you as blinking--just in case you miss. A fine choice for those who maybe aren’t the most consistent shots.>Auger Rounds: Cover? I hardly know ‘er. These augmented rounds will phase through solid cover like it isn’t even there to strike your foes.>Balefire rounds: Incendiary shots that pack a hell of a wallop which burn even in water--that’s magic for you.
>>3294972>Head for the further ley line. The closer one is the obvious play and surely he knows how long he’ll need to set up his little ritual. It’ll be a long and wet journey, but at least you’ll be heading away from the swarm of murderous tree spirits.>Balefire rounds: Incendiary shots that pack a hell of a wallop which burn even in water--that’s magic for you.WE NEED THE FUCK WATER AND TREES ROUNDS!
>>3294972>Head for the further ley line. The closer one is the obvious play and surely he knows how long he’ll need to set up his little ritual. It’ll be a long and wet journey, but at least you’ll be heading away from the swarm of murderous tree spirits.>Balefire rounds
>>3294972>Head for the further ley line. The closer one is the obvious play and surely he knows how long he’ll need to set up his little ritual. It’ll be a long and wet journey, but at least you’ll be heading away from the swarm of murderous tree spirits.>Balefire rounds: Incendiary shots that pack a hell of a wallop which burn even in water--that’s magic for you.
>>3294968A not insignificant part of you is tempted to try for the closer ley line. The rest of you discounts the idea in a heartbeat. It’s too obvious a play and the scrawny bastard needs time more than anything if he’s planning to skip town. Sure, he might have a small legion of Dryads in between here and there, but being as evidently (and quite justifiably) paranoid as he seems to be, you’re pretty confident that he’d fear that some kind of backup will be inbound. It isn’t, but you’d bet a shiny nickel that he believes otherwise.Satisfied with your reasoning, you pull up and hop casually away from the swiping talons of the shrieking dryad and feed a balefire shell into your shotgun, racking the slide and unloading into its face. There’s a hiss-crack as the round discharges and strikes it target and then the tree spirit goes up in a hellish blue blaze, flailing its limbs wildly as it dives for the nearest pool of water like it’s the last oasis in the Sahara desert.You slide a few more balefire shells home as you watch the Dryad char and burn as it thrashes about in the murky water of the swamp. Balefire is a nasty way to go, but damned if you don’t feel a grim surge of satisfaction as you recall the sight of one of these very same creatures cleaving through one of the rooks you were leading. Looks like stashing a few of these little beauties whilst the Armourer wasn’t watching was a good idea after all. For all the ‘maybe’s’ and ‘probably’s’ it looks like balefire genuinely doesn’t spread beyond the target it made initial contact with.That means you don’t need to worry about burning the entire swamp down, at least. Not unless you get very liberal with your shots.A keening wail notifies you that another Dryad is converging rapidly on your position. Bless the lord for mindless, bloodthirsty beasties that so courteously let you know when they’re about to try and take a chunk out of your neck. You show your appreciation by levelling your shotgun at the thing and engulfing it in another blistering inferno.There are a handful more Dryads closeby and closing in on you, and while you’re certain you can take them, it’d give the rogue druid some extra time to make his getaway, not to mention eat through your stock of ammunition. On the other hand, knowing that you’re free of a sudden attack from behind would certainly set the mind at ease.What to do, what to do…>Stand and fight. You should still be able to make it. Just need to fight smart.>Take off and try to lose the Dryads in the swamp.
>>3297683>Stand and fight. You should still be able to make it. Just need to fight smart.They're druids, the swamp IS THEIR HOME. As long as they're still alive they're always going to catch up.
>>3297683>>Stand and fight. You should still be able to make it. Just need to fight smart.Maybe we should've brought some reagents from a Witch Doctor with us.
>>3297683>>Stand and fight. You should still be able to make it. Just need to fight smart.