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  1. Today
  2. Oh. So, this was a thing that was happening now. Because the fact that she- Autumn Keane- was dating Jason Bannon was A Thing. And, now, it wasn't just a between-them Thing, but an out-in-the-open Thing. A Thing that, she was suddenly reminded, had apparently made Marissa angry, which... kind of made no sense, unless she was upset she didn't hear it from her. That seemed like a girl best friend reaction, right? Maybe? Autumn sighed, resigned to spending the rest of the day as a hot blushing mess. Glancing back in the direction of the kitchen and the delicious smells of breakfast pouring from the doorway, she weighed her options. Cassie was a friend now, even if they hadn't exactly put a label on it yet, and although she'd always considered Jason a fairly private sort of person, he didn't seem to mind being open about their status update. Obviously. Her lips were still tingling, slightly warmer than the rest of her face, as the red-cheeked redhead pressed them together. ...Which was not helpful, because it only made her think about how different it felt when he was the one doing that, and- Whew. "As a boyfriend?" she repeated, pointedly focusing on the spirited reporter's actual questions and edging away from the doorway just in case either Devin or her mother happened to be paying attention. "I mean..." Autumn reflected for a moment on the events of the last few days, holding the warm mug in both hands as she took a long sip of her coffee. "It hasn't even been that long, just since Friday, so I don't really know. Like, no flowers and stuff, obviously, which is fine. The ones in his barn are way nicer, anyway.” She smiled at that, the sunlight catching the faint green flecks in her eyes as she turned to watch the dogs and squirrels through the sliding glass doors. “And no, we haven’t. Stuff just kind of happened when we went camping, like he said, and…” Exhaling, she took another drink, resolutely keeping her gaze fixed on the landscape and not on Cassie’s smirk. “And neither of us expected it to, so we weren’t… you know. Prepared.” The tone of her voice was suggestive, framing the word in audible quotation marks. “Or we probably would have. I don’t even know how to describe it, honestly, just like…” The sensation of sparks turning her blood molten, of flickering flames in his fingertips, remained vivid even in her memory; despite her embarrassment, the Titian-haired Girl Scout grinned. “Like fwoosh,” she elaborated, gesturing expansively with one hand as she turned back to Cassandra. “Fwoosh?” the intrepid journalist asked, her grin equal parts skepticism and amusement. “Yeah,” Autumn nodded, still smiling even as the pink in her cheeks deepened again. “Like the sound of something suddenly catching fire, you know? Physics. Chemistry. Honestly, I kind of feel a little bit like a crazy person around him in a very, um, sciencey way, and a totally different kind of crazy person when I think about how crazy it is. I mean, he’s Jason Effing Bannon, right? And that’s a whole thing on its own, but…” She glanced again in the direction of the doorway, the music, and the mouthwatering scent of bacon and lowered her voice. “But when we left Bunnee’s last night, I went to his house. I know, I know. I just showed up, and asked for a shower and a hug, and Cass, he just said ‘okay’ and freaking gave them to me. Like, sat there for over an hour and just hugged me while my clothes were in the laundry and talked to me until I calmed down, and then he brought me home and dropped me off at the end of the driveway so I could ride back up, and I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m totally out of my depth with him, and it’s probably either the best idea ever or the worst, but I need to know.” Autumn paused to take a much-needed breath, her expression utterly earnest. “You know?”
  3. Fisher sighed as the obvious answers came into place. "We weren't the only ones there. Dane and Eric Donner's Band helped us bring down Spearfinger, and Mr. Syracuse, the Sheriff and the teachers arrived the moment after we finished her off. Mr. Syracuse caught Nadya grabbing the heart shards, and I doubt he'd have missed the Donner Party trying something. The best I can guess is that he, Sheriff Farrow or one of the teachers grabbed the missing piece. What, some kind of teachable lesson?"
  4. With a brief sigh, Fisher conceded the point to Grim, whom of course had already left. Nadya and... Laurie? Laurie came in, and Fisher almost flinched from the way her gaze skewered him. Kami damn it, it wasn't his fault! Sometimes being a nice guy sucked, when everyone seemed to leave it to him to patch up arguments and sooth tempers. Yes, Grim was right, but why did he have to say it in a way that sounded like he was offloading responsibility onto Fisher? And Laurie blaming him for not being on hand magically twenty minutes ago to provide emotional support. "Tea, one sugar, when you have the time please." Fisher wearily said, drawing an eyebrow from his girlfriend. "If family comes over I'm going to be drinking a lot of it." Maurice's commentary about hospitality had prompted Fisher to begin examining actual tea-making (not microwave and done). Not that he expected a maternal return, but some practice would be good if kami or some kitsune decided to make an official visit. She nodded, Fisher pecked her on the cheek, and Rachel arrived. Everyone present and accounted for then. He nodded at her and then came over to meet another child of the gods of death, his Aesir leader after him. "Hello, Adrianna. I'm Fisher, and and this is Rachel and Austin. Thank you for making the time to see all of us on such short notice."
  5. Yesterday
  6. This is a quick write-up I did for anyone interested in participating in the group outing Autumn will invite the teens to on her family's property. There's no obligation to be involved, obviously- my thought is that it would be a good opportunity for roleplay, character development (specifically with regard to some short-term aspirations), and general shenanigans apart from all the externally-driven drama of the plot. If your PC would be interested, they're welcome to attend! We can work out the "hows" and "whys" in Discord. That being said, it will be brought up IC in some fashion as well, to give people the opportunity to ask questions or make suggestions. If there are any specifically OOC questions, comments, or concerns, I'd like to hear them! -Vivi Group Camping Proposal Location: The campsite is a broad, roughly circular clearing of mostly bare, packed earth on the edge of a slow-moving creek, surrounded on three sides by tall, narrow pines and a few smaller deciduous species. There is a fire pit dug in the center for cooking and heat, and plenty of seasoned firewood already stacked between a pair of small trees. There is no running water, no wifi, no electricity- no man-made hookups or tech at all. That means no microwave, no USB charger, and no plumbing. Phones and GPS still work, but the absence of development makes the place feel more remote than it actually is. In the event of an emergency: the site is roughly 4 miles from Autumn’s house (~2 miles off the road from her grandparents’ driveway). An ATV could get back there without much problem, but the trail isn’t meant for full-sized vehicle traffic. Getting back there: Autumn’s mom is willing to allow a few (3-4) vehicles parked in the driveway overnight, so carpooling may be a good idea. It’s entirely possible to walk the entire distance in about an hour and a half, or less if the pace is more than “leisurely” (at least one character intends to do this). What to bring: This is just a list of practical recommendations and suggestions to give you an idea of what your character might want or need to have on-hand. It’s not intended to be exhaustive or all-encompassing. -Entertainment. Cards, books, musical instruments, fishing tackle and gear, games, or your own personal electronic devices and charge packs- whatever your character would want to do with 1-2 days away from everything. A few of the bulky/expensive items could probably be foraged from Autumn’s house, or her grandparents’ garage, if someone really wants a canoe or kayak or something. Other ideas: Star charts, binoculars, a journal, homework (ugh), etc. -Food and drinks. Water. For practical purposes, the creek water can be safely boiled, but you’ll want plenty to drink depending on activity level. Stuff for meals and the means to cook them will be provided, but snacks or anything special your character wants/requires will need to be brought along. -Clothes. Basic, sturdy, comfortable outdoor wear. Good quality sneakers or hiking boots (preferred). Light jacket for early morning and evening temps in the 40s; layers are a good idea. Whatever your character needs to do the stuff they enjoy- swim clothes, towel, sandals, etc. -Basic necessities. Standard toiletries, whatever your character needs for general good hygiene. Insect repellent (more for ticks than mosquitoes). Sunscreen. The usual. There’s a first-aid kit, but it never hurts to have more than one. Flashlight and/or lantern. -A bag. You will need this to put your trash in. -A tent, sleeping bag, blanket, pillow, etc. Autumn can furnish a couple, but either everyone’s cramming into 2-3 tents, or other people will need to chip in. -Folding chair, blanket, beach towel, etc. to sit on. The (Basic) Rules of the Site: -If you bring it in, you take it out. If it’s here when you arrive, it stays. -If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. -Do nothing to alter the camp site. -Don’t feed the animals. Considerations: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hygiene-sanitation.html?series=intro-to-backpacking https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/@5677433/historic?month=8&year=2019
  7. Grim pondered the missing piece - or rather the space Maurice had indicated where the missing piece had been - then 'hmmed', took a sip of the beer in his hand, and eyeballed Nadya. "Don't even think it." Nadya scowled at him, pouting as her gaze returned to the heart, confusion and frustration mingling in her eyes. "I think I got all the pieces, Austin." she said plaintively. "I was pretty careful, but I guess I coulda missed one." "Hmm." Grim repeated. Nadya stuck her tongue out at him, but the mismatched green-and-grey eyes were focused on the middle distance now as Odin's scion stared into space. "Who else was present?" he asked absently, tugging on an earlobe as he gazed off into nowhere. "Anyone else that might have gotten close to the remnants of the creature's heart?" "So you don't think it was me?" Nadya sounded mildly surprised and relieved. "Do I think you're a light-fingered magpie? Yes, I do." Grim looked at her with a wry smile. "But I don't believe you'd sabotage the Band. I've not seen anything in you that would lead me to that, which means the missing piece is either still out there, or someone grabbed it without you, Nadya, seeing them do so. Which implies more than human stealth."
  8. What's in this issue of Cypher Chronicles? The Ninth World bears its numenera for 5e players. Gen Con Online registration is Monday. The post Cypher Chronicles, vol. 25-2020 appeared first on Monte Cook Games.
  9. In which the trio talks about online gaming in various forms. We’re going to talk about online gaming! Alice is Missing ViewScream and the Ripper FMV Koldunic sorcery egregiously bad? 12 minutes in, Eddy is on topic Matthew was a Moderator A bit on our usage of Roll20 and Astral Some talk about chat-based roleplay New Bremen! We reminisce about early days of computing The olden days of scrambled pornography Audio- and video-based roleplaying Performing a game, versus playing Discord gaming Onyx Path Con A Note: During the podcast, Eddy says the Pugmire Kickstarter was in 2017, which leads to some timeline confusion. It was actually finished in March 2016! Time is, however, a flat circle right now so we forgive Eddy this error. Links: Alice is Missing: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/huntersbooks/alice-is-missing-a-silent-role-playing-game ViewScream: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/187177/ViewScream-2nd-Edition Ripper Wired Story: https://www.wired.com/story/ripper/ Roll20: https://roll20.net/ Astral: https://www.astraltabletop.com/ Gehenna Gaming: https://www.gehennagaming.com/ Onyx Path YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheOnyxPath Onyx Path Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/theonyxpath Onyx Path Discord: https://discord.gg/5uckcBk
  10. Cassandra watched the kiss with a grin, waited to hear the bathroom door shut, then said in an excessively nonchalant voice, "So..." There was a lot of unspoken words in her word. She was intensely curious about Jase and how Jase worked as a boyfriend, for example. She was also a little concerned for Autumn and kind of jealous of Autumn because there was a kind of ambition revealed in her choice. Or maybe it was just hormones? Wow, that would really blow, wouldn't it? Cass waved a hand back in the direction Jase had gone off in. "...that's a thing. How did that happen? Is...is he good?" Somehow Autumn's face went from red to infrared, and she covered it with her hands just to feel the comparative coolness of them against her cheeks. "I mean, like, as a boyfriend," Cassie clarified. She couldn't back down, even in the face of her friend's mortification. "Does he, like give you flowers?" She couldn't wait any longer to ask the hard-hitting questions. "Did you guys do it yet?"
  11. Last week
  12. Courtney's auburn hair blew gently in the breeze outside Bunnie's as she waited for Marissa to meet her. She wasn't difficult to spot with her auburn hair and being one of only two teenage girls in Shelly that wore heels on a near regular basis. She'd considered going inside, but Marissa's text stated that she was close and she'd be pulling in any moment. She looked down at her phone one more time and fired off a text to a few acquaintances and checked her social media feeds while she waited. True to her word, Marissa's black Mercedes pulled into the parking lot and she took up three spaces parking lengthwise so no one scratched her car with a stray open door or however else the mongoloid population of Shelly managed to wreck everything around them. She'd been told numerous times not to do it, but every time she came here, she found a quiet spot away from the other vehicles and did it anyway. Her car door opened and the heel of her boot crunched the dirt and pebbles of the parking lot. As she rose from her car, music blaring, Courtney was certain this was her super power: to be hot and have her own, perfectly timed soundtrack. "Well?" Courtney approached her partner in crime as Marissa closed the car door and the interior went silent. "I need food." Marissa said flatly. "And a milk shake. And possibly a good cry or someplace to vomit, I've not decided yet." With a fat burger in front of her and mint chocolate chip shake to compliment it, she seemed a bit more relaxed. During their wait the two girls made small talk, shared some gossip and brought one another up to speed on various current events while Courtney jealously wondered where Marissa put all those calories. She was on her second basket of steak fries before the talk of business even entered the picture. "So, yeah, then she sends me a series of happy texts about how excited she is to tell me all about how she's fucking the guy I hav- had, a crush on. Can you believe it?" Marissa slid half of a steak fry through a concoction of ketchup, Lawry's and garlic powder. Courtney found the mixture offensive to the senses but when it came to eating, Marissa was... all kinds of messed up. "It's like... the gall, am I right?" "Oh, absolutely," Courtney agreed. She enjoyed a sip of her diet coke from a straw that was already stained red. "Especially after all you've done for her! Her hair has looked amazing lately, I can't believe she'd do that to you. Anyway, you've partially devoured what is easily a seven hour, non-stop walk to burn off. How did, you know... it, go?" Shelly's It girl raised one eyebrow and sighed. "Bad. Just as we thought, they know enough to really cause problems for us. He didn't ask about you, Tawny or Cody, so I don't think he knows anything about you. Which is good, because if this guy knew about your abilities, Courtney," she placed her hand atop Courtney's, offering her support and comfort. "I don't think you would be safe." Her friend swallowed hard and found her appetite had suddenly left her. "I managed to say as much I could while saying as little as possible. I belittled everyone, acted like a spoiled, entitled brat, and did my best to not give away to much of everyone's abilities, but he's going to want more." "Like, how much more?" The pretty redhead asked listlessly. "You were supposed to go in there and that's it, Emmy. Annette is supposed to help get you out of this, we need to talk to her." The raven haired enchantress' teeth tore off another bite of her burger, which was nearly as large as her mouth itself. "I know," she mumbled after a few moments of chewing. "But not now, not right away. In case he has people watching, which I'm sure he does." She tapped her phone that was lying on the table top, having turned them off before they sat down the two felt relatively safe speaking quietly in their booth. "I might be able to exploit on of the Marshals, if he ever calls me. He's weak and easily swayed, at least he appears to be. Also, to see how far this guy is willing to go, I may have set them loose on Jase." She squinted her eyes, bracing for the fallout. "Are you out of your mind," Courtney looked around and leaned in, lowering her voice. "Jason could be in danger. If they go after him and they screw up he will-" "-kill every single one of them." Marissa finished the comment with an evil smirk on her face. "Mankind kills not when directed by God, but when ordered by man. That son of a bitch threatened my family. I hope Jason goes through every single one of them, slowly, and painfully. It will kindle a fire in Jason. A murderous drive to burn Crossroads to the ground and everyone involved with it and he won't stop until he succeeds." She swiped another fry through her ketchup concoction. "If he's going to act like a mindless murder machine, I'll wind his key and direct him to handle my dirty work for me." Courtney shook her head, suddenly a bit uneasy at Marissa's own deviousness. "That's a dangerous game Marissa, what if he finds out? What if the succeed and they, you know... take him out?" "Then Autumn will need a new date for Homecoming." She shrugged like the answer was obvious. "Hey, relax, okay? All of them in time, will know what's going on. They needed me to steal to it so they either know nothing, or they were just testing me to see if I would do it. My goal is to save my family and any of them in my shoes would do the same. Jason will be fine, trust me. Now, I need you to do something for me." Marissa leaned in, making sure that if anyone may have been listening that this was the one secret she needed kept. "Of course," Courtney leaned in as well, suddenly enticed by the impromptu cloak and dagger routine. "Anything." She narrowed her eyes and looked deep into the soul of her partner. "Listen in Aeon and Branch Nine heads for something called 'The Library of Shadows'."
  13. "A gracious offer." Enterich nodded in response, giving Marissa a short, professional smile that only barely reached his eyes before once more dropping his gaze to the files she had handed him. "And you're correct in your assessment that more is needed. Luckily, unlike the erstwhile gentlefolk from the Aeon Society or their militant friends in Branch Nine, I have just such a resource before me." He shot her another brief, professional smile as he flipped once through the organised pages, nodding now and then. "So we shall begin, then, with the primary reason for your being here. I see you have organised these in alphabetical order, so we shall progress in that way. The first, then: Cassandra Allen. Not one of those who attacked the Crossroads facility, by our camera footage. And according to Cook's notes, the 'exact nature of her ability is unquantified, with only the emanation of Aetheric energy any indication she is special at all.' End quote. So..." Enterich sat back, fixing Marissa with a direct stare. "What can you tell me about Cassandra Allen, and in particular her powers?" "If Cassie possesses abilities, I have yet to witness them." She replied honestly. "She has an uncanny knack for finding things, much to my ire, as it means she's constantly in everyone's business. She has delusions of being a reporter one day, but I think it's just Jughead syndrome and she's been watching too much Riverdale." "She has a crush on my brother. He doesn't see it, she certainly doesn't see it, which makes the whole thing sort of adorable and pathetic at the same time." She shrugged and sipped her tea. "Aside from that, Cassandra Allen is about as boring as a teenager can get. And she dresses like she has no desire to ever get a second interview in her life. Ever." "Hmm." Enterich nodded slowly, weighing Marissa's words - and the manner of their delivery - with an admirable poker face. Marissa could tell, however, that he found the lack of hard data to be somewhat irritating. "Very well. Moving on, then. Cade Allister. Sheriff's son, athlete, large and physically capable, as was witnessed when he beat a member of Crossroads well-trained security personnel into unconsciousness. Another anomaly - Aetheric energy present, no apparent paranormal abilities. Your impressions?" "We're sort of dating right now, I guess." She shrugged, looking off into space for the briefest of moments to ponder her next words. "He's a good kisser, which sort of shocked me. He always buys his t-shirts one size too small, which look positively fantastic on him." "Aaaand," she added as Enterich gave her a look that told her he didn't care one whit about all of that. "Think about it. He's sixteen. Sixteen. Yet somehow he's managed to acquire survival training, knows his way, comfortably around any and every firearm. Is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, knows his way around knives, clubs, bats, you name it. It's like he is a modern day Spartan, born and bred for one purpose: war. He says his dad taught him everything, but I don't buy it." "This isn't exactly a science, Mr. Enterich." She crossed one leg over the other and got more comfortable. "This isn't a comic book where these guys are exploding into fire or tipping over cars with super strength. Whatever they have is new, and it's in its infancy within them. For all I know, my Cadums has laser vision, but I can't relay that to you until I see him do it.” "Indeed." Enterich agreed. "You make an excellent point there - this is all new. Crossroads has been studying human enhancement for a long time: drugs, implants, and so on. And now suddenly and seemingly at random a group of teenagers who were not part of our experiment have exhibited abilities, often beyond the capacity of those teenagers who were part of the experiment." He 'tsked', indicating the vexation this caused, then shrugged. "Ah well. On to the next subject. Bannon, Jason. Psychokinetic - some apparent ability to create fire or ice through thermal excitation or subtraction, including but probably not limited to freezing the air solid in walls of ice. And, of course, telekinesis, which he seems strong enough with to toss a grown man around." Enterich mused as he skimmed down the prepared information. "Cook's notes suggest some manner of antisocial behaviour disorder, possibly sociopathy, as well as his impression of Bannon being smarter than his grade average would suggest." Enterich once more fixed Marissa with his dark brown eyes. "Your observations and opinions? In particular, anything usable for leverage." "Guess we know who the favorite is," she rolled her eyes. "Leverage on Jason Bannon? Mr. Enterich, I'm going to warn you once, and only once: you go after Bannon like you went after me, and he will not stop murdering your family, the families of your co-workers, the people you work for, those who work for them and anyone else he suspects posses a threat to him, or you kill him." She shrugged. "Only once. You screw it up, and all you will get from me is an 'I told you so'." "Jason is a lunatic. He's not a sociopath, Mr. Enterich, he is a psychopath, his words. Devoid of emotion and fear of consequences for any of his actions. He gets off on tormenting people with threats of violence such as informing Dr. Cook he'd rip his heart and show it to him before he died and raising a hay hook to the throat of a boy who goes to our school because he made some lewd comments to another student." She shifted and sipped her tea again. "He's unstable and revels in hurting other people, especially with his abilities. The boy Liam, that was him. As I went to the Sheriff to protect Liam from Jason's wrath, he intentionally maneuvered around me and raced there first for the sole purpose of breaking that guy like he did." "My advice is to leave Jason alone," her eyes met Enterich's. "You won't survive it, and neither will we. He's a shark just looking for blood in the water." "He sounds like too much of a loose cannon to just be 'left alone'." Enterich frowned as he mused aloud, tapping his fingers on the desk. "Sooner or later, his interests and ours will intersect, especially since he seems to be at least shallowly loyal to the group." The older man made a face indicating disappointment and sighed. "A pity." He took a sip of tea, his gaze distant for a moment as he reflected, then shrugged. "Ah well, one cannot make an omelette, and so on. Let us move on, shall we? Cassidy, Sean. Highly intelligent, computer genius, quite likely the fellow who hacked Crossroads system and paralysed their communications, which suggests some manner of paranormal 'machine telepathy' or whatever one terms it. We have a lot of information on him already due to his being Cook's patient, but naturally I'm interested in your observations, Ms Jauntsen." "I honestly don't know Sean that well at all. Of all the members of the little rag-tag group, I've shared maybe one or two hellos with him over the last few months." She nodded in agreement with Enterich's appraisal. "He is a hacker and his powers do have something to do with machines. Again, I've never seen him use these machine abilities before. It was him that hacked your system, but I highly doubt it was any sort of powers that he used. He's a scamp, but he's good at what he does." "Sean has his... condition, I'm sure you know and frankly he's just weird. Like creepy weird. His sister dresses him up in girl clothes, which he is totally on board with, but then cries and bemoans his fate when someone calls him on being a dude with breasts." She shrugged. "It's like, seriously, kid? Own it or don't. You can't sit there and have it both it ways... do you want the sympathy or do you want to be proud and in love with who you are. Make up your mind." She waved her hand about Sean to dismiss him as a thought. "Anyway, Cassidy is just incredibly weird, that's all." "Noted." Enterich raised an eyebrow at Marissa's frank assessment, nodding slightly. "Cole, Charles would normally be next, but I have other sources for him and besides, I am most curious about the one I know least about. The redheaded girl who was part of the facility raid, apparently no powers, and all I've been able to find out is her name. So, tell me what you know about Autumn Keane, if you please?" "I know as much as you do," Marissa said honestly. "I know she is a nature girl. Likes the outdoors, hunting, camping, rolling around in sleeping bag with other unwashed beasts like herself, but that's all I know. I am certain Autumn has some sort of abilities, after all, she's a crush stealing ginger who has no sense of personal hygiene or, worse, knowledge of styling products." She shook her head and shrugged. "Superpowers are the only explanation for how she could get anyone to like her at all, let alone actually have friends. Thankfully, for you I have promoted her to my 'bestie' and we've already started the arduous process of hair straitening and the wonders of lip gloss. Whatever she's hiding in all that excessive body hair and patchouli musk, I'll find out. Eventually." "My word." Enterich seemed amused by the quiet vitriol of Marissa's description of her 'bestie'. "Now that is an unusual set of observations, Miss Jauntsen. I sense a little rancor there on your part. 'Crush-stealing'? I was under the impression you were dating Cade Allister." "Well," she set down her tea and placed her arms on the table, interlocking her fingers. "I've always had a thing for bad boys, and I developed a bit of a crush for Jason, this was before he showed his true colors as a shaggy murder hobo. Once that came to light I let him go. Now, everyone knew I had a thing for him, and just because I cut him loose doesn't mean he's simply available for any other tart to just help herself to, I mean, what if I wanted him back? He may be crazy, but Jason has a very nice penis." She separated her hands, holding up her fingers as they drew further and further apart. Without so much as a flush to her cheeks she pressed on. "You understand, I'm sure. Anyways, it gets to my ears that Jason has a thing for little red, probably peeping on her while she was playing in the mud and trying to discover the secrets of fire in a dank cave somewhere. Autumn likes someone else, but she won't tell me who. I'm pretty sure it's my brother, but that doesn't excuse the fact that Jason should never have been interested in her to begin with so I aim to find out how. I'm guessing super powers or she's just easy. Guys can sense a slut, I've heard." When confronted with Marissa's 'logic', all Enterich could do was blink and use every bit of his impressive self-control not to give away his true feelings. Even so, a slight tic above his left eye indicated that there was some manner of internal struggle going on. Evidently, he was not used to dealing with teenaged girls - least of all ones that were as much an apparent study in contradictions as Marissa. "I see." he managed, once the tic had faded. He cleared his throat, then went on "Well, if you do learn anything more about Keane... or indeed any of your associates, I will of course offer you a substantial bonus in addition to the payment I am giving you today. One hundred thousand dollars, in a manner of your choosing." He steepled his fingers, looking at her over them. "How do you wish the money to be paid?" "Cash." She said with wide, darkened lips. The only form of money that he couldn't deactivate once this entire farce went up in smoke. Unlike the movies, a hundred grand barely filled a briefcase, let alone her designer handbag. "Harder to spend online, but thankfully I'm rich and people don't think to much of me waving around a few yards around here. Most importantly, I have college to prepare for." "If I find out anything worth mentioning I'll certainly let you know." She steepled her fingers again and was back to being all business. "Again, this isn't a science. I need to maneuver the Fellowship as well as the Society, who have now taken as much of an interest in them as you have. I believe, since I have no powers, I may be able to glean more information by offering myself as an aide in the research, given my proximity to all of them and my brother being a part of their little party. What do you know of the Aeon Society and this Branch Nine? The more information I have, the more easily I can subvert them. I'm flying blind amongst all of you intrigue types. Forewarned and all that..." She waved her hand in a circle. “Of course.” Enterich smiled slightly. “Branch Nine are possibly the more directly dangerous, as they are a professional intelligence arm of the United States Government. Their purpose is to guard the nation against paranormal threats, and they were initially formed to counter various Axis attempts to affect the outcome of World War Two using various means not found in history books. They continued this work during the Cold War, and so on up to the modern day." He paused, sipping his tea, then went on. "They are not a large agency, but they are plugged in to Homeland Security, the NSA, CIA and the FBI, along with other federal services, and can draw on military support when direct action is needed." "Aeon, on the other hand, are not particularly dangerous in a direct sense. They were formed in the mid-to-late 19th century, a gentleman's club of explorers and students of mysterious happenings. They believe that their purpose is to benefit all mankind, either by disseminating knowledge through channels so that it can be used, or by containing dangerous knowledge until it can be made safe, then employed for their oh-so-egalitarian aims." The scorn in Enterich's voice was palpable. "Well-meaning fools, but far from stupid or unperceptive, and their Library of Shadows is supposed to be one of the greatest repositories on lore of the Hidden World in existence. Sadly, it is inaccessible to all but inner council members. I do not even know where it is located." Marissa shook her head, trying to make heads or tails of the whole thing. "So, Aeon is all 'on our side' by keeping secrets and sweeping the supernatural or gifted people under the rug? So, if the Fellowship is working with them, how will they handle it? Use them until they can lock them away for the rest of their lives?" Her hands were expressive, gesturing her concerns as she made her inquiries. "I mean, honestly, how do you just tell people they can't be who they are, powered or not. They can't honestly expect them to hide under a rock their whole lives. How do they make them behave?" "How indeed..?" Enterich mused, almost to himself. "As for gifted people... There have never been any, Miss Jauntsen. At least, never on the scale of your friends. A few 'psychics', people with unusual hunches or knacks... but never a verified pyrokinetic or teleporter. Branch Nine are the more likely ones to attempt containment or elimination, if recruitment is not feasible. Aeon? I have no idea how they would respond. Recruitment would be attempted, almost certainly. But if that were not successful? They would likely offer support to such people and attempt to steer them away from being threats to the common good. They are very rich, and very influential." “Well, thankfully, there still isn't," she smiled that boardroom smile of her as the idea of a verified pyrokinetic or teleporter. "I trust none of you types. Full disclosure, I'm sure Aeon is just lying to us, and you just want them vivisected on a gurney in a dank basement lab somewhere." She smiled and raised a finger to punctuate her next point. "However, Aeon hasn't threatened the death of my family. However, however... they also haven't paid me. So, as I said, anything else and I'll let you know." She paused and her demeanor went straight from sixteen to thirty six, complete with an expressionless cold stare in her eyes. "Is today's business concluded?" Enterich met her gaze, smiling faintly, then nodded. "I believe so. Marshall?" he raised his voice at that last word, calling out. The door opened and the handsome and non-bitchy corrupted federal agent stood there with a small duffel bag in hand. Enterich smiled at Marissa. "Give Miss Jauntsen the bag and show her out, if you please. Then come back with Dale. I wish to speak to you both." "This way, miss." Marshal Marshall gestured to Marissa, smiling politely. The teen vixen stood, nodding once to Enterich, then sashayed from the room, smiling at Marshall as he handed her the bag, then leaning close. "You know, you've still not called me, Marshall." she said in a low, intimate voice. "A girl's feelings could get hurt." Faced with the double whammy of Marissa's dark eyes and the scent of her hair as she leaned in, Marshal Marshall nervously moistened his lips and smiled again, a trifle more brittley. "Been busy. You know how it is." he muttered, leading her towards the front door to the office building and opening it for her. Marissa touched his arm just above the wrist, looking up at him with a pout that could melt the heart of a statue. "Too busy for me?" she asked with just enough little-girl catch in her voice to remind the older man of her age, even as her eyes sparkled wickedly. Marissa did so love her little game with the marshal. "Marshall." Dale said waspishly from the nearby desk where she glowered at a screen. "Stop playing. The boss wants us." "Gotta go." Marshall said, sounding almost relieved. "Until next time then." Marissa's pout was weapons-grade, and she made sure to put an extra roll to her hips as she walked away, feeling his eyes on her all the way out to the parking lot.
  14. "What is so juicy about this?" Devin asked walking out of the kitchen with a bowl of strawberry slices and a stack of plates and utensils. "They're dating, so what?" Placing the strawberries on the table he set the plates down as well and leaned himself back to peer into the kitchen and for a moment Autumn pursed her lips at the thought of Devin leaning to take a look at her mom's butt while she wasn't looking. Then, in a purple pulse and a muted 'bamf' the plates and utensils scattered, leaving little wavering comet trails of violet energy as they all went to their respective place settings at the table. Autumn slapped his arm with the back of his hand, mouthing softly a string of hushed words that looked and maybe sounded like: "What the hell? My mom." She looked nervously over his shoulder as Shelly's problem child smirked that devilish smirk of his. "Chill, I checked first." He smiled and winked and turned back to the kitchen. In only a single step he spun back on his heels and walked backwards. "Don't worry, I got this. You two..." he waved them off, shooing them from 'his' work area. "...go play, or whatever you do." He spun back around and entered the kitchen only to meet Dana adding the last pan full of eggs to the large fluffy pile. "Devin, you don't have to do this, I appreciate it, but-" "No, no," he waved his hands dismissing the argument. "Really, it's cool. Autumn has the guests entertained, it saves us from just wandering about with our hands our pockets while you two rush to get all this done. Besides, I don't feel right not doing my part. Feeding five people can't be easy." "You're," she raised a distrustful eyebrow at him. "A little different from what I expected." "I was the school bully, Mrs. Keane," Devin began tonging the latest batch of waffles and adding them to the large serving plate as Mrs. Keane diced up a variety of fruits. "That doesn't mean I wasn't raised without manners or standards of propriety, I simply chose to set them aside for the sake of tormenting others. It was a hoot while it lasted but now it's time to mend what fences I can and move on to other things, like getting super powers and saving the world, or something." He just had to insert that little grain of truth. "That's why I don't wear safety equipment during the labs at school. I'm hoping there's an accident and something sticks. Being Montana, knowing my luck, I'll get bit by a radioactive horse or worse, something Canadian."
  15. Now available in image format from DriveThruRPG: V5 Chicago by Night Desktop Wallpapers! Accept no substitutes: Chicago is the city of vampires. A selection of electronic wallpaper files featuring a collage of the art from Chicago by Night. Chicago by Night Wallpaper sizes include: 800×600 1024×768 1280×1024 1920×1280 2560×1440 Also available in PDF from DriveThruRPG: V20 Lore of the Clans Storyteller Screen! Lore of the Clans is a single volume revisiting all thirteen Clans for Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition, providing story hooks, character concepts, history, and Clan-specific rules. The Lore of the Clans Storyteller Screen contains three 8.5″ x 11″ pages of collected charts and tables selected to make your Storyteller job a bit easier. Sales Keep the Chronicle Going with 25% off all Chronicles of Darkness titles from White Wolf, Onyx Path, and community content from the Storytellers Vault! Kickstarter Update The Legendlore Kickstarter finished off last week! We ended at $25,092, or 167% of our $15,000 goal, thanks to our 543 backers! We closed out with a couple of stretch goals hit in the final 48 hours: Legendlore GM Reference Screen Legendlore Player’s Companion: Back from Earth Legendlore Digital Wallpaper Coming next to Kickstarter: They Came from Beyond the Grave! Did you miss one of our previous Kickstarters? The following Kickstarted products are still open for preorders via BackerKit: Scarred Lands: Creature Collection 5e Trinity Continuum: Trinity Continuum: Aberrant Realms of Pugmire: Pirates of Pugmire Vampire: The Masquerade: Cults of the Blood Gods Mage: The Ascension: Technocracy Reloaded Exalted: Lunars: Fangs at the Gate Chronicles of Darkness: Chronicles of Darkness: Dark Eras 2 Chronicles of Darkness: The Contagion Chronicle Chronicles of Darkness: Deviant: The Renegades Chronicles of Darkness: Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition Chronicles of Darkness: Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition Community Spotlight The following community-created content for Scarred Lands has been added to the Slarecian Vault in the last week: Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell? The following community-created content for Realms of Pugmire has been added to Canis Minor in the last week: Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell? The following community-created content for Storypath has been added to the Storypath Nexus in the last week: Your product could be here! Have you considered creating your own to sell?
  16. "I don't think you need to worry too much." Jase said quietly, moving closer to her while they were alone. "Worry too much?! It's Devin." "Who has always been a good guest when at my home." Jason set down his mug and slid his hands over Autumn's waist as she half-turned towards him, blue eyes flicking up to meet his gaze. The redhead decided to hold onto her coffee, cupping the mug in both hands before her chest - not because she *didn't* want to set it down and find other things for her hands to do, but because she *did*, and now was not the time. "I see no reason he'd not be a good guest in yours." "Mmm." Autumn's answer was both wordless and noncommittal, despite Jason's apparent confidence. His mouth quirked in another one of those mischievous smiles, his gaze was warm, and she felt heat rising in her face again as he leaned down- "Okay, all washed up." Cassie announced just a touch louder than was necessary as she breezed back into the room. "You're up, Tall, Dark and Pluckless." She made a shooing gesture. "Go, scoot. Make sure to clean those paws before breakfast, mister." The blonde reporter fixed Autumn with a grin. "Don't worry, we've got plenty to talk about." Looking at Cassie with a raised brow, then back at Autumn, Jason shrugged. "Back in a moment, then." he said quietly before leaning down and planting a quick kiss on Autumn's lips that turned her bright red. With a noise that might have been a chuckle, the tall slender young man stepped away, eyes gleaming impishly, and headed for the bathroom.
  17. The bell above the door to the coffee shop jingled sweetly as the late afternoon sunlight poured in, leaving the entrance brighter and momentarily warmer than it had been before. Pausing briefly to scan the room as she entered, the daughter of Apollo removed her sunglasses and tucked them into the front pocket of a jacket that likely cost more than the sum of every other patron's outerwear combined- perfectly tailored and of immaculate construction, it was also likely to last longer than every other patron's outerwear combined. A faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she caught sight of Darcy attempting to field all the orders being thrown at her, as if she were the only capable server in the place. ...Which, Laurie reflected, might conceivably be true. It took only a moment amid the whirl of after-school activity to track where the beleaguered young paramour of Fisher Capra kept casting unsubtle glances: a beautiful, dark-haired woman in a corner booth. Certainly, her appearance matched the description given, and the blatant migration of Rachel's band in that direction provided all the evidence Laurel needed. Ah, well. This wasn't exactly an ideal scenario, but Dane had sounded so awfully distressed that she felt like an utter monster for even considering saying no. "Please, pardon me," the graceful blonde's clear voice rang above the din surrounding them as she slid adroitly past Fisher and Austin with violin case firmly in hand, sparing the two Scions only a fleeting glance that felt unaccountably as though a cloud had passed before the sun, leaving not cold in its wake, but a curious absence of warmth. As Grim concluded his introduction to the Plutonian beauty in the booth, the latter returning his handshake politely, Laurie approached the growing cluster of students at the table. "Miss Dionekou?" A bright smile of greeting illuminated her features as she addressed the woman who was, ostensibly, a distant 'cousin.' "I hope you'll forgive me for intruding. I'm Laurel, and given the, ah, somewhat delicate nature of the current situation, Dane's asked that I take his place for this meeting."
  18. Yes, that’s right, we actually do not have a Kickstarter running this week. Weird, huh? Legendlore just wrapped up with a very strong (and unexpected but delightful) final 48 hours last week, and we have not yet launched the They Came From Beyond the Grave! KS. So instead, let me tell you about the guy I illustrated for the cover shown above. In-universe (or Continuum), that’s Duke Rollo, the gonzo journalist/commentator of the TC: Aberrant setting. But. He’s also Justin Achilli, who originated the character and wrote both small Duke Rollo books – one for first edition Aberrant and now the book pictured for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant. I originally pictured him as Justin appeared back then, piercings and all, and with a very gonzo attitude to life, and work, and especially after-hours playtime. The version above was drawn to still be the same character, but seasoned. More experienced, but still railing against the inequities of the TC: Aberrant world. I bring this up because real-world Justin has amassed even more experience and knowledge since the WW days, and has explored game design in the electronic gaming sphere very successfully, and yet has never stopped applying what he has learned to TTRPGs, and specifically the World of Darkness and Vampire: The Masquerade. His experience with party deduction games led to his working with us on The Prince’s Gambit card game, for example. And his online design theory posts through the years are rife with game design theory that could be applied to electronic games, or right back in TTRPGs. And in fact, he himself, is also right back in TTRPGs with last week’s announcement that Justin is the new Creative Lead for the WoD 5th Edition efforts over at Paradox! Congrats, Justin! Now, I have a long history with Justin, going back to when he was developing the RAGE card game at WW. (A “dragon biting some clown in half”, anybody?) He was developer and I was art director for years on VtM Revised, we worked on the late, lamented, WoD MMO together, and he was the first developer for V20, and then helmed many V20 books for Onyx Path. And yet, even I really don’t know what he’s planning for V5. The Covid situation here and in Sweden, where Paradox is based, has complicated matters, so we’re still looking forward to what’s going to happen next. As they say, more news when we have it! Let the Streets Run Red art by Sam Denmark Surely You Have Something Kickstarter-y? OK. Fair enough, I hear ya! You want to know more about They Came From Beyond the Grave!, especially since that’s going to be the subject of our next Kickstarter. Well, it is the second game in the They Came From…! game line, and this time, rather than being based in the world of Sci-Fi movies of the 50s, TCFBtGrave! is set in two time periods favored by horror movies of the 60s and 70s: the Victorian Era and the late 60s into the 70s. In fact, the game supports either era, or both with players swapping back and forth between the two. Hammer Horror is of course a huge influence, along with Roger Corman horror films, and even the Dark Shadows TV series. Like TCFBtSea!, TCFBtGrave! uses the Storypath System plus Quip cards that allow players to contribute appropriate (or far more often extremely inappropriate) comments and dialogue that is often hilarious, but also can give mechanical benefits to the character. With the cards, the player doesn’t need to be funny, just how they use the quip. Similarly, there are cards for filmic situations appropriate to the genre we’re emulating, like “The Devil Himself!”, or “Missing Scene” which allows for a miraculous escape that players can note as having happened during that scene. It was amazing, just a shame the scene is missing, but at least we’re all OK. Honestly, we should have one titled “Christopher Lee’s Voice”, but that might be too powerful for players. Keep an eye out on our social media as we continue to tease the game, and check out the actual play sessions that are available on our Twitch channel. Pirates of Pugmire art by Pat McEvoy Updates On Previous Mentions: As I mentioned last week, we were looking to hire an out-of-house HR representative as a contact person for anyone with concerns on an HR level with Onyx Path. We indeed did hire Georgina who can be contacted at hr.onyxpath@gmail.com. Scion Companion art by Shen Fei Sorry to say it, but the pandemic is still affecting everyone – writers, printers, shippers – so while we are seeing some folks come back to business as sorta-normal, many others still can’t do that. Sometimes that’s our creators, and other times it’s our manufacturers and shippers. I’m currently waiting for at least five books worth of PoD proofs to get to me for approval so we can start selling them. So, please hang in with us as we maneuver through this continuing alteration in our normal business practices. There’s a lot of things changing all across the world, and our little hobby isn’t in a bubble – and even if it was, we’re still going to be affected like I mention above. Just know that we are doing what we can to get you the materials so you can enjoy our: Many Worlds, One Path! Blurbs! Kickstarter! Next Up On Kickstarter: They Came From Beyond the Grave! And keep your eyes open for: Onyx Path Media! This week: the Terrifically Terrible Trio chat about the Onyx Path Virtual Gaming Convention, and online TTRPG gaming in general! As always, this Friday’s Onyx Pathcast will be on Podbean or your favorite podcast venue! https://onyxpathcast.podbean.com/ This week on Twitch, expect to see V5 – Chicago by Night Behind the Screen – Scion They Came from Beneath the Sea! – They Came from Devil’s Reef! Changeling: The Dreaming – The Last Faerie Tale Mage: The Awakening – Occultists Anonymous Scarred Lands – Purge of the Serpentholds Get watching for some fantastic insight into how to run these wonderful games and subscribe to us on Twitch, over at twitch.tv/theonyxpath Come take a look at our YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/theonyxpath, where you can find a whole load of videos of actual plays, dissections of our games, and more, including: #OnyxPathCon | How to Write for TTRPGs [Panel]: https://youtu.be/UKmJQEhInP8 #OnyxPathCon | Consent & Safety Mechanics [Panel]: https://youtu.be/LljJV-TRLWA Legendlore – The Metal Scourge: https://youtu.be/IrhhKnf6dHg #OnyxPathCon | The Art of Onyx Path [Panel]:https://youtu.be/2mG_BqXzkfE #OnyxPathCon | What’s Up with Onyx Path #2 [Panel]:https://youtu.be/GjukejNcCcc #OnyxPathCon | Create Your Best Character [Panel]:https://youtu.be/UZIBL87hu6U #OnyxPathCon | Onyx Pathcast Live [Panel]:https://youtu.be/XxNvUPUtC1o Subscribe to our channel and click the bell icon if you want to be notified whenever new news videos and uploads come online! Did you miss Occultists Anonymous‘ last episodes of their excellent Mage: The Awakening chronicle? Here they are: Episode 108: Car-V Heist While Songbird prepares for a dangerous summoning, Atratus and Wyrd hit the junkyards with an overly elaborate plan to make an overly elaborate gift. How very Mage of them… https://youtu.be/wSy3c74jkfM Episode 109: Crown of Blood Wyrd and Atratus enjoy the joy of a well-made gift and the good vibes that comes with that. Songbird joins together with Hadramiel to summon an Angel of Death to anoint a Vampire Prince in power. https://youtu.be/QxB6Ml6uStY The Botch Pit have released an excellent overview of Mage: The Awakening right here. Do give them a like and a subscribe: https://youtu.be/D-0O1Nun6NA Systematic Understanding of Everything is a new Exalted Explainer Podcast by Exalted Dev Monica Speca and Exalted Writer Chazz Kellner that is breaking down Creation in 45 minute chunks in preparation for Exalted Essence. Their most recent episode in on Creation and its history – https://anchor.fm/exaltcast/episodes/Trackless-Region-Navigation—What-is-Creation-eg2g9d Get past episodes at http://www.exaltcast.com/ Please check these out and let us know if you find or produce any actual plays of our games! We’d love to feature you! Electronic Gaming! As we find ways to enable our community to more easily play our games, the Onyx Dice Rolling App is live! Our dev team has been doing updates since we launched based on the excellent use-case comments by our community, and this thing is awesome! (Seriously, you need to roll 100 dice for Exalted? This app has you covered.) On Amazon and Barnes & Noble! You can now read our fiction from the comfort and convenience of your Kindle (from Amazon) and Nook (from Barnes & Noble). If you enjoy these or any other of our books, please help us by writing reviews on the site of the sales venue from which you bought it. Reviews really, really help us get folks interested in our amazing fiction! Our selection includes these latest fiction books: Our Sales Partners! We’re working with Studio2 to get Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau out into stores, as well as to individuals through their online store. You can pick up the traditionally printed main book, the screen, and the official Pugmire dice through our friends there! https://studio2publishing.com/search?q=pugmire We’ve added Prince’s Gambit to our Studio2 catalog: https://studio2publishing.com/products/prince-s-gambit-card-game Now, we’ve added Changeling: The Lost Second Edition products to Studio2‘s store! See them here: https://studio2publishing.com/collections/all-products/changeling-the-lost Scion 2e books and other products are available now at Studio2: https://studio2publishing.com/blogs/new-releases/scion-second-edition-book-one-origin-now-available-at-your-local-retailer-or-online Looking for our Deluxe or Prestige Edition books? Try this link! http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/xcart/Onyx-Path-Publishing/ And you can order Pugmire, Monarchies of Mau, Cavaliers of Mars, and Changeling: The Lost 2e at the same link! And now Scion Origin and Scion Hero and Trinity Continuum Core and Trinity Continuum: Aeon are available to order! As always, you can find Onyx Path’s titles at DriveThruRPG.com! On Sale This Week! This Wednesday, to celebrate the arrival of Justin Achilli, we present V5 Chicago By Night electronic wallpaper and V20 Lore of the Clans Storyteller’s Screen PDF files, both on DTRPG! Conventions! Though dates for physical conventions are subject to change due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, here’s what’s left of our current list of upcoming conventions (and really, we’re just waiting for this last one to be cancelled even though it’s Nov/Dec). Instead, keep an eye out here for more virtual conventions we’re going to be involved with: PAX Unplugged: https://unplugged.paxsite.com/ And now, the new project status updates! Development Status from Eddy Webb! (Projects in bold have changed status since last week.): First Draft (The first phase of a project that is about the work being done by writers, not dev prep.) Exalted Essay Collection (Exalted) Adversaries of the Righteous (Exalted 3rd Edition) The Devoted Companion (Deviant: The Renegades) Saints and Monsters (Scion 2nd Edition) Trinity Continuum: Anima M20 Technocracy Operative’s Dossier (Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary) Squeaks In The Deep (Realms of Pugmire) Redlines Dragon-Blooded Novella #2 (Exalted 3rd Edition) Hundred Devil’s Night Parade (Exalted 3rd Edition) Novas Worldwide (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Exalted Essence Edition (Exalted 3rd Edition) Wild Hunt (Scion 2nd Edition) CtL 2e Novella Collection: Hollow Courts (Changeling: The Lost 2e) Second Draft Many-Faced Strangers – Lunars Companion (Exalted 3rd Edition) Mission Statements (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) Contagion Chronicle Ready-Made Characters (Chronicles of Darkness) Trinity Continuum: Adventure! core (Trinity Continuum: Adventure!) Dead Man’s Rust (Scarred Lands) The Clades Companion (Deviant: The Renegades) V5 Forbidden Religions (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) M20 Rich Bastard’s Guide To Magick (Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary) V5 Children of the Blood (was The Faithful Undead) (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) Development TC: Aberrant Reference Screen (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Across the Eight Directions (Exalted 3rd Edition) Contagion Chronicle: Global Outbreaks (Chronicles of Darkness) Exigents (Exalted 3rd Edition) Assassins (Trinity Continuum Core) V5 Trails of Ash and Bone (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) Kith and Kin (Changeling: The Lost 2e) Manuscript Approval Crucible of Legends (Exalted 3rd Edition) M20 Victorian Mage (Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition) Under Alien Skies (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) N!ternational Wrestling Entertainment (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Post-Approval Development Editing Lunars Novella (Rosenberg) (Exalted 3rd Edition) Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition core rulebook (Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition) Player’s Guide to the Contagion Chronicle (Chronicles of Darkness) Contagion Chronicle Jumpstart (Chronicles of Darkness) TC: Aberrant Jumpstart (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Trinity Continuum Jumpstart (Trinity Continuum) Masks of the Mythos (Scion 2nd Edition) LARP Rules (Scion 2nd Edition) Heirs to the Shogunate (Exalted 3rd Edition) The Book of Lasting Death (Mummy: The Curse 2e) They Came From Beyond the Grave! (They Came From!) Scion: Dragon (Scion 2nd Edition) Scion: Demigod (Scion 2nd Edition) Dearly Bleak – Novella (Deviant: The Renegades) Post-Editing Development City of the Towered Tombs (Cavaliers of Mars) W20 Shattered Dreams Gift Cards (Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th) Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition) Hunter: The Vigil 2e core (Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition) Trinity Continuum: Aberrant core (Trinity Continuum: Aberrant) Deviant: The Renegades (Deviant: The Renegades) Monsters of the Deep (They Came From Beneath the Sea!) Legendlore core book (Legendlore) Pirates of Pugmire KS-Added Adventure (Realms of Pugmire) Tales of Aquatic Terror (They Came From Beneath the Sea!) Terra Firma (Trinity Continuum: Aeon) One Foot in the Grave Jumpstart (Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2e) Indexing Art Direction from Mike Chaney! In Art Direction Tales of Aquatic Terror – Handed off to Meredith to AD. WoD Ghost Hunters (KS) – KS assets wrapped up. Aberrant – AD’d. Checking with Gunship. Hunter: The Vigil 2e Mummy 2 Deviant Legendlore – KS running. Technocracy Reloaded (KS) Cults of the Blood God – Rolling along. Scion: Dragon (KS) – Waiting on art notes. Masks of the Mythos (KS) – Getting the cover art going. Scion: Demigod (KS) – Art rolling. KS assets AD’d. They Came From Beyond the Grave! (KS) – Prepping KS assets. TC: Adventure! (KS) – Shen Fei cover art finished by end of the month. Geist: One Foot In the Grave – AD’d. In Layout Yugman’s Guide to Ghelspad Vigil Watch TC Aeon Terra Firma V5 Let the Streets Run Red – continued working it. Pugmire Adventure – small project, knocking the layout together. Scion Titanomachy Proofing Trinity Aeon Jumpstart – Errata gathering. Lunars: Fangs at the Gate – Page XXs. Contagion Chronicle – Backer PDF out to backers, closing errata. Cavaliers of Mars: City of the Towered Tombs Magic Item Decks (Scarred Lands) Yugman’s Guide Support Decks (Scarred Lands) Dark Eras 2 Screen and booklet Scion Companion – Inputting changes from devs. At Press TCFBTS Heroic Land Dwellers – PoD files uploaded. TCFBTS Screen and Booklet – Files at press. They Came from Beneath the Sea! – Press proofs signed off on, PoD files uploaded. Creature Collection 5e – PoD proof ordered. Traditional files sent to printer. Pirates of Pugmire – Files at press. PoD proofs ordered. Pirates of Pugmire Screen – Files at press. Pugmire Buried Bones – PoD proof ordered. Changeling: The Lost 2nd Edition Dark Eras Compilation – Uploading PoD file. Today’s Reason to Celebrate! I’d really like to get back to needing to pull wacky things that happened on this date, but we need to celebrate the life of a towering giant in his field. Ennio Morricone, one of the greatest film composers, has left this earth he brought so much magic and passion and joy to. The Untouchables. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The Mission. Once Upon A Time In the West. His film scores were the background music I played while illustrating all the way back to high school, and as late as two weeks ago I asked Alexa to “Play Ennio Morriconi music” as I wrote that week’s MMN blog. Not only was he a genius in composing instrumental scores, but he was willing to incorporate single instruments, or non-instruments, or inserted choral sections, or even compose an entire theme using fart sounds. Maybe not to everyone’s tastes, that last example, but my point is, he stretched what could be done with musical scores with a deft hand and a genius’s ear. His like will not be heard again.
  19. As Autumn watched Cassandra pedal away, the reflectors on the spokes of her wheels catching the light, the redhead shuddered at the sensation of icy, intangible fingers trailing down her spine. It was just a glint of flickering brightness against the shadows lining the road- not even the right color- but again, the image of a child's shoe appeared unbidden in her mind, and the saccharine sweetness of the ice cream lingering on her tongue was suddenly bitter ash in her mouth. Her mother was waiting for her; she, like the pretty reporter, would get to go home tonight. But, as she nudged the kickstand up and placed her feet on the pedals, it wasn't toward home that her handlebars turned. Not yet. It was nearly 11:30, after what seemed an eternity spent racing down country roads between pale, moonlit fields, that the building came into view. Even then, some instinct kept Autumn from looking back the way she'd come, now that she was more familiar with that sense of creeping unease at her back- dread- than she'd been the first time she traveled this path alone. Instead, she let that feeling spur her forward, overriding the dull ache in her lungs and the burning in her thighs. What had once seemed to her the lair of Shelly's most fearsome boogeyman was now simply a house rising up from the surrounding farmlands; having seen the den of an actual monster, the Bannon farm was an inviting sanctuary by comparison. Muscle memory applied the brake as gravel crunched beneath her bicycle tires, dropped the kickstand and carried her up the porch steps. There was as little thought in the movement as there'd been in leaving the diner parking lot, for once no inner dialogue or contemplation on the ride. Similarly, there was no real consideration of the time, or circumstance, as she knocked quietly at the door. Quiet rumble of male voices from inside, a scrape of a chair, a footfall. The door opened, revealing Gar Bannon, a plainly surprised look on his face at the sight of the young woman. He started to speak, then peered closely at her face. "Autumn." Whatever tone of surprise he'd initially intended to speak her name with was muted, overlaid by concern at something he saw in the shadowed pools of her eyes. "You, uh, here to speak to Jase?" Swallowing past the sudden tightness in her throat, the red-haired girl nodded. "Hi, Mr. Ban- Gar," she corrected herself for what would likely not be the last time. She liked Jason's dad, and despite knowing he'd been present for their last encounter with the nightmare hellbeasts, it seemed wrong somehow to relate the combination of otherworldly and mundane awfulness that brought her to his door. "I'm sorry to bother you, I know it's late. Would it be okay if..." She rubbed her palms against her thighs to still their trembling, the polite smile on her lips taut. Uncertain. "Is, um- is he still up?" "If he's not," Gar stated gravely, stepping aside and waving her in. "He'd want to be, I'm sure." His gaze was filled with questions, but with a stoic practicality that seemed very much like his son's he set them aside and focused on the matter at hand. Closing the door, he went to the foot of the stairs and called up in a low, but carrying voice. "Jase?" There was a pause, then a door opened somewhere above them. "Yes?" came the familiar tone, crisp and alert-sounding, curiosity a faint note rather than the substance that the word suggested. A creak of floorboards, a shadow moved on the wall above the bookcases that lined the staircase. "Autumn's here. You decent?" Gar smiled faintly, winking at the girl. There was another pause. "Sure." Now there was curiosity in his voice. Gar gave Autumn a nod and indicated the carpeted stairs. "Thank you," the subdued redhead replied, her gaze following the neat rows of books she'd noticed the last time she was here, though she'd had no reason then to venture upstairs. Now, suddenly, Autumn was conscious of the state of her hair, the film of sweat and dust and... probably worse that clung to her skin and her clothes, but it was too late to turn around, wasn't it? She was here, even if she wasn't entirely sure why, and the only thing to do was climb. Ascending the steps slowly, she noted the sheer number of volumes present as well as the apparent variety of subjects covered; while most of the books downstairs were related to cooking or practical household concerns, these seemed more esoteric. A few sets of what looked like very old encyclopedias, noteworthy for their impressive leather and gilt spines, stood next to well-worn science textbooks, botanical field guides, and ones marked with characters she couldn't even read. It occurred to Jason's brand-new, very first girlfriend that he'd probably read all of them more than once. Reaching the landing at the top, Autumn unzipped her jacket and exhaled, counting to four. He was standing on the landing, in the dim gold radiance cast by an overhead bulb that picked out the bronze tones of his hair and features and warmed the glacial pallidity of his gaze as it studied her. His head tilted slightly, something she now surmised was a deliberate visible cue rather than an unconscious one, something he added for the benefit of others. Part of his 'peopling'. "Autumn." He didn't smile, despite the warmth in his voice as he uttered her name, the glittering interrogation of his gaze at odds with the warmth also there as he stepped towards her. "Jase," she replied, and took another deep breath, her fingers tangling themselves in the fabric of her hoodie. Even with everything that had happened, even with the uncomfortable way her t-shirt was sticking to her skin, there was something about those cool, not-wholly dispassionate jade eyes that made it difficult to think of anything else. Focus, Autumn. "Listen, I know it's really late, and I kind of just showed up, and we've only been dating for like a day, but I have a favor to ask." She paused, then amended, "Two favors. If it's okay, I would really like a shower, and a hug. In that order." There was another pause, another slow exhalation. "Please." A half-beat of her heart and then "Okay." The word was simply and sincerely spoken, without fanfare, and Jason half-turned, gesturing towards a doorway. "The bathroom is there. One moment, and I'll get you a towel." He started to move towards a closet, his manner composed. So composed, in fact, that Autumn experienced a weird but not-unpleasant sense of surprise. "Wait." she managed, causing him to stop and look at her. Then she wondered why she'd spoken up. It was just odd, the way he accepted without questioning or demanding to know what was going on. Jason considered her a moment as she stood, silently trying to put into words the question in her blue eyes. "You're upset." he said by way of answer to the unvoiced query. "Shower first, hug second. My curiosity can wait." He turned and retrieved a large dark blue towel from the closet, along with a matching washcloth. "I'll get you something to wear. Leave your clothes outside the door and I'll get them cleaned up." He led her to the bathroom door, then handed her the towel and cloth. No argument. No inquiry. No demands. Just... "Okay," and "I can wait." As if the explanation for her completely unreasonable request- after showing up unexpectedly in the middle of the night- was less important than the fact she'd made it. Autumn blinked up at him, surprised, in the soft golden light, her eyes the murky, indeterminate grey-blue-green of the ocean in the wake of a storm, and then nodded as he pressed the bath linens into her hands. She'd half-expected to be pinned to the wall by that piercing crystalline stare, questioned in precise and excruciating detail about why she'd shown up and what had happened, but... "Okay." At least for the moment, she didn't have to explain anything, to really even say anything at all, except- "Thank you," she breathed, cool fingertips lingering just a moment on the backs of his hands as she took the towel and turned, closing the bathroom door quietly behind her. For the span of several heartbeats, the redhead sagged back against that door, the thick wood panel reassuringly solid against her shoulders and spine as the reality that she was safe slowly penetrated the fog of apprehension she'd been moving through all night. With that recognition, a growing awareness of physical discomfort replaced psychological unease. She was sore. She was sweaty. She could actually feel the grime on her skin, and although being in the Old Town Hall had effectively granted her temporary immunity to its smell, she was pretty sure no one around her could boast the same. Ugh. Her nose crinkled in displeasure at the thought. In less time than it would have taken to list the layers of clothing she was wearing, she'd managed to tear them all off- opening the door just enough to confirm no one was watching before leaving them just outside. As Jason found something for her to wear and explained to his father, briefly, that she'd be staying for a little while, Autumn did her best to scrub away the physical residue of the night. At least she wasn’t sick, this time. The hot water was a soothing balm to both achy muscles and jangled nerves. It rinsed away the faint traces of earlier tears as well as the ones that spilled out unbidden beneath the spray, and banished the visible evidence of the girls’ adventures down the drain in a dark swirl, surrounding her in the clean scent of unidentifiable herbs and green, growing things. Jason’s soap. Jason’s shampoo. She lingered there a few minutes longer than was strictly necessary, the idea of his smell on her skin warming her as thoroughly on the inside as the shower was outside, and by degrees, the red-haired young woman felt herself relax. Wringing the water from her hair and combing through the damp curls with her fingers as she finished up and dried off, Autumn drew in what felt like the first full breath she’d had all evening. One of Jase’s oversized t-shirts and a pair of shorts with a drawstring waist lay on the counter, neatly folded, and she allowed herself a little smile as she pulled them on, her still-pink cheeks flushing a slightly deeper shade of rose as it occurred to her that her underwear had gone with everything else she’d been wearing. Although, she reflected with a faint grin, the most effective way to deal with most of it… except her hoodie… was probably just shoving it in a furnace and walking away. Between the fries, the ice cream, the exertion of the ride, and the luxury of a shower and clean clothes, she could almost convince herself that things were okay. Almost. As she stepped out of the bathroom, Autumn’s eyes caught on a sliver of light escaping a half-open door across the way. Padding across the carpet, she peeked inside, rapping her knuckles against the door frame in a quiet knock. “Jase?” The room was another library, shelves lining the walls from floor to ceiling and broken only by a closet door, the large sash window and a desk in one corner. The center of the room was largely dominated by a low bed consisting of a king size mattress only slightly set above the floor - a futon style, she thought it was called. As her eyes took in the room, it's lack of pop culture posters, or art, or photos, the lack of clothing strewn about and, most notably, the absence of eau-de-sock, it struck Autumn that this was by far the tidiest teenagers - especially teenage boy's - room she had ever seen. The only marked disarray was the couple of piles of books next to the bed - which the room's occupant currently sat on, long legs stretching out in front of him as he leaned back against the wall, reading by the light of a lamp. Jase looked up as she knocked, smiling slightly in that way he did - the faintest of crinkles at the corners of his eyes as they took in her freshly-washed self. Heat flickered in the depths of his gaze as it rested on her pink-tinged cheeks, but all he did was close the book he'd been passing the time with and set it aside, watching her as he motioned for her to enter. "Come on in." he invited. A touch of a wry smile graced his lips. "I believe you would be the only person other than my father who has." "Thanks," she replied with a faint, answering smile, pleased at the inclusion in such a select group as she stepped over the threshold and into the decidedly un-hoardlike inner sanctum of Bannon the Magnificent, he of the spear-like claws and teeth of swords. Then again... Scanning row upon row of books, it occurred to the curious redhead that the library in the rest of the house wasn't singular at all. It must instead have spilled forth from this room, the accumulated knowledge of minds great and good and simply novel overflowing down the stairs and into the kitchen and- she assumed- probably elsewhere, as well, like so many gold bars and gleaming gems amassed for his pleasure. A cave of wonders, of mysteries and secrets, treasures for the brilliant young man's keen intellect to peruse at his leisure. "It suits you." Autumn's footfalls were silent on the rug as she closed the distance between them, hesitating for little more than the span of a heartbeat before she perched on the edge of the bed next to Jason, feet on the floor. The camping trip had been one thing, but this was his room. Girlfriend or not, there were rules for this kind of thing, right? Some kind of protocol to be observed? Angling toward him, she turned slightly, pressing her lips together as her eyes moved thoughtfully over his face. She'd just seen him earlier that evening, had spent almost two full days with him, but in that instant it didn't feel like even that had been enough. "So, um, the hug. Should I just...?" Meeting Jase's gaze, his companion gestured vaguely toward him as if asking permission. His head tilted slightly, the wry smile widening for a moment and revealing a hint of dimple in each smooth cheek, then Jason simply held out a hand to her. "Come here." It wasn't quite a command, and wasn't quite a request, and contained warmth of emotion not usually present in his habitually precise and clinical manner. She took the long, strong fingers in her own, folding her hand around his, letting him draw her to him as she shuffled closer until she felt his arm slide around her shoulders and tug her into an embrace. "You never need to ask to touch me." he murmured with his lips on her damp hair, his free hand stroking the ends of her curls, fingers toying with them. "That privilege is yours." In answer, Autumn simply nodded, pressing her face against his chest as her other arm curled around his side. Her fingertips slid under the hem of his shirt, finding the warm, bare skin of his back beneath the cotton and exhaling a long, shaky breath that seemed to come from her toes. Her eyelids drifted shut at the feel of Jason's breath on her hair, the pressure of his arm, the dextrous fingers entwined with hers; although she didn't feel the least bit sleepy, it was the first time since she and Cass had left the basement that she'd seen nothing at all when she closed her eyes. That alone was worth the ride through the dark Montana night. "Same," she murmured against his collarbone, drawing her pale legs up onto the bed and all but melting against the reclining youth. The awfulness was still there, that haunting chill that whispered that things weren't at all okay, and that they might never again be okay, but at least for the moment it seemed distant, muted by the heat radiating from Jase's lean form next to hers. "You have really good hugs, you know?" his potentially biased girlfriend opined quietly, her thumb moving lightly over his knuckles. "For an alien." In the diamond-etched crystal prism of his mind, Jason was hard at work analysing Autumn's appearance, manner, and possible reasons for being here. He was also focused intently on the feel of her wet hair, cool on his fingertips, and the warmth of her touch on his skin. That connection, that sense of being touched and the vulnerability of being close to another, was deeply personal to the strange young man - which is why he tolerated very few people within arm's length. It was also fair to say that Autumn's proximity, after his earlier wrestling with the remembrance of their sensual play of the night before, was performing an excellent job of undoing the locks of his self-discipline like a practiced seducer's fingers would unfasten the buttons on a shirt. "It must be part of the genetic superiority." he joked softly. "Intelligence, aggression, fearlessness... and really good hugs." He breathed in deeply, his eyes half-closing as he struggled with the urge to change the nature of his caresses, to seek her mouth with his and draw out gasps of pleasure, to bury his fingers deep in her hair and crane her head back so her ivory throat would be laid bare for his lips... He breathed out again, feeling his center stabilise once more. It was apparent to him that Autumn hadn't come seeking sex. She had seen something, or experienced something, that had upset her deeply and needing comfort she had come... to him? Perhaps. Perhaps she had also been scared, and so wanted a sense of protection? It was hard to say with any certainty, at least for him. So he concentrated instead on what he did know. Autumn wanted to be held. That he could do, and so his arm snugged her closer as, in a gesture of comfort he'd seen others do, he softly kissed her forehead. "Mhmm," the redhead agreed, smiling in spite of herself at the gentle brush of his lips. Even in this, she realized, Jase was a fast learner, and a part of her wondered what he'd be like when he was older, more experienced with life and women and, well. Everything. That was a question for future Autumn to answer, though, as current Autumn had more pressing concerns. "Must be. The other stuff just makes it hard for people to figure that out. Lucky me, huh?" Shifting slightly in his arms, she tilted her head back to catch Jason's eye and smiled, one corner of her mouth curving upward. "Probably all the Irish in my family." Even under questionable circumstances such as these, it was impossible to remain completely unaffected by his nearness, the firefly glimmer of gold in his gaze, the lingering hint of tobacco just underneath the verdant, crisp scent she'd come to associate with Jason Bannon. Feeling her face growing warmer as she studied his features, the blue-eyed teen caught her lower lip in her teeth, biting down just hard enough to remind herself that was definitely not why she'd come out here. Probably. Then again, it hadn't really been a conscious choice on her part, had it? "You said earlier you were curious," she stated, focusing on the here-and-now of those pale green eyes. "And you've done both the favors I asked for, so I kind of owe you some explanation. Would it be okay with you if we stayed like this while we talked, though?" Neat white teeth worried at her lower lip, causing it to redden enticingly, and Jason almost lost his struggle there before getting control once more, remonstrating sternly with himself and more than a little concerned. This was not like him, to feel so easily pulled like this. "It's more than okay to stay like this." he said in answer to her question, his eyes studying her upturned features with a gaze that was half analytical, and half appreciative. "And you can give as much, or as light of an explanation as you choose right now. I kind of get the impression the scouting was... unpleasant?" Autumn snorted softly in something like laughter, though there was nothing at all to laugh about. It was just easier, preferable to the alternative, which was to start crying again. "Yeah. The two of us went to Bunnee's, after," she explained, resting her cheek against the smooth plane of his Jase's chest, turning his hand over in hers and studying the faint marks on his palm, the whorls on the pads of his fingertips as she traced them with her own. "We talked about it a little, but I don't think either of us have really processed, yet. There's a lot of pieces of ideas kind of floating around in my head right now, and I don't know how much help it'll be. If at all." Exhaling, the animated redhead frowned, rearranging herself again as if to get closer. When she began again, her voice was quiet, distant in the way it had been when she'd spoken of her grandfather on the porch a week before. "It was a lot like Cassie said when she described it, but worse. The darkness, the smell... Awful. Cody wasn't there, though. Just us, and all the, um." Her voice wavered, a sudden shiver prickling the freckled skin on the backs of her arms. "The animals he'd killed. There were a whole lot of them, and not just in the basement, and most of them had been there for a while." There had been so many of them, their little bodies just mangled, brutalized and tortured and then discarded like trash... Her eyes darkened, lashes trembling slightly at the memory as she fixed her gaze on the lines encircling the base of his thumb. Focus, Autumn. You have to be able to talk about it. She inhaled, counting silently in her head and holding the breath before releasing it again. "He wasn't around, but it felt like... If you walk into a room where someone was just standing, and you know that they were there? Like, there's no hot coffee cup, or lit cigarette, or anything to give you a definite clue, just that feeling. They just stepped out, but they might be back any second. Sort of like that." "Well, that settles the matter of where we go to find him." Jason murmured, part of his mind examining the description of the place. Mangled, tortured animals. To him, no more than distasteful, and more so due to the apparent senselessness, but from recent experience he knew it was more than that for his girlfriend. He gave her what he judged was a reassuring squeeze, and upon feeling her make a small noise, tighten her embrace of him and press her face into his chest assessed that the comfort was well-received. "Tomorrow, if you feel capable, I'd like you and Cassie to do a floorplan of the place for us to study. To describe it so that we're as ready as we can be. We know we're on a clock with taking him down, so the sooner we prepare the better." "But that can wait till tomorrow. This is hug time." he added with another small kiss on the top of Autumn's head, breathing in his shampoo mingling with the warm smell of her hair - of her. His scent on her. Odd how that affected him so strongly, causing not just arousal but also provoking urges of protection, of possession. Mine, the urges rumbled, and the diamond-clarity of Jason's thoughts resolved to keep a strong watch on that, lest it come on him at a bad time, or lead to... unproductive confrontations. "Was there anything more? Either of you get hurt?" he inquired with mild concern. He had initially assumed that, if that was the case, Autumn would have led with it. But people were strange sometimes - it would not surprise him for Autumn to disregard a wound in her distress over the dead animals. "No, not hurt. Freaked out, scared, angry, yeah, but not hurt. The place sounded like it'd fall on our heads the whole time, but it seemed pretty solid. Some of the old stairs were out, broken railings, stuff like that, but I mean, that's what you expect, right?" She sat quietly for a moment, weaving her pale, cinnamon-flecked fingers through Jason's long, tan ones. The actual physical aspect of the place was easy to describe, just a practical assessment of its construction and how time and the occasional vagrant or animal incursion had changed it; its effect, however, wasn't quite so simple for the earnest young woman to relate. "I know we'll probably talk a lot more about it tomorrow, and Cass took a lot of pictures, so you guys can see exactly what we found- there were drawings all over the place, but not like graffiti. More like creepy cave paintings of the… monster, I guess? That she talked about. Cody, or the spirit, or whatever. Skull, antlers." Wait. Autumn leaned back suddenly, straightening to meet Jase’s eyes. Whatever questions or ideas she had about the meaning of those primitive scrawls, their origin, or what they might suggest about the historical goings-on in Shelly could wait until everyone was together. That was just details. It might help them come up with a working hypothesis, or add some color to the outline of events they were sketching, but it didn’t seem immediately useful. …Except in one instance. "Not just drawings, though. There’s a big one, on one of the walls down in the basement, and we’re pretty sure that’s the Door,” she added soberly, a subtle emphasis on the last word. “Cassie felt it there, I think, and-“ The redhead blinked, wide, dark pupils constricting sharply at the memory of the marks on the floor, the rust-red flecks on Velcro, the fluorescent stripes, as she tensed. “-and there was a little boy’s shoe, and… And that’s- the wall is where the blood stopped,” she finished tautly. He remained silent for a moment, his eyes on hers as he absorbed everything. A Door, audibly capitalised. A boy's shoe. Blood. Autumn's pupillary constriction and the way the colour drained from her ivory skin, throwing the dusting of freckles into high contrast. The way her voice tightened and the tremor in her fingers around his. "That'll do for now." he decided softly, tugging her back to snuggle against him, resuming the gentle stroking of her hair, fingertips lightly brushing strands back from her cheek and ear, resting his jaw and cheek on the top of her fiery curls. "Did I tell you yet today that I admire your courage?" he murmured with a soft smile that would have astonished practically everyone in the Fellowship, except possibly Sean. "Don't feel brave." Autumn muttered, her eyes closing as she listened to his heartbeat against her ear and breathed in his scent. "And yet you are. You're scared, and do what needs to be done anyway." Jase said firmly, his voice still low as he dropped another kiss on her brow. "I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure that's the definition of bravery most people agree with." "Mmmm," his girlfriend hummed noncommittally, too preoccupied with allowing him to spoil her for a little bit longer to contest the point. This wasn't at all what she'd expected, this tenderness in his manner- Jason was clinical, pragmatic, and, yes, passionate, if the last twenty four hours had been any indication, but this was an entirely different sort of intimacy. For all its strangeness, though, the feeling of gentle fingers in her hair, the rise and fall of his chest, the warmth of his breath on her skin and the faint resonance of his Shine interacting with hers... It felt pleasantly familiar. He'd offered actual comfort- not empty platitudes or reassurances that everything was going to be fine, but simple physical presence. Connection. He'd told her not so long ago that if she ever had a bad day, he'd be right there, and she was pretty freaking sure that tonight qualified. ...And he was true to his word, wasn't he? He listened. Even if it wasn't something he knew anything about, or had any experience with, he'd actually been there. It wasn't just something he'd said to make her feel better. "Okay, Professor Bannon," Autumn conceded after a moment, inhaling tobacco, something crisply botanical, and what she could only identify as 'Jase' under that. "I'll take your word for it." Releasing his fingers, the freshly-showered young woman wrapped both her arms around the laconic youth's spare, wiry torso, her hands sliding beneath the hem of his shirt as she attempted vainly to get closer to him. The journals, the trip to the reservation, talking about the basement and how to handle it- all of that could wait a little longer, she decided. At least until tomorrow, and that seemed, at the moment, to be very far away. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was a little while later. Jason had recited poetry to Autumn - poetry in various languages, spoken in a soft voice - as she'd cuddled close, and whether it was his voice, or choice of poems, her emotional exhaustion, his smell or some mixture of them all she had fallen into a doze, lips curved in a faint smile as she occasionally made 'mmh'-ing noises and wriggled as though it were possible to snuggle closer. "His spots are the joy of the Leopard, his horns are the Buffalo's pride." Jase said softly, smiling a little at the drowsing redhead as he quoted Kipling. "Be clean, for the strength of the hunter is known by the gloss of his hide. If you find that the bullock can toss you, or the heavy-browed Sambhur can gore-" Whatever came next was interrupted as a text tone went off from Autumn's phone and her eyes snapped open. "How'd that get here?" she asked, blinking a little. What time was it? "It was in your hoodie. I retrieved it when you put your clothes outside the bathroom." Jason explained, passing it to her without glancing at the screen. With a murmured 'thanks,' Autumn tapped her phone, visibly reluctant to shake off the reverie as she sat up with a little huff and swiped away the broad field of wildflowers that appeared on her lock screen. Maybe Cass was checking in, or her mom, or- "Oh. It's from..." Copper brows knit together in confusion as she checked the name. "Marissa." There was a hint of a question in the word, a note of surprise, and then she tapped the screen again. [Wow, heard from Devin you're sleeping with Jason? Nice, Autumn. Nice.] "Wait, how did- ?" she murmured, re-reading the text one more time. Fully awake now, the companionable warmth she'd been drowsily enjoying seemed to rush suddenly upward, flooding the girl's bronze-flecked cheeks with scarlet. It didn't really bother her that Marissa knew, but she'd meant to tell the beautiful fashionista herself, and... Autumn had never actually been congratulated on making out with a guy before. This whole 'having a female best friend' thing was a little different from having a guy best friend. Huh. Grinning in spite of herself at the prospect of being able to actually talk to another girl about things like this, of having a 'bestie' who wouldn't show up to threaten the guy she was seeing, Autumn leaned back against Jason's chest. Still blushing, she tapped out a quick reply. [No, not sleeping! Will tell you about it tomorrow!] Marissa's response was almost immediate: [Can. Not. Wait.] The redhead's smile widened as she read the emphatic reply and set the phone on the bed, her rosy flush deepening by degrees as she peered up into the pale green eyes in such close proximity to her own. "I guess the cat's out of the bag with Marissa. Apparently Devin said something to her about us." "Devin knew we were going camping. Though it's improbable he knows what happened there." Jase noted, running his thumb along Autumn's lower lip as his palm caressed her cheek. He paused, reflecting. "I did ask him if perhaps your behaviour towards me indicated attraction. I wasn't sure, and didn't want to presume and make another mistake." "You talked to Devin about me?" Autumn asked, embarrassment warring with the little skip her heart made at the confession. "Not by name - I just described the behaviour and asked his opinion. Though he might have put two and two together." Jason smiled a tiny amount. "He's far from blind or stupid." "You're taking girl advice from Devin?" Autumn didn't know whether to laugh or be aghast. Jason shrugged, smiling. "He was pretty helpful. Said the best way to find out was to test the waters. It didn't occur to me to do so until that moment by the fire, though." He lightly brushed his lips over hers. "I'm glad I did." he murmured against her mouth. His pink-cheeked companion was glad, too; in fact, she spent the next few minutes communicating her satisfaction at the arrangement with quiet enthusiasm, heated kisses stealing the breath from their lungs and ardent caresses igniting incandescent sparks along their nerve endings. That it went no further was a testament to Jason's strength of will and Autumn's fear of being sent off to a remote convent on a mountaintop in Eastern Europe, and before the hour was too late to be considered "wholly unacceptable" by weekend standards, he offered to drive her home. Unlike the last time she'd visited, there was no argument or debate over whether she'd traverse the dark roads on her bicycle. As she changed back into her own clothes, somewhat reluctantly relinquishing the t-shirt he'd loaned her, she was silently grateful not to have to make the trip on her own after everything that had happened that night. "Oh, hey, I forgot to mention it earlier." Twisting her still-damp curls up at the nape of her neck, Autumn rolled the little elastic band off her wrist and looped it around the knot to secure it in place as she sat on the edge of the bed, getting ready to leave. "My mom said if you guys come by around 8:30 or so, we can all have breakfast before we head over to the Rez. Normally I'd just text you, but, you know. Sort of not an option." She grinned over at him, nose crinkling slightly as she leaned down to pull on her hiking boots. "Nothing crazy. Waffles. Bacon. Probably whatever fruit she picked up from the farmer's market. Coffee, of course. Wanna come?" A smile curved Jase's lips. "Having me over twice in two days for a meal? People will talk." he teased her, enjoyed the renewed dark rose that flooded her cheeks even as she smiled back at him. "What do you think they'll say?" she asked, playing along. Jason pretended to consider as he stood, moving to shuffle his feet into his own boots. "Probably that you're leading me astray by means of feeding me." He gave a small grin as he opened the door for her and followed her down the stairs. Autumn chuckled as Jason quickly told his dad - and Hank, who was still trying to beat Gar at chess - that he was driving her home, and as the pair headed out onto the porch, collected Autumn's bike, and headed over to the smaller barn she nudged him with an elbow. "Is the food method working?" "Definitely." Jason nodded, deadpan. "I'm totally led astray." He popped the trunk of his car and helped her hoist the bike into it, giving her a smile across the roof of the Charger as they moved to the driver and passenger doors. "Now let's get you home before Dana rescinds the offer to feed me."
  20. If only she’d stayed outside just a few more moments… There is no god, Autumn reaffirmed to herself in that moment, crimson flames creeping up her throat to scorch the sides of her face. Or at least, not a merciful one. Fuck. Distraction? Distraction. “Ohhh, heyy, coffee!” the expressive redhead exclaimed as Cassie winked at her, pivoting on one foot to retrieve the mug she’d abandoned in her haste to meet Jason out front- ‘Happy Camper,’ it read, in a cheery blue font above the illustration of a tent. It was, at least good coffee, although admittedly not as good as whatever they stocked at the Bannon house. That stuff barely needed any cream or sugar at all. She was just debating whether to ask him what brand they got when something pricked at the girl’s awareness. It was quiet. Blinking, she glanced around the dining room, a creeping sense of unease slithering up her spine. She and Jase were there… Cass had just gone to wash up… Her mom was in the kitchen… Devin was gone. He was in her house, unsupervised- oh god, what if he was in her room?! Autumn’s eyes went wide at the thought, as if the teleporter were a toddler who’d disappeared in a shopping mall. Oh, for-! I just took my eyes off him for a second! There’s no telling what he’s getting into on his own! “Um. Jase, did you see where Devin went?” she asked, trying to quell the rising sense of panic at the idea of the more annoying Jauntsen poking around in her dresser. Or desk. Or under her bed… Oh, god. Wordlessly, Jason pointed toward the kitchen, a faint suggestion of amusement in the almost imperceptible quirk of his mouth, and as Autumn glanced in the direction of the doorway she realized she could just make out the sound of conversation over the radio. Exhaling bodily, the animated young woman’s shoulders dropped a full inch as she relaxed and took a long, steadying sip from her mug. "Cool," she replied as casually as possible, narrowly resisting the urge to run upstairs and close her bedroom door. "Cool."
  21. Austin had wisely remained silent. He butt heads with his step-dad, but his mom and siblings were great, and he had a home life he couldn't complain about. In fact he fought very hard to keep his family safe. It wasn't for him to get into that whole conversation. When Maurice mentioned that a piece of the Heart was missing he looked to Nadya who'd been the one to gather it up. It wasn't an accusation of holding back, in his own way he didn't believe she'd do that with them on something like this. "Are you sure you got them all?" His tone was polite, it was just after a big battle, and to be fair, she'd been the only one to even think to pick up the pieces. " I mean it's been abit, but I'll go back and see if I can find it, but that's gonna be like lookin for a needle in a big nasty haystack." He definitely wasn't the best equipped to try that, unless it was underwater, but it'd still be really difficult to find.
  22. "Do you have enough for a scandalous expose in the paper, do you think?" "I had enough for that before you even opened your mouth," Cassandra replied, still grinning. "Now I have enough for an actual book." Then she yawned and stretched, smirking slightly as she started down the hallway towards the bathroom to wash up before eating. Cass hadn't gotten more than a few steps though before pausing and looking back at Jase over her shoulder. "But that's if I was writing for gossip columns, you know? I have seriously important things to write about these days. Gods and heroes. Villainy. The end of the world. If you want page time, you're going to have to sell this relationship a bit more. I mean, if you're worried about embarrassing Autumn, there must be an embarrassing story in there, right?" She gave Autumn a grin and a wink to let her know she was mostly just kidding. Mostly.
  23. While Cass distracted the guards, Devin slipped away. He smirked and shook his head as he was mildly entertained by Cass wanting to be all in their business like the reporter in training she was. The kitchen was only a few steps away, and closer than the bathroom he'd have to look for on his own, so he made his way in there. Waffles and eggs and bacon were all on the menu it seemed and the wonder mom that was Dana Keane had everything well in hand. Still, it was more than one person could handle on any day and with her assistant pulled away for tabloid interview, she was nursing her coffee while juggling the morning's breakfast. Devin could see the headline now: "Bat Boy Found, But Captured and Eaten By New Power Couple, Jase and Autumn!" He smiled at that. "Do, uh," the back of his hand tapped nervously and gently into the palm of his other. "Can I uh, help out with anything?" He asked the lovely redhead. "Waffles! Nice. One of my favorites." Small talk that didn't involve being a pervert or an ass was easily one Devin's weak spots, but it wasn't just the Fellowship or the school he needed to endear himself to on his path to redemption, it was the families of those he'd wronged too. He'd learned that from his mom, or, more to the point, the few books she'd written on the topic coupled with copious internet searches. "I do this thing where I whip the eggs seperately from the yolks then mix them afterward. It uh, makes the waffle more airy, or, fluffy, I guess." Dana was annoyed that Devin Jauntsen was even in her home, let alone her kitchen attempting to make small talk with her. Still, for her daughter's sake, she finished her sip of coffee and set the mug on her counter top as she chopped the eggs in the pan gently, scrambling them. "You can make waffles?" She asked incredulously. It came out a bit more abrasive than she'd intended but with an diplomatic half smile she recovered her composure. "Up on the hill, lording over Shelly, most people just assume the Jauntsens have servants and maids to make all their meals." "Yeah, with the storm clouds and the bats... I know, but we had to do away with the weather machine, EPA guidelines. Bats, wouldn't you know it, are endangered in these parts, which I warned mom about before we moved to Montana." He shrugged defeatedly. "No one listens to me." Despite her current position on Devin the boy had mastered the art of schmoozing awhile back. He knew that Mrs. Keane, despite not liking him, wouldn't do or say anything that would embarrass or hurt her daughter's standing with her friends, let alone her new boyfriend. He stepped up and washed his hands in the sink, before picking up a knife and setting a strawberry on the cutting board and did a rolling cut with practiced accuracy. "The staff we kept sacrificing to our dark gods to keep us wealthy and young, so no one answers our ads for help anymore. Needless to say last Christmas was rough. All dark pagan worship and sacrifice, then we were stuck ordering pizza." "You never turn off the smarm, do you?" Dana asked with an appraising eyebrow raised. "Sorry, defense mechanism." He smiled that charming smile of his as another slice of strawberry rolled off the knife's edge. The thickness and angle were exactly the same as the one before it, as Devin's keen sense of distance, angles, and measurements unconsciously aided in this small task. "I learned to take care of myself, Mrs. Keane. Our parents really aren't the most nurturing sort. So, we've learned to watch after each other. I took up the cooking, and cleaning. Marissa handles the dishes and laundry and keeps up with our schedules so we don't miss appointments, dentist, doctor, stuff like that." There was an awkward pause, the sort one felt when the distinct feeling that the listener didn't care about what the speaker was saying, crept over him. "Your dogs are cool," strawberry slices were piling up giving Dana reason to pause as her proficient and educated skills of observation from years of work in the medical field, noticed the strange fluidity and accuracy of the sixteen year old boy slicing strawberries with laser precision like a chef who'd had nearly thirty years to practice. "We weren't allowed pets. They were a distraction, Mom said." "A distraction," she offered him a look of genuine interest now. Adding a pinch of salt and pepper to the eggs she mixed them together in the pan with the spatula and finally tilted the fluffy yellow goodness out onto a larger serving plate. As she cracked more eggs, she followed up. "From what?" "Oh, our Mom had this whole child stardom thing planned for us. It was up at four in the morning for workouts, rehearsals breakfast and school prep, then school, then back for workouts, rehearsals, auditions." He shrugged dismissing his past. "Typical MaliCali life. Pets, video games, friends... wasn't really in the cards for us. We had a social life, but it was with other kids whom our Mom had previously screened and would improve our image or positively promote our brand." "Sounds like it was rough," Dana commented dismissively yet with just enough compassion as a mother to understand that not all children were given the love and nurturing that her daughter was given. "So, what are you getting at, Devin? Hmm? Am I supposed to listen to your story and accept that everything you and your sister did to my daughter over the last several years is completely justified because the Jauntsen twins didn't get their pony?" Devin sighed and set down the knife. Twisting the stem from the cut strawberry he was cutting he popped into his mouth. "No, of course not," he chewed. "Look, Mrs. Keane, I know I've been a jerk, hurtful even. I-I'm not that guy anymore. I like your daughter, a lot." She raised an eye brow at him, shifting her posture like a jealous father ready to law down the law to protect her daughter from love triangle drama. Realizing how he phrased it, Devin scrunched his face at her and recoiled slightly. "What? No. No, not like that. I know it seems strange. That I sort of just pulled a one-eighty one day and now Jason and Autumn, and all of us are all chummy and it makes as much sense to us as it does to all of you, the parents. Believe me, the Cassidy's don't even let me into their home, let alone invite me to breakfast." "And do you understand why?" She asked him, tilting her coffee and realizing she just took a motherly tone with him. "What? Oh, wow," he seemed caught off guard for a moment. "Uh, so.. yeah, wow, we-we're doing this? The ol' pull the Mom card out and lay it on the table. Yeah, of course I know. I was an absolute terror, I get it. Bu-but, look at it from my end. I'm trying really hard at something that doesn't really come with an instruction manual. You adults are always telling how we're getting older and we need to start accepting more responsibility and put our adult pants on... but... you don't ever stop treating us like kids. Autumn is amazing and beautiful and fun. She's grounded and has her act together like no other person I've met before. I screwed up, I did things I can't take back but all I want is the chance to be a friend to her now. To be forgiven and offered a chance to start over, y'know?" She shifted the eggs in the pan and let them slide off onto the platter. "Have you told her that?" Devin stopped chewing his second strawberry and glared off into nowhere. Shit. He just got mommed. "I... I guess I haven't. Hard to start over if I've never bothered to apologize, huh? Good call, Mrs. Keane." "Yeah," she smiled to herself. "Been doing this for a couple years. I've picked up a trick or two."
  24. Austin was pulling up as he saw the others go inside, and got out of his jeep and head inside. Darcy was still there with Fisher, even as he came inside, and he offered her a warm smile. "I take it I'm not too late." When Fisher pointed on to Where Grim had gone on ahead, he smiled "Thanks. Darcy, can you bring me a coke?" The look she gave him was polite, but he could read the exasperation in her eyes. Austin wasn't a coffee person by any stretch. In truth, if he was going to drink it, it was essentially sweetened coffee milk by the time he was ready to drink it, and he didn't feel like hearing it from his friends. Still, it was hard to say no to the young scion of Poseidon, and she nodded once. "Sure, Austin." With that be followed along to where Grim and Nadya were meeting with the older scion, and found himself wondering if there was something he could do to repay Dane for this. It had definitely seemed to have been something he wasn't happy about, which was quite out of character for Dane.
  25. Jason, for his part, finished pouring himself a coffee as Cass rounded the table and commenced the inquisition, casting her an expression that was typically neutral but for a raised eyebrow, his icy green eyes unwavering from Cass as he took a sip of the black brew in his hand. (Number 5: I am permitting this uninvited invasion of my space because I find the person tolerable or agreeable, is how Autumn would have mentally catalogued the expression.) "It's on the right, just down the hall." was all he said as he lowered the mug. "I can show you if you need, though." Dana's snort of quiet laughter at the mischief she had sown was unheard by the teens as Autumn's mom headed back out into the kitchen. "Nuh-uh." Shelly intrepid and plucky reporter pressed. "I want to know details. How did this-" her finger traversed from Jason towards Autumn, who had just come back in from taking the dogs outside and froze, her attitude that of a deer scenting danger. "-become a thing?" Jase cast a glance at Autumn, then returned his gaze to Cassie. "We went camping - as friends. We discovered a mutual attraction." he stated simply, without any sense that he was embarrassed or uncomfortable. "If Autumn wishes to share more details than that, it's up to her." he finished, a faint twitch of his lips indicating a smile. "I'm immune to embarrassment - she is not." "Clarify, please." Cass asked with a grin. "Are you guys dating now? Do you even date?" she gave Bannon a long, scrutinising stare. "I never had you down as the dating type." "I'm full of surprises." Jase replied evenly, a glint of something that might be humor in his eyes. There was a quiet choked off laugh from Devin. "So you are dating." Cass's tone was triumphant. She glanced from his unruffled stare to Autumn's beet-red face. "Wow. And her mom knows you too." "Dana was kind enough to invite me in for dinner when we came back from camping." Jase said with a slight nod. His head tilted slightly to one side as he regarded her. "Do you have enough for a scandalous expose in the paper, do you think?"
  26. Cassandra's eyes immediately narrowed as Dana spoke. Words jumped out at her. "Hang on," she said, twisting around to look at Jason. "You...remember?" A slow grin spread across her face. "This isn't your first time here." Then she was on her feet, reaching instinctively behind her to grab the chair back before it fell over. "So?" Cass pressed, folding her arms and getting up in Jase's space. "Spill it? What are we talking about here? Study session? Hot date? Something...in between?"
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