Friday, December 15, 2017

Chapter 113: First Blood



Orazia takes her witchitude very seriously, spending much of her free time crafting potions. Izalee told her she must look after the less capable members of her family, and she intends to do just that.

Currently she's trying for a potion that will get Acheron to sleep better... and she's already had some breakthroughs, they're all just too dangerous for long-term use. They need a lot of work.

She assumes his troubles are caused by sensing the minds of others as he slumbers, but it's only a theory. Acheron will not confirm nor deny it. He is just as much a mage in training as she is, and spends a lot of time practicing with her, but even when they are together he seems closed off to himself.


"I need to use the alchemy supplies," Acheron says, interrupting her thoughts.

Orazia smiles at him. "What for?"

Acheron presses his lips together in a thin line, thinking too hard before he answers, "You spend whole weekends in here. No one ever asks what you're doing."

Orazia shrugs. "That's true. But no one else but you in our house has the ability to imbue potions with the magic they need to work. If anyone would be interested in what I'm doing, it would be you."

I don't have time for this, Acheron thinks. He knows what he's supposed to do, but he has not seen all the moments that lead up to doing it. Much like he's seen a life with Claire, without ever seeing how he survives meeting her. "I just want to try something I was thinking about."

Orazia's smile turns to a small frown. The insistence in his voice when he told her he needed use of the alchemy supplies suggests he's in immediate trouble, but he's trying to play it off as casual experimenting. Trying to get more information out of Acheron is like trying to brute force out of a Chinese finger trap, though—the harder one pulls, the more constrictive the trap becomesso she backs off.

"Alright," Orazia says, stepping out of his way. "Suit yourself. I wanted to take a closer look at Izalee's latest letters anyway."


Acheron waits for the door to close behind Orazia, then gets to work mixing up a translocation potion. Though he shares ancestors with Loki and Rain, and Eris, he doesn't have their psionic teleportation powers, their ability to just think about a place and go there, and so Acheron requires more carefully crafted magic to get the results he wants.


Acheron cuts the timing almost too close. Dysen is heading for the door when Acheron walks up to him and hurls a bottle full of glowing liquid at his shoes.


The glass shatters, and the released magic swirls momentarily around Dysen before its sparkles fade.


"What was that?!" Dysen demands to know, but Acheron only backs away, with no intention of answering. "Some kind of prank? I'm not in the mood."


 Dysen leaves the house, slamming the door behind him. Acheron smirks and turns back towards the stairs, back towards the alchemy nook, but Orazia is standing there, arms folded.


"Prank?" she makes the word a question, many questions.

"Yeah," Acheron mutters, as he moves to walk past her.

"You're behaving very strangely."


"Orazia..."

"Yes?" she coaxes.

Acheron winces. Whatever he wanted to say, his rational mind has caught up with him. "I can't talk about it..."


He returns to the alchemy table and works quickly, hands trembling. He'll need a second potion for himself to connect and teleport to the one he threw on Dysen.


Fairuza and Rock are hanging out with Lauren when Dysen catches up to them.

"I want to know what you got Molly involved with," he lays the issue down without preamble.

The other three teens look at each other, then back at him. Rock's eyes widen with curiosity, Lauren's narrow with suspicion. Fairuza's gaze darts quickly away again.

"Lauren, tell me what's going on." Dysen tries again, his tone more demanding this time, as he addresses her by name instead of with ambiguity.

"I don't know what you're talking about, tough guy." Lauren sneers, responding to his posture as it becomes more tense.

"She has ties to some smuggling operation, Fairuza," Dysen explains, turning to his cousin in the hopes she can talk sense into her friend so he doesn't have to. "And I don't know what else."

"You realize you sound crazy, right?" Lauren snorts.

Fairuza finally looks back up at Dysen. "Can I talk to you a second?"


Fairuza takes her cousin aside, out of earshot of the others.

"Please stop making a scene," she begs him.

"What the hell?!"

"Rook will not be happy Molly told you about anything."

"Who?!"

"The... the boss," Fairuza says lamely, as she itches at her face, looking uncomfortable. "I think it may be a code name, not sure."

"What?!"

"Shhh! I don't want my boyfriend to know. Please."

This has gone places Dysen never expected. "Maybe you'd better tell me what exactly I'm not supposed to let him know."


"I don't know why I started stealing," Fairuza mumbles, shame evident in her voice. "I accidentally met this crime boss Lauren works for. He probably wouldn't have given me the time of day if not for..." she looks around, making absolutely certain no one is listening in, "if he wasn't a vampire, curious about other supernaturals around."

Dysen tilts his head, stunned to silence. He's not sure what the bigger news is... the 'stealing', or the 'vampire'.

Fairuza continues, a rushed flood of words, "He says he helps innocent supernaturals get away from trouble. But he got me into trouble... then again I'm basically just a human? Anyway at first I was worried about Lauren and curious about how things went down, I was just a spectator, but then I wasn't! I get this sick thrill from it. I'm fucked up, Dysen. I don't know what to do."

"Let me have a chat with this vampire."

"I can't get him by phone. I have to talk to Stan-"

"You want me to keep your secret or not?"


This time it's Orazia who interrupts Acheron. "Beeswax... sunstone dust... red valerian... red toadstools..." she shakes her head, "You're making concentrated sunlight, and a teleportation elixir. Why?"

"I can't tell you."

"I'm worried about you."


"I'll be out of your hair in a few minutes, 'Zia."

"I don't think so."


Acheron collects the liquid, freshly imbued with magic, in a bottle... just as Orazia completes her spell. Acheron senses immediately that something has changed about the very walls of the house.

"Dammit!" he raises his voice at her.


"I can't break through your mental defenses to force you to tell me the truth, but the wards I have set up won't let you leave unless you tell me. So what's it going to be?"

Acheron glares at her. "What about school on Monday?"

"I think you want to leave before then."


"Then I guess these wards come down!"

Orazia rolls her eyes. "You're not skilled enough to break my wards."

"Like hell I'm not!"

"Your choice then. If you mess up, my magic really will be able to force you to tell the truth."


The most common way to fight magic is with more magic, but doing so is always dangerous. Casting on another mage's spell exposes Acheron to the energies put in place by the other. Anything less than precision-


The wards fall haphazardly.

Acheron smirks at Orazia, then begins weaving a second spell.

"Wait!" she cries. "Where are you going?"

"To ruin some vampire's day!" he snaps.

The silence hangs in the air a moment as both teens looked shocked.


The Foundry isn't open at this hour, but Fairuza knew a way in.

"Rook's office is there," she whispers, though it looks like nobody is around to hear her.


Tabira sleeps in a crypt behind her father's tiny office.

Only the most powerful vampires float when they sleep!


Dysen is startled to see Molly in Rook's office...

...and Molly is surprised at the sudden appearance of Dysen and Fairuza.


Torian Rook is not surprised. "I sensed your presence and decided to not prevent you from entering."



Orazia struggles with Acheron, preventing him from activating the translocation elixir. "I know concentrated sunlight is an effective weapon against vampires, but I didn't let myself think you were actually going to face one! What's the matter with you?! You botched taking down the ward, now answer me!"

Acheron finds himself compelled to. "I have precognitive visions! I see possible futures and right now there's one I need to prevent that involves a vampire and our family! He's already got Fairuza under his sway and he'll manipulate the rest of us if he gets the chance but he won't because this timeline ends in us getting discovered by Supernatural Control because Dysen is an idiot and he won't listen to me so I have to change the end myself!"

"Wha... why didn't you tell anyone else?!"

"Because in every timeline my mother finds out I have these powers, she gets killed by faeries or witches or vampires or worse! Now please don't tell anyone or make me tell anyone because I can't seem to keep my mouth shut!"


Dysen has some choice words picked out for Torian Rook, and Rook has the 'join me' speech of evil ready and waiting, but neither werewolf nor vampire get what they want because a meddlesome wizard poofs into the room with them and throws the concentrated sunlight at Torian Rook's face.

Or, uh, shoes again. Right.


Some days are just bad days!



Orazia was teleported along with Acheron, but she didn't have time to give him a fair warning.


"I... did not mean to kill him..." Acheron says, in just as much shock as the other four teens.




_______________________________________________________
Etc.: Rookie mistake.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chapter 112: Criminality


Carlos has perfected his grandfather's french toast recipe and is very pleased with himself for doing so. Tonight's dinner will be very special.


It may look like they're saying grace or something, but that's just everyone clapping because they each get to eat their favorite food.


 Fish 'n chips for Acheron... extravagant potato and truffle torte for Dysen... key lime pie for Lela...


More fish 'n chips for Ceth, mushroom omelette for Carlos...


French toast for Orazia, Monte Vista style spaghetti for Milo, and yet more fish 'n chips for Fairuza.


When food is this perfect, all one can do is eat it in stunned silence and wonder what the occasion is. Orazia is graduating in a few days, so technically they could be celebrating that...


"We should get a dog!" Fairuza exclaims.

The household already has a snake, a snail, some fish, and now a cat. Milo would definitely break and allow his daughters to adopt a puppy, now that Carlos has broken and allowed a cat. Orazia isn't keen on the idea, though. She thinks dogs are too high-maintenance. That, and their father is a werewolf half the time, so it would be redundant...?


Unrelated: Dysen adopts another cat, this time from the shelter.


"Moby?" Acheron questions the name.

"Yeah," Dysen says. "Like Moby Dick."

"Like Moby Dick?" Orazia also questions the name.

Dysen shrugs. "I wanted an M name to go with Maggie, and it sounded better in my head I guess. It's like, an intellectual name."

"Maybe if he was like, a white cat," Fairuza chimes in on the criticism.

Dysen folds his arms. "Damn, tough crowd." 

Moby plays with the cat dancer toy, happy and oblivious.


Maggie mistakes Moby's brindled fur patterning for mankyness...


...and tries to groom him.


"You do realize we are werewolves, with two cats," Milo complains.

Carlos blinks. "What's wrong with cats?"

"I just think if other werewolves ever met us, they'd think we were weird."

Carlos rolls his eyes. "Really?"

"It could happen! I could find myself a hot werechick. Any day now."

"The cats stay. My wife thinks the cats are cute. And your daughters also have a pet."

"Nicholas is a snail, he barely even counts."

"Wow, rude?" Dysen interrupts. "Nicholas is an important member of this family."

"Do your homework," Carlos shoos his son.


"Whaaat are you doing in the garden?"


The answer is pretty obvious.


Maggie worries her skills will grow dull, if these humans keep preventing her from hunting!


The garden has expanded quite a bit over time.


Carlos keeps getting calls from travel agencies, asking him to go to France. Where are these fools even getting his number?


"You look stunning," Dysen greets Molly for their date at the arcade. He's been rolling romantic wishes about her all day, and the chance to finally act on them fills him with a nearly overwhelming sense of anticipation.

Molly accepts the flowers he presents her with. He's always trying to buy her love, and she must admit it's effective. "You dressed up for me, too," she observes. "You didn't have to."


"Do you like it? I tried to look for a badass motorcycle jacket, but this crap is all I could find."

"It suits you," she says, not bothering to define how she sees him, or what traits she thinks the jacket matches. "How is our cat?"

"Mags is doing well. She still hides under a lot of furniture, but she's getting more friendly. And she's getting along with Moby. I sent you the pics."

"So cute," Molly gushes. "So, what should we do tonight? In this very... colorful place?"


"This is where we first properly met," Dysen reminds her.

"Next to the gumball machine," she giggles, a light and happy noise uncharacteristic of her quietly judgmental demeanor. "Yes, I remember."

"We'd seen each other in school before then, but this is where I finally said hello. This is where the chase began," he dramatizes the tale.

"I never ran, Dysen."

"Let me glorify the hunt, would you?"

"I'm a lady. Not prey," she admonishes gently. "If your thrill is for the hunt, I fear you'll eventually tire of me, in favor of more elusive quarry."

"I didn't mean it like that, Molly." He frowns, still spinning her around in their little dance. "You're my best friend."


It's an arcade date, so most of it is dedicated to childish pleasures, like games of whack-a-gnome.


They go upstairs to play foosball, and hope to sneak some bubbles from one of the bubble bars, but the proprietor is sitting up here specifically as a deterrent to kids trying stuff like that.


They try to get amusing pictures from the photo booth, but it's still broken in my game.



Molly almost wins a Scary Bears from the claw machine.


"Tough luck," Dysen tries to console her. "Those machines are rigged you know."

"They're still fun," Molly says.

"I'll buy you a Scary Bears from the retailer if you want."

"That's expensive."

"Don't worry about that! My family's in a good place. Might as well enjoy it." Of course, if Carlos retired, Dysen's available funds would dry up very fast. If Dysen wants to continue not worrying about money forever, he'll have to have a job someday, unlike Acheron.


"Sometimes I think you're too far out of my socioeconomic bracket," Molly says, touching their foreheads together and placing her hands heavily on his shoulders.

He nuzzles her cheek. "It's all circumstance, Molly. I didn't earn shit. You know that."

"I... I have something to tell you..." She stares into his violet irises. They're so captivating. She's often imagined they glow. "But I'm losing my nerve."

"You can tell me anything," Dysen says quickly, though he's not sure he likes where this is going. A quick scan of the top of her thoughts shows she's thinking about her dad, a failed DJ who accrued so much gambling debt the family almost lost their house, and her mom, who's always fighting with her dad about finances.

"I've been forging documents for money." 


Dysen stares at her, smiling blankly. "Go on..."

"It started when Lauren Foster-Savage heard about how I get out of school... and wanted the same. Through her, other people heard about me."

"What kind of other people?" Dysen asks. As the words leave his mouth, he sees flashes of memory from Molly - business fronts hiding the trafficking of drugs, stolen goods, and even people from other sectors moved around by their organization to evade the law. It's weird, it's scary, it's exciting...

"Shady kinds of people," she murmurs, before elaborating about how fake but official-looking notes of little consequence became false documentation of increasing difficulty and magnitude. Even a few art forgeries, to see if she could pull it off, each of her replicas passed off as the real thing to rich fools who believed they could squirrel away long lost cultural treasures in their private collections. One thing led to another. And just like that, Molly is part of an expansive criminal organization. It sounds too surreal to be true.

"You don't have to do this," Dysen says, his voice hushed and his smile unfaltering.

"I don't think this is something I'm allowed to just walk away from." Another memory. A pair of glowing red eyes, staring at her from the darkness.

Dysen gasps, "No, no, no. You're just a minor, you can go to the police..."

"Half of them might be in on it."

"My Mom would love to bust that case," Dysen snorts, not meaning to mock the situation.

"Are you ashamed of me?" she whispers.


"No, Molly..." He lowers his arms, releasing her from their embrace. "I'm just confused about why someone with a bright future as an artist would do this."

"It's harder to turn a profit with art than you'd think." Her gaze drops to the floor, and in that moment, he gets it. Something isn't right. She's been coerced, somehow... and he needs to get to the bottom of it.

"I don't think less of you, Molly," he says.

Maybe he should, but it's Molly. His best friend. The girl he's always wanted to be with. He's always been all in with this relationship, and if it doesn't work out it doesn't work out, but that's no excuse not to try, he tells himself. Nothing works out on its own. He has to make it work.


Dysen leans in to kiss Molly, trying to prove his sincerity. At first he intends to storm off then and there to confront Lauren, but on second thought, he remembers his training. He will confront Lauren, but he won't do it when he's this emotional. A werewolf must stay calm and in control. Instead he suggests he and Molly take a walk outside under the stars. They'll defy curfew, he adds, half-joking that it will add more criminality to her record.


Orazia, up late to read, gives Dysen a bit of a look as he brazenly walks in the front door.

"Acheron bunched up the covers so your mother thought you were already asleep," she says.

Dysen blinks, surprised. "Good to know he's got my back."

"Is that all you have to say?" Orazia demands.


"Piss off, 'Zia. I was taking a walk with Molly." Dysen plops down on the sofa next to his oldest cousin. "Something's going on with her."

Orazia's tone turns more sympathetic, "Oh."


Dysen takes a long bath, in desperate need of a tranquility moodlet.

Something is wrong. He can practically smell it, taste it in the night air drifting in through the poorly sealed window.


He feels compelled to look outside. He has the odd idea something is watching him. But there's nothing out there out of place.


The blankets on Dysen's bed were piled up convincingly. At least convincingly enough to fool Lela; Carlos would have sensed his son's absence, had he been the one to check up on him. As Dysen straightens out the sheets and blankets he glances at Acheron, who twitches and whines in his sleep. Dysen will have to remember to thank him in the morning.


Or now. "Acheron... hey... wake up..."


Acheron slams Dysen against the wall before the younger teen can even register the waking attempt succeeded. Defensive glyphs pop up around them, sparkling in the air as two fists press down on Dysen's chest.

"Who are you... where am I..." Acheron demands, in a low voice.

"Dude. It's me? Hi? What were you dreaming about?"

Acheron's glare softens. "...You're still alive..."

"You, uh, say that like I shouldn't be."


The glyphs fade as Acheron releases Dysen. He hides his face in his left hand and turns to walk out of the room, not sure where in the house he's going to sit awake, but too ashamed to be in this room. "Don't wake me up like that. It's... it's hard to wake up. Sometimes I just forget who I am."

Dysen throws his hands up in frustration. "What's going on with you?"

"Nothing."

"Talk to me!"

"I'm sorry."

"No. Don't be sorry. Tell me what's wrong. Ever since I started becoming more sensitive to the metaphysical I've sensed you're messed up. You're so upset about something, it's scaring me. Do you know how much it hurts my tough guy image to say this to you?" Dysen fakes a horrified expression. "Sometimes I just want to make sure you're not going to hurt yourself but I can't explain why. And don't tell me I'm full of shit."

"You're full of shit, Dyse."


"You know what? Fine. I'm too tired for this crap, I've got my own problems!"

Molly, Acheron remembers. The reason he had to hide Dysen's curfew violation.  It seems paradoxical, but the adults getting involved would make things even worse.





__________________________________________
Etc.: Molly, you done fucked up.

Gourmet is finally achieved, and with little time to spare!

If you'll recall, I upped the challenge of it by requiring Carlos to cook everyone perfect quality meals. Not the easiest task. Good job, Carlos... and special thanks to Milo for catching all those fish.