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MAGE20 - Paint It Black

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The morning rain had done nothing but make the 89 degree temperature feel like 98. that and bring the close in stench of the open streets to the water laden air. 59% humidity made breathing in this heat uncomfortable add to it the smell of alcohol and vomit and it was almost unbearable.

Maria Garcia pushed her work cart down the walkway toward cottage 509 it was her first bungalow of the day. Maria was 29, a former school teacher in her native Mexico, and for the last 4 years an illegal immigrant in the United States. She knew she was Illegal and even owned it, it was better here even working as a menial than it had been back home. She had used every bit of money she had saved to sneak across the border and everything else in her possession as well. Once across at Laredo she had bribed a gringo with her body to bring her to New Orleans and a new life. Armed with a fake social security number and a grasp of the English language thanks to her years as a teacher she had landed this good job at the upscale Audoban Cottages. She was happy with her lot and she was free of the violence and poverty of her former home.

No do not disturb sign was displayed so she knocked in case there were sleeping occupants, waited a few moments then slid her pass key unlocking the door. “Good morning, housekeeping.” She announced as the door swung open and she stepped into the room.

Maria stood in silence as she took in the sight. It took that long for her mind to register what she was seeing.

Then Maria screamed.

 

The Astrarium House

They had been told to gather for brunch today by their various mentors. Aja, Triessa, Cheshire, and the twins all had taken rooms at the House and choose to reside there for the most part. They had spent the morning at their usual routines and at the appointed time met in the main dining room. A brunch buffet assembled by Alphonse was laid out and her directed the young mages to help themselves while they waited fo the others.

The others Alphonse was talking about was Cade Allistair, a registered private investigator and long time resident of the city,and Kailin Vandussen a recent transplant from Wyoming who chose to live apart. Cade arrived looking a little grumpy and preoccupied he waved greetings and went to the table with the champagne.

Kaitlin it seemed was running late

She loved running along the lake shore it was the best early in the morning but it had been raining so she had waited for it to clear before setting out. Today's run had been good an as an added bonus pantheris had manifested and led her on a merry chase leading her round about the rental property and back to her cabin before fading to mist. She stopped at the edge of the woods when she saw the police motorcycle parked next to her jeep. Her eyes quickly found Pascal, the sexy little cop that she had seduced her first weekend in New Orleans. Of course she hadn't known he was a cop and he claims he had seduced her. Six one way half dozen the other. She met him on the porch a question in her eyes.

“Morning, Amazon.” He said as he came of the porch and stepped into her embrace his arms going around her waist his hands cupping her butt, squeezing her through her shorts. “What are you doing here?” Kait asked looking over to the bike by her jeep. “Are you working?”

“Yeah I just wanted to drop by,”She felt something slide into the phone pocket in her shorts, “say hi see if you want to have dinner Friday.

Kait steps back. “Sure that would be nice.” she felt the flash drive he had slipped into her shorts.

“Good then I better hit the road I'll call you later we'll thrash out the details.” his lascivious smile sent a thrill down Kaits spine as her own personal cop fired up the bike and took off. She watched him until the bike made the corner at the end of the long shell drive. Then she took out the drive and looked at it. She was already late, the drive will have to wait until I get to this brunch thing, she thought as she went inside to shower and change, I'm sure Aja will let me use his laptop.

 

Kaitlin had finally arrived of course everyone else had pretty much finished eating and were just passing the time waiting for what ever the Arch Deacon had summoned them for. As Kaitlin sat down with a full plate of food and was just about to call Aja over, the Arch Deacon came into the dining room accompanied by a good looking young man.

“Ladies, Gentlemen,” Moore began, “I have called you here to day to make a few thing formal. Most of you have been here for a couple of months. As you know this House was badly damaged during The Storm, we lost 2 thirds of our members and it has been slow for our rebuilding. We have brought many alumni, myself included back to fill out our number. But it was time for new blood.” He offers a seat to the new comer. Then continues around the table as he speaks. “Each of you were carefully chosen by your personal mentors to be offered a place among us, brought here at their behest so we as a whole could observe and make sure you were right for us and for each other.” He stops at the head of the table. “Allow me to introduce Xavier Cross, your final piece. Cross is... just as talented as each of you in his chosen specialization and he brings experience which many of y u lack. I am hoping that he is a good addition to your group. The Assembly has decided to allow the seven...now eight of you to form the fifth and final Cabal of the Astrarium House. There are a few details which you must first see two of course not the least of which is choosing a name and electing a Deacon to sit on the assembly. But that can wait. Today I have a job for you, your first as a cabal.

He produces a folder holds it up then hands it to Genevieve who is sitting nearest. “This lists all the local nodes which were once dedicated to the House. The Storm broke those dedications and severed our ley lines to them. This has left The House weakened in regards to sheer power. I want you to resurvey and dedicate as many of them as you can. I assume Xavier that you remember how to perform those rituals. Good.” He didn't wait for an answer. "Then you all have your work cut out for you. I will expect regular progress reports and make sure you discuss the establishment of your Cabal and make what decisions are necessary. Any questions?”

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Xavier Cross didn't really cut an impressive figure.  He seemed fit, but not overly so, and his manner of dress consisted of designer labels that he didn't bother to wear with any measure of pride.  He could have achieved the same look, at nearly a tent of the price.  A nice button up shirt looked like he'd just pulled it from the hamper, same with his slacks.  He wore a trilby, hadn't shaved in days, his hair underneath his head gear was unkempt.  Yet, he made it look good.  Like that guy a mother would kill her daughter for dating, so she'd do it anyway.  He had the slight scent of sweet cigar tobacco about him.

If anyone started a contest of those that looked like they didn't want to be here, Cross was currently holding the title.  He stood beside the Deacon and casually made carefully times sarcastic expressions everyone in awhile.  A roll of the eyes, a mock smile that said 'piss off' more than 'so happy to meet all of you!', all in all it wasn't until he was asked if he remembered the rituals and wasn't offered an opportunity to respond that his first overt expression of sarcasm became evident.  He silently mouthed 'fuck you very much' and as the Deacon asked if there were any questions he was already walking towards Genevieve.  With two fingers he waggled the universal 'lemme see that' gesture.  "If you wouldn't mind luv, I'd like to be done with this."

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It happened to be the one morning he'd been able to sleep late on.  The summons to come here was not overly welcome, but coming from Kandal, as it had, he couldn't simply ignore it.   Thus Cade had taken his seat among the others, listening to Moore's speech.  What they were tasked with doing wasn't overly hard, with the right knowledge beforehand, which their fellow with cultivated shabbiness seemed to have on lockdown.  I'd like to look as well, in only to see which ones i'm sure the others have already moved in on.  God knows they scent unclaimed power and move right in to make it their own."

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Cheshire had woken in her normal routine; well early enough to finish her morning practice. Her body warmed with the stretches and flowing kata. The routine gave her confidence, grounding, something she'd lacked in the first few months after her 'birth'. Then there was the tending to the tree. She'd named it Kalpa Taru, after the sacred tree of India; it was a pomegranate tree, one that she hoped would same day bear tass fruit. Tending to it was as much ritual as magic as mundane gardening: the area around the tree was kept swept clear, always in a clockwise movement. The water for the tree was infused with with a liquid nutrient, then left outside the night before to absorb the rays of the moon - except on the night of the new moon. On that night she placed moonstones that had been left out in moonlight for the past month at the base of the tree into the bowl and left the bowl at the foot of the tree, facing north. Again, the water was spread over the roots of the tree, again in a clockwise direction. Cheshire would then kneel before the tree, having strengethened the connections between the tree and the spiritual nexus of plenty and magic. Finally, she would touch the tree, hands flat against the bark, and would place herself in sync with Kalpa Taru. They would create a moment of reciprical connection - Cheshire, the World, the Umbra, and Kalpa Taru. Only a moment, though; much more than that and there was a chance of entangling the four in a knot that would be most unpleasant, especially for Cheshire and Kalpa Taru. 

Once finished with her communion, it was time for a shower and then down to the dining room for the brunch. As the others filed in, Cheshire suspected some of what was to come. Cabals were a common form of social grouping for mages and it would make them far more useful to the House than disparate students. The task they were set seemed a good bonding exercise as well, though a little boring. "Which others?" she asked Cade curiously. "Would the Cathedral have tried to claim them since the Storm?"

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< Okay, we need to find our own place because this 'before noon' shit is startin' tomwork my last good nerve. > Geneviev though to her brother in a mixture of words and impressions as she rolled out of bed.

< I had almost forgotten 'bout the damned heat and humidity here too. > she added as she sat on the side of her bed, brushing her hair before rummaging through her pack for a tanktop and shorts.

"Time to put in our time at the salt mines. I hope this is all worth it." she said aloud and pushed past her brother at the bathroom mirror to brush her teeth.

 

Several minutes later the twins were each collecting some food on their plates and then found their way to the table. Geneviev sat with her head resting on her brother's shoulder as she pushed bits of fruit around her plate, occasionally forking a piece and gobbling it down.  

The twins were certainly very likeable and friendly, each with this innocence that often made many want to go easy on them (on the rare occasion a con went bad) and even care for them. As it was now though, even though Genevieve was not thrilled with the early hour, one could certainly not tell behind her friendly demeanor and engaging smile.

When the Arch Deacon arrived she turned in her seat, leaning back against her brother still as she listened. When the file was handed to her she glanced over it for a moment, still listening to Moore as she closed it.

Genevieve raised her hand and asked Moore, "Do,any of the, have a special priority, or just do what we can in whatever order?" as she glanced at the approaching Xavier and handed the file over her shoulder to her brother. 

< Prime shit. Knock yourself out. > she thought to her brother as he took the file offered by his sister.

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Moore without being obvious, observed them all especially Xavier. He was taking a chance, they had a lot invested in these young mages. Putting Xavier with them was a lot like putting a hyena in with a pack of Labrador puppies. He would either nurture them or he would try to devour them. At this point, thought Moore, it could go either way.

Two good questions he thought and chose to answer Cheshire's question promptly while watching the play between the twins and Xavier and Cade. "No Cheshire, We haven't always seen eye to eye with the cathedral but we respect each other and they fared much better during the Storm than we. We aren't concerned really with anyone else taking the node although there is some possibility of an isolated cabal stumbling on one and trying to claim it or some other nightfolk perhaps. No we have been so busy with other aspects of rebuilding that we have let this slide by and with your cabal coming into action the draw on our existing power is greater, it's time to reestablish what we once had."

Cheshire nodded and glanced up at the Arch Deacon. "What if we find that a node has been claimed by someone else? Mages or...nightfolk?"

Moore smiled. "Use your best judgment."  his gaze encompasses all of them. "You are mages, you were selected because of your talents and your previous actions before coming here. Yes, you are students, but then we are all students, no matter the age or the level of enlightenment we have gained. You are a cabal of this House, unless your actions bring dishonor to this house we will respect your decisions and back you. As for Priorities, these three are the priorities, the rest can wait. I know your wondering that it's been ten years why the rush all the sudden. You ladies and gentlemen are the reason. Just having you here as members increases the amount of mystical quintessence the House requires to keep itself safe and operational. More members means we have to reclaim what we lost to bring things back to parity. Anything else?"

 

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Triessa shrugged and pushed the box of bagels she'd brought in towards the middle of the table. The rich, bready smell wafted temptingly up. There were still a few left after the rush before the meeting.

"Seems like we pretty much have to get out there and see what's going on before we'll know what to ask."

She nodded at Xavier with a grin.

"Nice to know we have a pro along."

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"That answered the question I was 'bout to ask, sir," Kaitlin said, shaking her head, brown hair highlighted with blond and red brushing the top of her strong shoulders. "What with vamps and werewolves and what all down here. If we have to... er, aggressively evict any Nightfolk trying to claim the Nodes, will we be at odds with the dictates of Council of Krewes?"

While giving Moore a moment to enlighten her - Kaitlin had just reached voting age a few weeks ago and had never really had much interest in politics - the tall, improbably athletic young woman continued munching her way through her plate mounded high with various protein. The tiny bit of fruit occupying an edge of her plate - mostly berries and cut melon - a token effort at making her breakfast look balanced, but being a large, well muscled woman with a highly tuned metabolism, she needed the fuel. And besides, coming from a tiny, rural town in Wyoming - though oddly enough, Dubois had a surprising number of writers, artists, musicians, and the like living there - she liked her meat.

She was still adjusting to living in a big city like the Big Easy, and all the changes it entailed. And while Astrarium House was all fancy like and impressive - she loved the pool - Kaitlin still needed a bit of familiarity to feel comfortable. Which was why she insisted on renting a small, log cabin on the outskirts of the city, despite her very modest income.

Genevieve might not have been a morning person, but Kaitlin was. Up before dawn pretty much every day, with a morning routine that at minimum included an hour long run - and being an elite traceuse, her runs included climbing, jumping, vaults and flips and other high impact activities - and then driving out to Astrarium House, Kaitlin still managed to radiate a barely constrained energy and vigor at any hour, even when relaxing. It was a little bit disgusting to Genevieve's mind, though she couldn't deny the results of the Amazon's workouts, even if she did cheat.

"Pleased to meet'cha, Mr. Cross," Kaitlin added after Triessa, echoing her nod of greeting with one of her own. He didn't really look that much older than she did, but his jaded presence reminded her more of an annoyed and sarcastic, curmudgeony senior, and he looked irritated with the polite term of address. If she wasn't as charming as the DuFresnes, Kaitlin was still friendly, if both perky and intense, and her odd, amber eyes were bright. "I'm Kaitlin Vandussen."

Finishing her meal of bacon, sausage, ham, bacon, eggs, and bacon, Kaitlin slid her plate aside and leaned over Aja.

"Hey, dude, can I borrow your laptop for sec?" she asked, pulling a flashdrive out of the pocket of her shorts, the muscles of her powerful thighs rippling with the slight motion. "Friend of mind said I should take a look at this, but I didn't have time before having to head over here. He keeps an eye out for 'strange' stuff that might be of interest to those in our world, not that he knows that."

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Spoiler

The folder contains the addresses of three locations. The Lalaurie House - once the scene of  hideous crime it is today a tourist attraction, The Cafe Lafitte in Exile - a famous gay bar haunted by many ghosts it was a wild party scene during carnival thru the 1980s before the crowd grew too big. and last the Cemetary at Canal Street at City park avenue

other than the addresses there is no other information. those familiare with the area will know that all of these places are supposedly haunted...but then pretty much the whole city i so...

 

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A sense of amused agreement filtered through the link. He personally had no problems with getting up, but did prefer to leave it longer if possible. She'd feel better once she had her shower and gotten something to eat. It had been a long time since they had last been in the area, and they were still getting used to feeling like they were walking around under a damp blanket. He grimaces in disgust.

<There's something to be said for being right on top of them for when they call, at least. We don't have to walk far.> Finishing with his brushing and having showered already, he smiles at the snark, breaking what remains of the silence that usualy blankets their quarters.

"It will be. One way or another, we'll make it worth our time. We always do."

 

There was something to be said for the Astrarium house. At least the meals they provide were decent. And neither of the Twins were ones to turn down free food from a trustworthy source. Less they have to spend, the better. He was listening to one of Triessa's anecdotes as the Archdeacon came in, using her brief distraction to swipe a bagel. Content, he sits back and relaxes, sister a warm presence by his side.

Unabashed interest trickles into the link on the comment that they were to be working with nodes, though he had to resist bristling at Xaviers tone. Neither of the Twins reacted well to demands, particularly those that dismissed their own abilities. Cracking open the file and seeing what little information was provided caused the interest to wane somewhat, though he did make note of the locations. Snapping the folder closed, he slid it across the table to Xavier.

"Nothing other than locations. Oh, and I'm Jeacques, and this is Genevieve" he offers, offering her a slight nudge as a gesture. He didn't look like much, but you never know. He may be useful. Even if his appearence made that seem improbable.

"Been a while since we've been in the area. The House and Bar, how likely are we to run in with Average Joes while we're in the area?"

<Taking bets for how little I'll like this answer?>

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Moore nods at Jeacques question. "Sleepers will be present at both locations most likely. The house is actually an apartment with residences and then you have the haunted tours driving by. Access to the node used to be in the upstairs room where the tortures are presumed to have occurred. Whether it's still there you will have to determine with your survey." He noticed that several looked surprised at his mention of torture. "The House has a very dark history look it up if you want to know. As for the bar. Its a french quarter bar it's only closed from 7:30 am till 10:30 am 7 days a week 365 days a year. The good news there is that the entire property was the node so connecting a ley line should be relatively easy."

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"Cross, or Xavier, luv, no mister needed."  His accent seemed Australian with the definite change of a man who'd been assimilated into New Orleans culture for quite sometime.  It was a sort of romantic blend.  He politely shook Kaitlin's hand.  "Bloody 'ell girl, what're they feedin' ya?"

In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought, so he offered his hand to Treissa.  "Pro is not really the term they use.  Disturber of the Peace would be more like.  This is my, community service, one could say."

He motioned at the siblings, waggling a finger back and forth.  "Related I'm assumin'?  Pleasure 'n all that."  He scanned the folder and while he was reading Moore mentioned the bar.  Cross's eyes lit up and he smiled wryly.  It wasn't his first choice, but it'd do.  "Bonzer, I know the place.  Why don't we all head to the Cafe first, eh?  Grab a schooner, a few sangers, get to know one another, then we'll be on with all the finger wiggling?"

"An it's 'Sleepers', mate."  He poorly hid his mouth (and volume) from Moore by holding up his hand to block the view.  "Grumps here are very particular about labels.  Gets all their panties in a bunch..."

Spoiler

Xavier has Animal Magnetism, so I'm hamming up some of his narratives to reflect that.  He's not schmoozing anyone, it's more to get the point across in a cabal of women.  It's the accent.  Chicks dig the accent.

 

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"Kaitlin, just because I spend so much time around the laptop doesn't mean I take it to meals - unless I'm eating by myself." Aja explained to her in between plates of food. He pocketed the flashdrive. "I'll take a look at the contents later and get back to you." Because for one, it was a Trinary-based model, not particularly advanced the way many more made by the Adepts were, but sufficient enough to handle a number of supplementary programs Aja used from time to time.

And it had a lot of important files, games and other items on there.

And he couldn't help the fear that Kaitlin would break it by accident. Physically. Aja already had enough dealing with the complete change of location and life involved straight from Lexington to Burlington to New Orleans on the other side of the United States.

He supposed Cross' suggestion made sense, though his slang seemed to be going over Aja's head and into the ocean. Aja decided he would bring his laptop and handle Kaitlin's nugget of information there as well.

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Cade being raised in New Orleans, was quite familiar with it,and knew the three locations well enough.  "The Cemetery is on the Haunted tours trail, soe there's going to be sleepers there as well, even if there's not such a big collection of mausoleums  as those around it.   Pretty much anywhere in midtown's going to be difficult to avoid people."

 

 

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Moore chuckles again. "Well to be fair except for the bar those nodes were all dedicated in the 1800's we could get away with a lot more back then." He noticed the looks of shock. 'By we  i mean the House, not me personally, I didn't come here until the sixties." he picks up one of the last bagels."All right then i shall leave you all to it. Check with Deacon Zay before you go, she will get you the materials for the dedication rituals and a piece of the cornerstone. Remember keep me informed I don't expect you all to get it done in a day but lets not procrastinate." With that the Arch deacon leaves the dining room and the cabal to the own devices.

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Kaitlin grinned easily and gave a small chuckle at Xavier's observation. She'd grown taller and bigger than she had ever intended, but had grown to enjoy it. And the Aussie accent was delightful. "Xavier, then. Heh." She rolled her shoulders, the taut, powerful strength of her arms obvious. "They feed me Quintessence and whatever I want... And I work out a little," she added in wry understatement then nodded. "Cafe first works for me. We can check out the Cemetery and House Lalaurie after tour hours - should be less folks about, right?"

From rural Wyoming, she didn't know what drinks Xavier was referring to - or really follow his slang, though it was charming all the same - being familiar mostly with beer and whiskey, which even being underage wasn't hard to get there. They were a little more picky about legal drinking age in the big city, most places, so she might have to work the mojo and make herself look a bit older.

Kaitlin stifled a giggle at Xavier's comment about Moore as she turned to Aja. Her amber eyes narrowed slightly as she held onto the flashdrive long enough and firmly enough to let him know he was getting it because she was letting him, then nodded. "Thanks, Aja. When you can, but I'll need the drive back after - it ain't mine."

Had Kaitlin known Aja was trying to keep her away from his prized possession because he thought she'd risk breaking it while using it, she'd be irritated. As insanely strong and athletic as she was. Kaitlin had masterful physical control over her body. Any damage to the fancy laptop would have to be purposeful instead of accidental.

Kaitlin stood up, shorts and tank-top straining against her curvy and muscular figure and nodded towards the door, eager and energetic to be off. "Guess we should get goin' then. Grab our gear and the ritual stuff and head out? The sooner we get started, the sooner we get done, and I have a date Friday."

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Triessa beamed at 'Cross' as she shook his hand, and again when he suggested meeting up for drinks before getting to business. Truth be told, the whole thing had been starting to sound like a lot of work...and for what? Ritually enslaving bright spots of energy so that mages could squeeze them for quintessence? Why not just GO to the nodes if you wanted a little power? Get out of the tower and into the sunlight! Sheesh!

It was a nice excuse to get out and see the city though.

"Well, you're pro-er than the rest of us," she assured him. "And disturbing the peace can be a good thing! Sometimes peace is just a nice cover word for complacency, right?"

With a nod at Kaitlin, and a chuckle at Xavier's reaction to her, Triessa said, "I don't really have 'gear' exactly? What should I bring?"

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With the Arch Deacon's exit the brunch was officially over. The newly minted, though still informally recognized, cabal set about gather the necessities for their fist official assignment.

As mundane as it sounded it was a task of grave importance, The House had protective spells and other magick that required a great deal of mystical energy, and even though it was built upon a node of some power it still required more especially with the addition of so many new mages.

Deacon Zay was a dark skinned woman of mixed ancestry. None of the new cabal had had much contact with her as she was not an instructor of any of their spheres but she was the elected leader of what was formerly the largest cabal in the house with 6 members. She followed the ways of the Taftani as did two other members of her cabal. All they had seen of her before now had been her either playing a haunting acoustic guitar in the central garden or dancing while the other two played a guitar and drum.

ZAY  ZAY.jpg

They found her waiting for them outside the dining room, She waited for Cross then held out a velvet bag with something square in it about the size of a baseball. . “Initiate Cross, this is a piece of the cornerstone for use in the ley line rituals. Guard it with your lives. I was told you were familiar with these rituals but might have questions.” The last part encompassed the whole group.

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Cross chuckled.  "Initiate.  Cute, luv."  He listened and accepted the bag, looking inside to make sure everything was as it should be.  It wasn't that he didn't trust her, but he lived more under the code of 'trust, but verify'.  "Actually, Zay, sweetie, I do."

It seemed for a moment like he had a serious question, then he spoke.  "Are you single?  And if not, be honest, is it working?  Because I won't tell if you don't.  I was thinking dancing, drinks, a night out just the two of us, eh?"

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Cade said nothing at Cross's antics, initially, settling for merely massaging his temples and pushing his glasses up on his nose.  "Xavier, I doubt that those are questions she had in mind, or even cares to answer."  He had a reputation for getting to the point, a bluntness that served his needs most of the time, and he could tell he and Cross would end up butting heads, especially on matters of protocol.   "Let's try to at least get on the task at hand before we veer off on some self-indulgent tangent."

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With a suave smile, Cross looked to Cade.  "Getting on the task at hand is exactly what I'm trying to do.  Keep up, mate."

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Kaitlin rolled her eyes, but she couldn't keep the amused exasperation out of her voice. "Okay, we get it Hugh Jackman, but how 'bout we get our homework done before we go out to play?" She addressed both Xavier and Deacon Zay, asking her next question to both. "We got the bit of cornerstone, but are there any other trappings or bits we need for the rededication ritual? And how long does the ritual take? For working-'round-the-sleepers purposes."

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An amused smile curves Zay's lips making her look extremly attractive even to those who aren't normaly attracted to those of the same sex. She reaches out and brushes Cross's arm sensuously, "Later." She mouths at him silently then steps away from him.

"The cornerstone is the key. Survey the node find its center, the cornerstone which was removed after the consecration is directly connected to this House. The ritual will establish  a Ley Line between the node and the actual cornerstone here using this piece as the surrogate. Unfortunately the original dedication ritual was done according to Craftmason tradition. As you are aware the craftmasons were purged by the Order of Reason in the late 17th century. However that ritual survived when the House was moved from Spain to Paris and again when it relocated from Paris to here. In each case the original House Cornerstone was moved." A she is speaking she hands a backpack like ones used by students to haul books to Kaitlin. "The Craftmason Ritual is a lengthy one taking a long time usually at least 24 hours. But thankfully it is not the only way just the easiest. Any dedication ritual should work, it just may be harder to establish the line." She smiles at Kait, holding onto the bag a little bit longer than necessary and making deep eye contact with her.

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As the contact between their fingers on the backpack and their mutual gaze lingered just a moment too long, Kaitlin blushed faintly and pulled her eyes away. It wasn't that she had anything against gay people or whatever, per se - people could fuck whoever they wanted, as long as it was mutual. it was just she didn't have much or any familiarity with them. She was from a tiny rural town, and even from one with a plethora of artists and musicians, few, if any, actually flaunted their preferences. Though there was that one female friend in high school who... It just wasn't really talked about.

"Um, right... Yes, thank-you Deacon Zay," Kaitlin said a bit awkwardly, shrugging a shoulder as she slipped the strap of the book-bag over it and looked around at the others. "We got what we need for the dedication ritual, guess, uh, we should head out then."

 

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Zay couldn't help but be amused, oh to be so young. "Yes you have everything you need. If you have any trouble call."

The cabal moves outside and after a brief discussion they split up and pile into Cade's and Kaitlin's jeeps. The drive takes about forty five minutes and they arrive and find parking at a little after 1:30pm. Even though it was mid week and the lunch hour was winding down the Bar was still fairly busy. Even before entering those who were skilled with the sphere of prime could feel the ebb and flow of mystical energies swirling about the Famous site.

3895f3_572b862b5958443ca5cc27dcb3cf4ce0.jpg

Café Lafitte in Exile is the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States. 

Spoiler

Those with Spirit and Prime can tel that the whole of the building seems to be the focus of the quintessence. WHile the sense of passion and joy that this place gives off is strong there is an undercurrant of sorrow and fear as well. There a lot of ghosts, but most of them either done't see you all or choose to ignore you.

 

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Triessa clapped her hands and laughed at the sight of the busy bar.

"Who says a job has to be dull and boring? This looks great! We can hang out, have a few drinks, get to know each other until the place quiets down, then do our business and head on out! Who's buying?!"

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Cheshire watched the new group interact, trying to follow all the social nuances to understand her new companions. She smiled when it seemed she should and bobbed her head in thanks to Deacon Zay. So far, she had little to add to the conversation - this was all new to her, but she welcomed the excuse to see more of New Orleans while assiting the House as well. Their first location was a strange mix of jovility and sorrow. It reminded Cheshire of the paired theatre masks, one laughing and one crying and both the same mask.  

As they approached the building, she asked, "Xavier, what would you like me to do as part of the dedication? Should we find a table here and discuss our capabilities first? Or where you informed before being assigned us?" She tilted her head, regarding Triessa curiously, and offered, "I do have an allowance I do not much use. I will buy, if others are hungry or thirsty."

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Triessa whooped and darted over to take Cheshire's arm in her own.

"Yes! You are AWESOME! I mean, not just because of this, but this is definitely solid evidence of your awesomeness!"

Still beaming, she scanned the room for a table with enough seats for the lot of them...which wasn't easy, but she was no stranger to places like this. The key wasn't to look for empty tables...it was to look for tables that were -about- to be empty.

"How about...over there?" she suggested, already tugging Cheshire along and waving the others to follow. A group was in the process of disintegrating from a nice window table. There were still dishes and empty glasses on it, but that didn't seem to bother Triessa.

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"The problem with chantries, darlin'," Cross said to Cheshire as they pressed through the throngs of people.  It was amazing how busy New Orleans was, and yet they called New York 'The City the Never Sleeps'.  "It's like the government: no one has a clue what's going on, but everyone expects you to do the job."

Cross shared several handshakes as they passed across the floor and heading toward where Triessa and Cheshire were going.  He lifted his hand up as everyone took a seat, twirling his finger he made eye contact with a server.  "Sheri, luv, when you get a sec."  Sheri nodded and smiled.

"You know her?"  Kaitlin asked, curious.

"Oh, yeah," He replied like it was nothing, a thick drawl lent his accent a little extra Aussie flavor.  "Sheri's a doll, her girlfriend's a bit angry for my tastes, but still they're great gals.  We knock a few back form time to time, this place has some great bands."

"No offense, but you don't seem..."  Kaitlin was treading lightly.  She was a sweet girl, a bit naive, but still her heart was in the right place.  "Like the type to hang out in a gay bar."

"It's just a bar luv.  Magick one-o-one: see the world as it is, not as others want you to see it."  He shot her a wink, as if to say 'food for thought'.  "Now, down to business.  Y'vall heard me waggin' my jaw for half the morn, let's get this meet n' greet going.  We 'ave some time before the time is right, trust me."

He pulls a big bill from his pocket, more to  the point, a roll of big bills.  "And, Cheshie, luv, because I'm a sucker for Lewis Carrol, the first rounds on me."

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Cade barely hid his displeasure.  They weren't here to drink, but the smooth-talking "Pro" they had been blessed with was just fine taking the Crowley approach to getting things done.  "It's abit early in the day to start drinking isn't it?  Shouldn't we at least see one part of the task at hand complete before we do any celebrating?"

He looked at Cross.  "Or perhaps this is all part of your unique method of seeing our task accomplished?"

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Aja ignored Cross' hedonistic fixations and sat down with his laptop and the flash drive. "Besides, I don't drink alcohol. Just order water for me." Aja derisively added before slotting in the flash drive and focusing a mental impulse to keep people from looking at the contents on the screen. It took him only a minute or two to parse through the material in question. His face went pale and shocked, then concentrated with a bit more analytical focus.

Then all of a sudden, he ejected the flash drive, closed up the lid and put the computer away in the backpack (black with yellow reflector striping on the sides) he'd designated for transporting electronics. "Kaitlin's friend brought something we really need to look into after the Nodes are fixed." Aja announced, returning the tiny electronic stick to her. His face said clearly he didn't plan on elaborating right now.

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"Suit yourself, mate," Cross shrugged.  "But I'm just payin', you gotta do the orderin' yerself.  Y'look grown to me, or would y'like me to cut the crust off y'sanger when she brings it round?"  He shot Aja a wink and a smile, letting the guy know he was just joshing him.  On the plus side, apparently 'sanger' meant sandwich.

He looked to Cade and tilted his head to signify for Cade to look around.  "See that?  That's the lunch rush dying down.  Afterward the place'll go through a shift change.  It's not the people we need to avoid, it's the staff.  In the chaos of the shift change, a couple of us can slip through to the 'Employees Only' parts o' th'place and do what needs doin'.  In fifty three minutes we'll have enough confusion between patrons, coming-staff  and going-staff that we'll have about fourteen minutes t'get it done."

"In the mean time,"  He clicked the corner of his mouth.  "Ave' a drink."

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Kaitlin reclaimed the flashdrive and slipped it into her tights shorts while giving Aja a hard look, clearly not pleased he wasn't revealing what was on the drive yet, but didn't want to make an issue of it while they still had stuff to do here. So she took the apparently more experienced Xavier's lead and relaxed, trying to translater Australian into English as he spun out more anecdotes.

Instead of a 'sanger', Kaitlin ordered a bowl of jambalaya - she was more of a Meat and Potatoes type of girl usually, but New Orleans had great food - and a screwdriver, since she was pretty sure it was cheaper than an actual glass of orange juice. Only the way to Cafe Lafittes, with some subtle stretching and magic, Kaitlin had made her look a bit older, just enough that it wasn't worth challenging the tall and strapping woman on her age.

There was a comforting history to the bar, one that spoke to her, growing up in a former frontier town. A good chunk of Dubois was older than this place and their was still a ranch on the outskirts of town that once belonged to Butch Cassidy. Layers of smoke had sunk into the wood of the bar, though indoor smoking had been banned a year or two ago she estimated. Kaitlin had a... complication with interacting with the Spirit realms and its denizens, besides her Avatar, but even she could feel their ephemeral presence in this place with hardly any effort.

It was a bit weird not being checked out at the bar. The vast majority of the staff were men - go figure, in a gay bar - but while they still looked her way often enough - she was unusually tall and buff - they didn't seem 'interested' in her. Maybe trying to figure out which lesbian friend to set me up with? She found odd but not unpleasant. Maybe I should go to gay bars more often, when I don't guys pawing at me...

Kaitlin nodded as Xavier laid out his plan. "The Deacon said the whole place was, uh... active," she commented, carefully watching her words, but apparently, not too careful as she added, "If nothing else, we can just climb up on the roof and do it there."

She breathed, deep, slow, measured breaths, feeling the energy, the chi, the quintessence, or whatever you wanted to call it, coiling, flowing inside her. Once she could feel it, taste it, clearly, she expanded her senses outward, seeking the energy of the place itself, the Node, feeling for any placed it pooled, if there was any place that would make the dedication ritual stronger or more efficient.

Spoiler

Using simple Prime 1 effect to seek the flows of Quintessence and of the Node itself.

 

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Kaitlin and the others relaxed and tried not to draw attention to themselves. Kait could feel a pool a centering of the power in this place it was up above them and seemed to surround the whole of the bar, a narrow line of power more outside than inside. It confused her.

After about thirty minutes of sitting at the table, most had finished their second round except for Cross who had already had 4 drinks, The bar was not emptying. As patrons left they were replaced and even the crew shift change didn't bring any lessening of the crowd.

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"The shift change does not seem to be a lull. I think perhaps we need a new plan. Do they have dancing at night? If it is loud and dark, I think we could do what we need without interference. Also, I could ask the dead here if there is a quiet time." She motioned around the crowded room to the dozen or so ghosts she could see drifting about. 

"Or perhaps we should come back when the bar is closed and perform our task then?" She opened herself to the flow of quintessence as well, trying to pinpoint the exact location of the node, or at least the easiest place to still be able to access the font of power and perform their ritual.

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"Place doesn't close, it looks like," Kaitlin replied. "I saw the sign when we came in and it said place is open 24/7. Though I'm guessin' there are slower times." The tall, incredibly fit woman noticed the way Cheshire cocked her head, covertly looking around and surmising what she was doing and Kaitlin nodded, pointing a thumb upwards. "Guys, I think we should take a look at the upstairs bar, maybe take a stroll 'round the balcony? I think it'll do us good with why we're here. There's something... off."

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A query to one of the waiters (there are no female employees seen) reveals that the bar only closes one part at a time for cleaning and service. The Balcony (the name of the upstairs bar) closes from 7:00 am til 8:30am, and the main bar from 9:00am until 11:00am. When the lower bar is closed the upper bar is accessed by a second outside entrance only. After learning of this the cabal decides to make their survey immediately. They split up and begin moving through the crowd seeking the center of the node.

Kaitlin and Cheshire both having sensed the swirl of power upstairs join and head that way. As the move up the stairs Cheshire becomes aware of a spirit, a ghost, watching her intently.

116170_full.jpg

"Well what a darling little piece you are. Don't see that shadow of death too much anymore round here." The ghost tilts it's head "But that ain't your death is it honey?"

Meanwhile

Kaitlin hadn't noticed that Cheshire had stopped and had continued upstairs. The pull of the quintessence grew stronger It wasn't as crowded up stairs six or seven patrons and a couple of staff. She made her way onto the balcony and something caught her eye. On the floor in the small crack between the boards was a tiny purple bead. Kaitlin had heard of these of course but had never seen one. She bent and pick it up and immediately realized it was much more than a bead.

It was Tass.

Spoiler

The ghost of truman capote has started a conversation with Cheshire. Kaitlin has found the "center" of the node it is actually the outside balcony which runs all the way around the building. the bead is 1 point of tass and is indistinguishable to any other Mardi Gras bead and look like the have come from a broken string. They come in purple, yellow, and gold. the rest of the cabal is looking around the bar. only Kaitlin is upstairs. There are two ways up either the inside stair where Cheshire is standing or the outside stair.

 

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After a few minutes of fruitlessly poking around the bar downstairs, Triessa was torn between just dusting her hands off and mingling with the crowd, or heading upstairs. It wasn't exactly that she didn't think it was important, but there were a lot of mages here...and she hadn't any idea of what to do. And maybe she could keep people distracted and occupied?

With a sigh, she realized she was crossing the line between asking legitimate questions, and just looking for excuses. With some reluctance, Triessa pulled away from a knot of laughing, talking bargoers and headed for the nearest stairway up that she could see.

(OOC - I suspect that'd be an inside stair, since she's in the thick of things there.)

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Cheshire blinked at the ghost, then smiled politely. "Shadow of death? How do you mean? And no, I don't believe I'm to die soon. It will be a strange thing when it happens, I think. If it happens."

Some of the patrons passing by her glanced in the direction of her noncoporeal conversationalist, then gave her concerned looks and wide berth. The mage ignored them, sure they would find enough distractions in bar to forget her soon enough. 

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The ghost chuckles "No honey I suppose not, Like I said it's not your Death you wear like a regal cloak, but it is Death. After all I should know, I'm dead, I have seen it from both sides and I can tell that you have too."

Triessa had tried to mingle but the abundance of spirits (she couldn't bring herself to call them ghosts even though she knew that that's what they were) began to make her uneasy there was so much joy in them but then the fact that so many were here and not some place else more meaningful filled her with sadness. She made her way upstairs passing Cheshire on the stairwell talking to a ghost, she started to stop but a chill sent her on. The ghost had looked familiar.

Once in the second floor bar she saw it was less crowded it only took a moment to spot Kaitlin on the balcony, but then her heart pounded in alarm. Kaitlin was looking at a small thing in her hand and right behind her was a spirit not a ghost but a true spirit, one from beyond the gauntlet.

50385.jpg The spirit of the Node

It hovered over Kaitlin who seemed completely unaware of it!

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