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  2. Fisher nodded, very relieved that things had not turned out for the worst. The disappointment and sense of betrayal Mr. Syracuse could have brought to bear would have cut out his heart worse than a dozen very sad Jewish mothers. "Fair enough. I'll let the others know that's the game plan. Thank you, again, Mr. Syracuse. Now I need to go help Austin follow up a lead. Those witches aren't going to banish themselves. And wipe that smug smile off Marius' scummy face." Mistakes had been made, but he could bounce back. He was Fisher Capra, a kami demigod! Even in the face of trouble, you could always go beyond, Plus Ultra!
  3. "Yeah I am. The smell is pretty damn awful though." He grunted, and tried not to breathe deeply. the smell of death mixed with the sea, and it was rather unpleasant. "I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for, something that is just out of place. The fact these three things are supposedly equidistant means they're setting up some sort of ritual, and this is one of the two points we actually knew. I'd been hoping for Fisher to get here since he's got abit more feel for that sort of thing." Austin sighed. "Got way too many things I need to actually start learning it seems, and far too little time to do so." He looked over to the water. "Something tells me there won't be anything in the water, they can't guarantee it'd stay there. I figure it's some sort of carving, or maybe a group of carvings, but I could be wrong."
  4. "A tenth I know: when at night the witches / ride and sport in the air, / such spells I weave that they wander home / out of skins and wits bewildered." Grim muttered as he beheld the destruction of life. He took a breath, smelling the composting, rotting vegetation, eyes narrowed and lips pinched in anger. Someone had not just taken life. They had taken love, and time, and care. They had taken Ms Cunningham's soul, or a part of it at least, to fuel some working or rite. But to what end? What rite? Life for life, soul for soul. Some manner of transference? A rejuvenation? Or just a simple sucking of something good and decent to power something else. The principles of Sympathy and Contagion as he understood them certainly indicated the former. What had been done here was... vampiric in it's effect. Taking, to feed something else. And that something else needed the love and life of this garden. "What's that, dear?" Ms Cunningham asked, sniffling from where she sat by Laurie. Grim turned, strands of his dark hair whipping across his pale, raw-boned features, and stepped over to her, sinking with some difficulty to one knee. "I'll help you re-plant this." he told her soberly. "Even now, I can see the love you put into this garden. Right now, all is bleak. Fall turns to Winter. Let the ground stay as it is, absorb what is left into it, recover and revitalise. Winter always breaks, and when it does we will replant." He smiled faintly. "You'll have to show me how, but we'll have beauty here again." "But... why would you do that, dear?" Ms Cunningham felt fresh tears coming as she stared at the mismatched eyes. Grim pondered for a long moment, trying to find the right words to express how he felt about it, why he was making such an offer, why he cared. He settled for part of the truth. "It would be wrong not to." he said finally, his manner thoughtful as he stood, grunting a little as he leaned on his staff to help him up. He motioned with his head to Dale and Laurie as Elaine Cunningham sniffled, weeping silently as she looked at her ruined flowerbeds, drawing the two girls aside with him. In concise murmurs, Grim outlined what he had seen, what he had felt from the emptied, hollowed-out shell of the garden. "So it wasn't a hex against her, or anything personal like that. This was an act of... convenience. Necessity. Someone needed the life that was in this garden." he finished, looking over his shoulder at the sorrowful old woman ten feet away before looking back at Laurie and Dale. "It was used as a battery, I think."
  5. “Can I help you, young man?” Asked Ms. Cunningham as Grimsley approached the yard. “Come to see for yourself?” “I’m sorry,” Grim said sincerely. He could tell she’d been crying by the swelling beneath her eyes. She’d just been sitting there just under where he was leaning, and he hadn’t really noticed her until she’d spoke up. “We didn’t mean to add to your hurt. We’d hoped that, maybe,” he wasn’t quite sure how to say it. “That perhaps we could assist in finding those responsible for vandalizing what is Salem’s loveliest garden,” Laurie interjected. She used the present tense as to not strip away the last vestige of hope from a woman who seemed to enjoy gardening more than anything in the world. “Yes,” Grim agreed. “We’re familiar with how the high schoolers around here sometimes act. We thought perhaps we could find something that was missed.” “Oh,” she tried to seem cheerful, grateful even, as she fumbled with a wad of tissue in her anxious fingers. “I appreciate it, I do. Already told the Sheriff everything and he didn’t seem one iota concerned with it. You’re welcome to look, I don’t at all mind. I Harley doubt anything will come of it. It’s a garden after all, not a murder. Police have far more important things than to track down some kids who wronged an old lady.” Grimsley’s view of the world faded away from normal colors. The fires of autumn’s leaves muted to a grayscale account of Ms. Cunningham’s backyard. The autumn chill was still in the air as the wind danced through his hair and slithered down the back of his neck, urging him to shrug and tug his jacket up a bit as he leaned against his staff. From the gray the gossamer shimmer of faint, spider silk strands began to form, there, yet not there as their thinness almost made the threads invisible. Yet, they were there. Always in front of him, yet always beyond his reach as a 3D layer imposed itself over him. He could see them, walk through the gray garden, yet he would easily pass through them. Fate threads, although they could be manipulated, were forever out of the touch of mortals, even divine ones. Had magic been used here? Well, not exactly. It was not that magic had been used here in Ms. Cunningham’s garden specifically, so much as the effects of magic had affected her plot of land. Even in the fading warmth of Summer, Ms. Cunningham’s garden was a bastion of life and Nature’s bounty. It was enduring long after Autumn’s chill should have claimed it but not through divine protection or providence… but through something as simple as love. He could feel it here, under the chill of winter’s ravenous approach: the slight empathic bond she shared with her garden, the love she had for the simple act of tending, pruning, and caring for the flowers and vegetables and fruits that grew so easily and readily for her. A ghostly image of Ms. Cunningham faded in and out of view, resonance of memories the dying garden felt as the last vestiges of life were clawed apart by the cold. To weak were the plants now and Grim knew that no amount of love could restore them. “There, there,” the phantom of Ms. Cunningham said as knelt beside withered tomato plants. “Those storms sure were something, weren’t they? No water for you today, but look,” she produced some manner of item that he couldn’t make out in the ghostly image. “Some nutrients to mingle with the water and soil. You hang in there and I’ll check on you in a bit.” “Oh!” she appeared again over by the rose bushes close to her back porch. “Well, look at you lovelies! Just flaunting all over the place, aren’t ya? Well, pretty you may be, you be nice to the others. Loving you all the same I am. If I hear tell of you picking on the others again, well, I’ll be moving you to the side of the house for a season. Uproot you and all, so don’t test me.” She waggled her finger at the bush. So, it went on and to the outside looking some would have considered the old woman nuts. Truth of the matter was, as Grimsley wandered slowly though the scene piecing it together, this was all she had. With her husband gone she’d taken all her love for him and placed it here, in her garden. When the phantoms appeared of the two of them planting and talking and planning where each seed would go it dawned on him that she put up a good front of the children, but she was crushed inside. Very few mortals lost their same husband, twice. There was no ritual here. Whatever, or wherever this destruction came from it pulled the very life this spot to fuel itself, traveling off to some other location. Grimsley watched as the phantoms of the past faded and as they did so the final withering of the garden followed too. Dying stems and leaves withered further, crumpling to sun-dried bits as the bulbous fruits and vegetables turned in on themselves, blackening in the span of a heartbeat and rotting away. They had delivered their message as best they could: we loved her too. Goodbye. Color returned to Grimsley’s world. All the color except that of the withered plants around them. Ms. Cunningham simply sat there, staring off into nothingness towards the side of the garage where the entire length was taken up by what was once a beautiful row of daisies, sunflowers and all the colors of Easter that came three foot out from the wall in a specially made box of soil. There she and her late husband had planted the first seeds and now there was nothing but rot and decay.
  6. “Ah,” Archimedes nodded and gestured to a chair and for Fisher to take a seat. He say across form the boy, crossing his legs and straightening his vest before continuing. “Fisher, Zeus knows. I assure you he's known for quite some time, because I told him. I wouldn't keep something like that from him for reasons just like this: somewhere there is always someone trying to get the upper hand on you with blackmail or other such form of skullduggery. My father trusts me to handle my affairs down here in the World, so I keep things honest with him. He's not a monster,” he shrugged and smirk. “Despite the legends.” The ancient god laced his fingers together and rest his arms on the table, leaning in a bit to Fisher like a mentor or parents trying to make sure whom they were addressing was listening clearly. “I commend your character, Fisher. Coming here and telling me something like that takes courage, especially since you have no idea how I would react.” He smiled and nodded as he pieced together his next thought. “For now, let Adrianna believe she has the upper hand. Let her keep holding this whole situation over your head like a ripe apple she's threatening to shoot off your head. It may give us some insight into her end game and whether ot not she can be trusted. Use her as she is using you.” “That's a little dishonest, Mr Syracuse.” Fisher grinned. “I'm impressed. You've been hanging around a high school too long.” “Lot's of Game of Thrones,” he quipped. “Besides, I'm the god of Arithmetic, not honesty.” “Make it right?” Sheriff Farrow looked at Austin and shook his head. “Son, near as I can tell you and yours ain't done nothing wrong. Whoever this guy is he's playing us at every angle and got us grabbing our ankles and thanking him for whatever comes next.” “C'mon,” he waved Austin on. “Until Fisher gets here you tell me what it is you're looking for and we'll talk. Looks to me like you got more on your mind than any boy your age had a right to. I've been there. I know.” The two stepped off together and made their past a few officers and medical experts who were called in to make sure it wasn't any sort of mass plague or pandemic about to infect the local population. “You holdin' up okay?” He finally asked as they under the pier. While down right serene and peaceful, the two ladies spent the better part of a half an hour searching for something and about all they came up with was a few torn open condom wrappers, discarded liquor bottles and various cigarette butts left by members of their high school who used this site as a hook up spot. It didn't make sense. There were no signs of any sort of witchcraft here. No discarded items of relics, no bubbling cauldron or small bones or... nothing. “Nadya, I'm looking at Google Maps and....” Rachel reversed their search and sent the pin to northern most route, towards the more populated areas of Salem. After all the triangulation went both ways. If nothing was here, then maybe something was there. “ We've covered nearly a quarter of an acre with super senses. There's nothing here.” “There's gotta be!” she protested. “The math checks out, unless...” “Yeah.” Rachel pursed her lips together and held up her phone to show her bestie what she was looking at. "Oh, you gotta be kidding me..." Nadya's face went pale. Twenty minutes later... “You're sure?” Nadya asked Rachel. “This can't be right. Please tell me this is not right.” “Yup.” Rachel said lazily, more displeased by the sudden revelation the two ladies were facing than anything else. “Positive. Fan-fucking-tastic.” The two ladies stood in front of a massive gate to massive private residence. The mansion was situated behind tall walls and it looked like it belonged more in Beverly Hills than Salem. A bright white exterior and open air balconies added a charm to the place along with the large white columns supported the large gabled walkway that led to the front entrance. Nadya didn't want to believe it, but she knew the home because she'd been there before. The bronze plaque bolted to the wall outside the gate read: 'Rhodes'. “Well, poo.” Nadya huffed.
  7. The walk from the car had only taken a couple of minutes, and in that time neither of the teens had felt particularly compelled to attempt conversation; the Odinsson, because it was not in his nature to be especially loquacious, and the budding muse because her thoughts were occupied with the percussive rhythm of his walking stick and their footsteps on the sidewalk. It wasn't quite 3/4 time, but close enough that she caught herself humming Shostakovich's Second Waltz under her breath as they approached the garden, and the girl who waited there. Although she peered at the cat dubiously, not having been allowed to keep pets of her own due to their destructive and unhygienic habits, Laurel's smile as she approached Swi's chocolate-hued ward was unseasonably warm, a brief flash of summer glinting in brilliant azure eyes. "Oh, good. I was reasonably certain we'd run into each other again, but I hadn't expected it to be so soon." The sound of her laugh was soft and fleeting amid the gusty chill of autumn's whispers, the cool of the approaching evening sending a shiver down her spine. Adjusting the ivory scarf about her neck, the blonde wished for what would surely be neither the first nor the last time that Fate had arranged for her to end up somewhere warmer. She paused for a moment, watching as Grim studied what remained of Mrs. Cunningham's famed garden. He might've been a scout overlooking the sea from some distant windswept crag, or a tragic hero striding resolutely across desolate moors. The girl before her, even in dark sunglasses, seemed decidedly more animated, more real and substantial and present by contrast. More... of this world, she decided, stretching out a gloved hand in greeting even as she considered the trio's apparent differences. "Dale, wasn't it? I suppose today is a day for proper introductions, then."
  8. [Nadya] Not gonna lie, Nadya was expecting... more. A pentagram burned into the grass or black candles partially melted on the boulders, maybe a creepy scarecrow or two or some abstract thingamajigs hanging from the trees about the clearing, or even a skull somewhere. An old one dug up from a grave or something, not a new one, with bits of meat still on it and a patina of blood, dry or still wet, because ugh! Something! Instead, it was just a bucolic scene, the only pall over it coming from the overcast skies and dry leaves fallen early crackling under their feet, the colour of the trees just beginning to turn. Hardly witching weather at all. But there was nothing! Or, at least, there appeared to be nothing. "That's what the Witch-Bitch wants us to think, Rae-Rae," Nadya countered, burying doubt behind brashness, a finger tapping her temple, her other hand patting a pocket, feeling the Goddess-granted knife inside. Through the pang of resentment and disappointment the wiry Romani offered the Aesir Athlete a scoffing smirk. "You don't think she'd make it that easy, do ya? Let's look 'round a little. Maybe old witches aren't good at math and messed up on the coordinates something. Can't expect them to figure out GPS that quickly right?" This was a totally fantastic and insightful idea, and while Nadya hadn't really expected it to be that easy, how awesome would it have been if she'd been proven right just as soon as they had stepped into the clearing? Rachel snorted doubtfully. "Riiiight. I think the baddest things we're going to find here are some broken beer bottles and some stubbed out joints." "I betcha we find something more than that," Nadya said as she began padding out into the clearing on the balls of her feet, silent and sure-footed despite her chunky heels. "If I'm wrong, I'll take your next turn at giving Wolf a bath, if I'm right, you take mine." Rachel blinked, then followed after her Moon-touched - in more than one sense of the word - friend. "Hey! You haven't washed him once yet." Nadya flapped a dismissive hand behind her. If wasn't her fault that it just very, very conveniently fell out that way through precisely factored machinations of her own. She wasn't a tracker, but her sharp, silvery eyes knew what a crime scene looked like, what it felt like, and what it took to cover it up. She looked for disturbed dirt, where something may have been buried or dug up, sniffed at the air, for traces of burnt... anything, sage or patchouli or eye or newt or whatever else witches might use in their spells. "You heard what Archie said 'bout this place. Beasties and baddies hiding here, just waiting to be stirred up, seems like just the place for a witch to cause some trouble for Salem. Y'know, rile up a... wicker man and a swarm of bees," Nadya said softly, listening for any sort of possibly riled up beastie. "Or a Nemean Skunk or something. At least none of the guys are with us, right? Might've been been pestered by one of the Nymphs on the way if we were." "C'mon, Nads, be serious," Rachel growled, gloved hands balling into fists. "I am. Those nymphs are worse than the Plastics in Mean Girls, not to mention making a girl question her own quite evident hawtness." She flashed the blonde a quick grin over her shoulder. "Not me, of course." Nadya turned back to the near picturesque scene, idly continuing her blather. "Do you think there might be unicorns in these woods." She couldn't quite quell a childhood squee at the thought of riding a Gods honest fucking unicorn. "Probably aren't prancy horses that fart rainbows though. Badass mofos that go berserk at the scent of wap, ya think?" Rachel sighed. "Let's just get this done and meet up with the others at the cemetery, 'kay, Nadya?"
  9. With the Sheriff's office on the scene, along with the gaggle of onlookers, Austin really couldn't do too much, he didn't want to make MORE work for Sheriff Farrow. When the man himself came up to him and started talking he listened intently, and winced slightly inwardly. He'd been there when the witches escaped and hadn't been able to stop them, not that he'd even known how, or does even now. "You're probably right, Sheriff. We dropped the ball, and we're all spread out to check out different things. " Sheriff Farrow was someone well-known, and generally respected in the community, even the Scion community. "Fisher's supposed to meet me here after he takes care of a private matter, and we're going to see if there's anything we can find out here." "Grim and Laurie went to the Cunningham's to check it out, and Rachel and Nadya are looking for whatever the third thing is." "Son, what third thing?" The Sheriff gave him a look, and Austin sighed. "Bad things come in threes, three witches, so there's probably a third thing that happened, and They're out looking for it. " "That is the most ass-backwards thing I've heard today." Sheriff Farrow looked at him, and the young Scion of Poseidon met his gaze and held it. "Maybe so, but we're going to make this right."
  10. "No, it's not." Fisher closed his eyes for a moment as violin strains wafted through the air. Then he opened them again. Time to get it over with. "You know Adrianna Dionekou?" After Archimedes gave him a nod, Fisher continued. "We reached out to her through Dane, see if we could get some help finding the witches. She didn't seem interested, so I got carried away. I... told her Marius stole the Nekiya from you. I'm sorry, I didn't think things through and I've gotten you in trouble with Zeus. Or at least given Hades leverage over you." Now Fisher had to wait and see how the Band's mentor would respond. Strictly speaking, Prometheus had defied and tricked Zeus on two occasions, thus the daily eagle-eating-liver torture. But Mr. Syracuse still probably qualified for a brutal falcon-clawing.
  11. "Well, you did say you'd be bringing your cat." Grim commented in his usual dry fashion, studying the black-furred feline as it crouched on Dale's shoulders. Yellow eyes met green-and-grey as the two inscrutable creatures each took the measure of the other for a long moment before Grim nodded and Swi groomed a paw, almost as though they had - on some male harmonic imperceptible to XX chromosomal types - agreed to diplomatically ignore one another. It wasn't that Grim disliked cats. But Swi was not a normal cat, that much was plain from the way he glared balefully from Dale's shoulders and had evidently traveled here with her on her bike. Divine critters inspired caution, being as they were emissaries and agents of the gods, much as Hugin had been when he'd guided Grim to freedom. Until he understood more of Kalfu and of Swi, Grim was going to be cautious. As for Swi... Well, even an emissary of the gods knew trouble when it saw it, and it wasn't often he had his stare matched. Best to leave well enough alone, for now. "He'll be useful." Dale stated with confidence. "Y'know, in case." "Mmm." Grim's vocalisation was neither doubtful nor one of agreement as he stumped past, his eyes on the house belonging to Mrs Cunningham. Stopping at the fence, he leaned on his staff and scrutinised the garden, the chill Fall wind whipping at his hair and coat as he attempted to make sense of what he was seeing.
  12. [Fisher] Thankfully, Archimedes wasn't hard to find. The absurdity of that statement was something that would have made Fisher fall over with laughter a few months ago, but now he was mingling with Rastafarian cyclopes and searching for resurrected witches and... going to apologize to a god for maybe costing him his job, and his liver. Did gods have livers? Anyway, Archie didn't maintain a home in Salem, his sanctum linked directly to the library at the school and all of the Scions in Salem knew how to sneak into the library after hours, a bit of veil magic that kept a side door hidden from mortal eyes. The library was filled with classical music, some symphony that Fisher didn't recognize nor had any reason to, since classical composers really wasn't his forte. It was soothing enough though. It was certainly easy to see how people used this sort of thing to relax and calm stress. The God of Arithmetic was not difficult to locate, as the moment Fisher stepped through the threshold of the doorway a voice spoke over the music, "Good evening, Fisher!" Archimedes walked from in between two of the massive book shelves with his hands filled with four or so books books that the young Scion assumed he was either planning reading or filing away in their proper place. "Not often I see one of you here after hours. What bring you by?" He took off his glasses and adopted a look of concern. "Is everything alright?" [Austin] Dane wasn't too far off in his appraisal. It appeared the sheriff's office was down at the pier doing a clean up of the hundreds of bird corpses. Along with a news van and a few local reporters. It appeared that they'd begun earlier in the day while all the kids were in school but still looked like they had a long way to go, especially with the sun setting earlier and earlier in the chilly Salem October. He pulled up the collar on his jacket to fend off a bit of the chill on a slight breeze that rolled through as he approached the the closed off pier. Both the pier and underneath it, had 'caution' taped to keep people away but that didn't stop the masses to come and gather around to hold up their cell phones and record the strange phenomenon that had occurred. It figured, hundreds of birds were dead under a pier just a few day before Halloween, in Salem of all places. Tourism was going to be booming in the spring. "Austin," the sheriff caught the young Scion off guard as he stared out at all the chaos of the media and citizens making the local boys' job more difficult. He slithered up along side the young man, silently but his old Texan accent was still hidden there under all his years in Salem. "Welcome to my side of things. This is what I'm doing while you and yours are letting witches run loose on my city." He didn't seem particularly angry, but it was the way he said it that made Austin feel like he wasn't doing his job, or at least, not doing it fast enough. "Yeah, I know about them. What's the situation? You found any leads, because I've feeling this only going to get worse." [Nadya] They'd walked for the better part of twenty minutes into the Forrest River Conservation Area, a popular and common place for camping and teenage debauchery in the warmer months and until a few months ago none the others had even considered the large number of mythical beasts that lingered in the area. Thus far it was mostly just a lot of harpies and few mischievous nymphs with an axe to grind against humanity, but according to Archimedes the place was supposedly a hot bed of monster activity waiting to encroach upon Salem's peace. "Nadya!" Rachel pulled a branch down that was in her way, when it didn't give right away she furiously pulled it, tearing it from the tree. She gave the tree an 'oops' look and simply pursed her lips and pressed on. "Nadya, this is stupid. Slow down! This has to be the dumbest idea I've ever heard!" "Pfft," Nadya mused and ducked under a low hanging branch that quickly crunched and broke behind her a moment later at Rachel's passing. "I have way dumber ideas than this, Rae. Give y'girl some credit." "Okay, dumbest idea to date." Rachel huffed. "Where are w going?" "Right here." Nadya stopped as the entered into the edge of a clearing into a small mossy and grass strewn field. The sky was gray and ominous, but in Salem in the fall that was staple for the next several months. The grass was about knee length and the several large boulders in the area were painted with moss. On warmer, sunnier day, the place might have even been beautiful, or even romantic. Today though, while it may have been green it was slowly dying in the autumn chills that were slowly beginning to embrace their city. She took a few hardened steps forward as Rachel bumped into her from behind, which earned her golden haired bestie a stern side eye. She held up her phone, comparing their location to the end of the triangle she drawn on Google Maps. "This is it." "What's it?" Rachel said dryly, slipping on her gloves furious punching, just to be safe. "There's nothing here. It's a clearing. With rocks. Big whoop."
  13. She cut the contact, removed her brain bucket and her gloves, putting some order in her unruly dark curls. Dale took a long breath and sighed. What am I doing here? She had been asking herself that same question for quite some time now. In fact, she had been since that cursed day her house was set on fire and her Dad died. She could still remember the burns on her father's face when the medical unit pushed the stretcher into the ambulance, hear him coughing and struggling to breathe, feel the warmth her brother radiated in her arms as the dam of his tears broke all over her blouse, smell the acre scent of smoke, omnipresent in the neighborhood as the fire hoses attempted to drench the wild fire eating her home, morsel by morsel, right after it took a bite at their Dad. She shook her head, sliding her backpack over one shoulder and opening it. Her knife was waiting for her between two sandwiches and a flask of rum, slumbering in its hand-made leather sheath, tightly strapped to a discrete but solid leather belt, bitter reminder of the old lady who helped her keep her nose above the water, back in Boston. She was going to miss her. No, she missed her. The leather belt quickly ended up around her waist, knife on her back, under her jacket. She pushed her sunglasses up her head, wiping her humid eyes, then fished for her flask, taking a long sip, feeling with an odd satisfaction the warm beverage travelling down to her stomach. Then she could feel something bump on her back. A soft, tender bump she hadn't felt in days. "Swi?" A low rumble, filled with comfort and reassurance, was the only reply she got, as the black cat leaped over her shoulders and rubbed its head against her cheek. "Mwen renmen w tou, Swi..." She said, greeting the black-furred animal with a caress. The pop of wood against the road caught her attention as an eerie figure appeared at the angle of the street, accompanied by a ray of sunshine probably meant to be its opposite. Grimsley was clad in a coat that seemed too big to be his, his black wood staff hitting the sidewalk every now and then, a transient smile, so quick Dale wondered if she would have missed it had she blinked, stretching his lips for a brief instant as he noticed the chocolate-skinned teen waiting by her bike, with a... cat on her shoulders? Laurie waved her hand as her eyes fell on Dale, and a couple instants later, the Scion of Kalfu was shackling her bike to the street lamp, her sunglasses back on her nose, concealing the fact that she almost had cried moments ago. "Hey," she greeted the two arriving teens, "I brought a friend. Swi, meet Laurie and Grim."
  14. In the quiet that followed, she wondered which, of the two of them, was the intended audience for his recitation. Or whether it might be both. Or, indeed, whether it mattered. “I don’t think you should apologize, Grim. At least, not to me.” The platinum-crowned heiress dared a glance up at the tall, wiry young man with the enigmatic eyes as she added first sugar, and then cream to the coffee she’d poured. “It doesn’t matter if they- your scars- are pleasant to look at or not. They’re proof that whatever it was couldn’t kill you. And, I really didn’t mean to stare. Honestly, I just-“ She hesitated, leaning back against the counter and watching the birds outside as she turned the cup in her hands. “I just thought it must’ve hurt. That’s all.” "It did." he said softly with a small nod. "At least I was alive to feel it, though," he added with a slight smile, casting his gaze her way. "Like you said, I survived it." He was silent for a long moment, his attention returning to the garden. "Sometimes I feel I've spent so long surviving that I forget about living. And then little kindnesses from others ground me, remind me. A proffered donut, an invitation into a home, sympathy rather than pity." He nudged her companionably with an elbow. "Good conversation," he added with a vulpine grin. “To which you’re most welcome,” she laughed, startled, but not displeased by the unexpected prodding; for a fleeting moment the encroaching chill of the changing seasons seemed strangely distant, the fading light of the afternoon more aureate than argent. “And thank you for being a gracious guest. I’ll try to be a better hostess next time you visit.” The hammered band of gold around her wrist jingled softly against her watch as Laurie lifted the coffee to her lips and, cautiously, nudged him back. They spoke for a while longer, draining their cups slowly while discussing Wordworth’s use of language and mythological and historical themes, and when James reappeared to collect them she pressed the antique volume of poetry into Grim’s arms. What good was it doing on the shelf, after all? Besides, she reminded him matter-of-factly as he protested: it came from a library, which meant he simply needed to return it when he was done. There was no arguing with her after that, the result having been decided from the moment she’d seen him with the book in the first place; persuading her to the contrary would have been like trying to reverse the tides. Into his satchel it went, carefully wrapped and packed in alongside the lukewarm can of Coke, two bologna sandwiches, and handful of cookies- and, before they left, a thermos of fragrant coffee, as well. …All of which, of course, the young Aesir would likely devour before he made it home that evening, while still eyeing Laurel’s thermos and the bundle of snacks James had prepared for her. Almost before the two half-divine teens realized it, they were back in the car and headed down the tree-lined lane that would take them into the city, and to the general vicinity of Mrs. Cunningham’s home.
  15. He lowered his gaze to his plate, the only sounds in the room a faint clink of fork on china as he ate in silence that seemed to grow and spread from him, an awkward stillness that permeated the air between them, cooling their nascent friendship like the autumn chill slowly sapping heat from the world outside... "No." he said at least, more to himself than her as he set the empty plate aside and looked up, giving Laurel a tight, but genuine smile. "He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.” He shrugged again, picking up his coffee cup and standing, walking with his slight limp over to the bar counter where Laurel stood watching him. Leaning against it with one hip, he gave her a wry grin. "I'm still working on trying to be wise, but a good start is to avoid being a fool. You didn't intend offense, and I didn't take any." He raised his cup to his lips, looking away towards the large patio window. "It's me who should be sorry." he went on more quietly, lifting a slender hand to examine the patchwork of scars on his fingers and the back of the hand. "It's not the most pleasant of sights." He shrugged again, tugging the sleeve of his shirt down a little further to cover most of his hand, then smiled at Laurel - another tight, wry quirk of his lips that reached his eyes for a moment before they shifted away from hers and went back to regarding the room. "Though nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; / We will grieve not, rather find / Strength in what remains behind; / In the primal sympathy / Which having been must ever be...” he quoted softly, a grave expression in his eyes as they looked out of the window at the room's far end. Glancing back at Laurel again, he flashed her another of his rare, warm smiles and took another mouthful of coffee.
  16. Grim was well into his second helping of quiche when the sound of footsteps, muted though they were by the carpets, announced Laurel’s return. True to her word, she’d cleaned up a bit, pulling her hair up into a high ponytail and exchanging her fashionable leggings and sweater for a crisp white blouse and dark jeans that looked as though they’d never been worn. “…Who, not content that former worth stand fast, looks forward, persevering to the last, from well to better, daily self-surpast,” she recited with a faint, wistful smile as she entered, glancing from the Wordsworth to the view of the garden outside, and then back to the canny youth in the oversized chair. “My father loved the Romantics. I think my mother just loved that he-” Her bright azure eyes widened reflexively as she took in the sight of him slouched there, lingered in mute horror on the network of fine lines that marked his thin forearms; she’d heard rumours, of course, that he’d been abused or even engaged in self-harm, but the sheer number of scars she could see- traceries of white crisscrossing the pale skin in a web of old pain- was almost incomprehensible. Whether someone had tortured the taciturn young man, or the wounds were self-inflicted, it must have been unimaginably painful. “Mementos.” The single word, softly-spoken, shattered Laurie’s horrified fascination as surely as a ringing slap, and with the same sharp, stinging sense of mortification as she met his gaze. She hadn’t meant to stare, had no desire at all to cause offense, and yet that’s precisely what she’d done. To a guest in her home. To a friend, perhaps, which was even worse. The unsettled, uncomfortable feeling stirred again behind her ribs as it hadn’t in days. Grim gave her a slight, sad-and-bitter smile as he tugged the sleeves of his shirt down and shrugged in the offhand, indifferent fashion of teenagers. ‘No big deal,’ the gesture implied, but the art of studied nonchalance was one the flaxen-haired young heiress knew well, and here it reassured her not at all. She nodded, slim fingers twining together, and straightened. “I apologize.” The daughter of Apollo met his eyes unflinchingly as she spoke, the girl’s stricken expression slowly fading as her composure returned. “That was rude, and I hope you’ll forgive me for staring. Curiosity should not supersede courtesy, however surprised I was.” Crossing the room to let Grim finish his meal, Laurel noted the tumbler and the coffee service on the counter. She leaned over the half-full glass, sniffing the amber liquid curiously before blinking, wide-eyed and shaking her head, waving a slender hand before her face as if to clear away the scent. She’d been kidding about the bar, but it was hardly reasonable to say so now, was it? “Please, take your time eating, and we’ll drive out to the residential area you mentioned afterward. It would be a shame to waste James’s cooking,” she added, and turned over an empty cup to pour herself a coffee. It was, as he’d suggested earlier, likely to be a long night.
  17. That was good for a wry answering smile as he followed her down the hallway, keen eyes noting the echoing emptiness of the house and the pristine maintenance of the place. Was James the only servant here? Or were there others, perhaps, who came in at odd times like shoemaker elves to dust and clean and garden and ensure the pantry was stocked? His agile mind spun that question around like a coin on a tabletop as he considered Laurel in the context of this, her home. A massive, empty museum, with only the valet as her confidant and company... No wonder she'd introduced Grim as a friend, rather than acquaintance, though that could just be a politely gracious introduction... He pondered that, too, as always seeking the patterns and details in peoples words - what they said, how they said it, the choice of one word over another. Was Laurel a friend? If so, she was a most unlikely one: beautiful and graceful and warm. Why did you use the word beautiful, Grim? he immediately interrogated himself, pouncing on the word in the confines of his own rumination. Because she objectively is, moron. he answered himself testily. Aha! the inquisitor crowed. But beauty is subjective, a slave to the eye of the beholder- And then Laurel opened the door to the library, and stepping in after her Grim stopped second-guessing himself as he saw the room. The library was done in rich, warm shades of mahogany and red leather and burnished brass. In truth it seemed more of the sort of room where men would sit in the high-backed dark leather armchairs puffing cigars and sipping brandy as they discussed politics and business, but the shelves lining the walls, each stretching from floor to high ceiling with sliding steps tucked neatly at one end, held a wealth of books. Thick carpet underfoot deadened the sound of his steps to a whisper of a shuffle as he stepped to the center of the massive room and leaned on his staff, staring at them curiously, then casting his gaze to the large double patio doors at one end of the room that opened onto the garden and finally to the polished oak and brass bar on the north wall. This is how the other half lives, he mused as he turned slowly in place, taking in the room before glancing at Laurel, who was watching him with an expectant gaze in her cerulean eyes. It took a moment, then Grim realised she'd asked him something. "Uh... Sorry?" he said belatedly, his narrow shoulders hunching inside the too-large overcoat as he looked a little abashed. "I said 'feel free to browse and get comfortable, I won't be too long'." Laurel's answering smile was equal parts good-natured patience, humour, and pleasure at his reaction. "James will be around if you need anything. Just pull the bell cord over there." "Oh, sure. Yeah." Grim nodded, feeling as out of place as a crow in a dovecote. Almost aggressively indifferent to his appearance beyond being clean, these surroundings made him feel like he should have maybe combed his hair or worn a shirt and tie. Of course, Grim being Grim that feeling of inadequacy fostered an almost rebellious insouciance. The hostess had said he was to get comfortable, so by Hel he would do so! It'd be rude to refuse her wishes, after all. As Laurel smiled again and left, Grim leaned his staff against one of the armchairs and walked along the bookshelf on the east wall, fingers trailing over the wooden shelves and lightly brushing the spines of some volumes. Then he traversed the large patio window, peering out at the well-kept garden before examining the western wall's shelves. It was warm in here, and he shrugged out of his long coat and draped it over a chair as he continued before ending up at the bar, eyes examining the bottles and decanters on it before he stopped and leaned against the mahogany counter, facing the room with an air of almost trance-like reflection. Unbidden, his hands found a crystal tumbler and poured something amber and fragrant into it while he considered, before the youth stepped away from the bar, heading with a determined air to one of the shelves he'd noted. So it was when James entered, tray held expertly as he navigated the door, he saw the unkempt boy slouched in a chair, a first edition of Wordsworth perched on his knee with one leg resting on the other and a half-full tumbler of what, the valet realised as he studied the decanters, was probably single-malt scotch in the hand that wasn't turning pages. He set the tray down and turned, studying the strange young fellow, noting the scar over his eye and the myriad of pale scars on the bare forearms where Grim had rolled up his long-sleeved shirt. "Everything alright, sir?" "Mmmh." Grimsley made a sound of contented assent as he took a sip then waved the tumbler slightly, indicating that yes, indeed, everything was just fine and dandy. Then the odd-coloured eyes blinked and looked up from the tome he was studying at the calm-featured older man, who merely directed his gaze meaningfully at the tumbler. "Is sir enjoying the scotch?" The tone was not quite arch or sarcastic. Not quite. But it was respectfully calling attention to the fact that the underage rapscallion had indeed helped himself to a prized and expensive spirit. Grim looked at the drink in his hand with a momentary 'uh-oh' on his narrow, foxish features, then glanced back at James. Screw it. When in doubt, forge ahead. "Is that what this is?" Grim took another sip with an air of appreciation. "It's very good. Gets rid of the chill." "Perhaps a little early for it, sir?" That could mean it was too early in the day to drink hard liquor... or it could mean that Grimsley Algar was at too early a stage of life to be drinking hard liquor. Either approach was valid, after all. Grim decided not to press his luck. "Perhaps, yes." He set the tumbler down carefully on a coaster as James approached with a smaller tray he'd taken from the larger one. The valet fielded the whisky as he set out a cup of expensive-smelling coffee, a small bowl of sugar and a tiny cream jug. "Very good sir." James smiled a little at him before heading back over to the bar. "I have also prepared some quiche as a light repast, if that would be acceptable?" The rumble from Grim's stomach answered that question, and if the professional and composed manservant had to fight back a smile he gave no sign of it as he brought a plate with a slice of the dish over and set that down as well. Grim set aside the volume of Wordsworth and picked up his food, watching for a moment as James went back to the counter before shrugging and digging in like... well, a hungry growing Aesir as he waited for his hostess to reappear.
  18. "Not at all. We could hardly leave without you, could we?" she replied easily, the response both polite and eminently practical. “Besides, if you don’t mind too much, I’ll have to ask you to wait for me, as well. I’ve been in these clothes all day." The admission was accompanied by a faint, somewhat abashed smile that warmed and brightened measurably as Laurie turned to the well-dressed, roughly middle-aged man waiting beside the passenger door of the old silver Rolls-Royce. “James, this is Grimsley Algar, the friend I told you about. Grim, this is my-“ She hesitated. When was the last time she’d needed to introduce him to anyone? At the dance, maybe… But, no. They’d taken the limousine that night, and Eric and his Band were too busy talking and searching for champagne to bother with niceties. Had she ever needed to tell anyone who he was? “Well, my James, I suppose,” the girl mused, considering the sober-looking man. “I don’t think I could do without him.” “As the Young Miss requires,” he replied with a faint inclination of his head and gazed for a moment at Grim, keen brown eyes appraising the dour youth from behind his glasses. “A pleasure, Mister Algar,” was all he said, and then the passenger door opened and the two teens were sliding into the impeccably-maintained car: Laurel with her violin case, and Grim with his staff. Inside, the leather and burled wood interior shone as if never touched by naked human hands, and as the trio pulled away from the curb, the sounds of the world outside faded away. There was little in the way of conversation as the scenery of Salem drifted past the windows, and apparently little need for it. The teens knew almost nothing of each other, after all, and the dearth of common interests or relevant topics for discussion made idle banter all but impossible. The minutes passed in relative silence, broken only once or twice by quiet humming as Laurie worked through a passage from the sheet music she was reviewing, and by Grim’s somewhat curmudgeonly, “’Bout damn time,” after checking his phone to find that the others had also begun to move. Soon enough, they turned from the main road down a winding, tree-lined lane and through a tall gate, and as the car rounded a charmingly wooded curve, the house itself came into view. To call it a “house” was perhaps something of an understatement: the massive Tudor Gothic mansion, its pale spires thrusting proudly toward the greying skies, was ringed by a low stone wall and, beyond that, bounded by dense trees all crowned in the flaming glory of autumn. It was the sort of place where exclusive concerts and parties were held, where film producers dreamed of shooting on-location, and where wealthy couples exchanged vows amongst a select group of friends, family, and photographers. It was also the place Laurel called home. As they approached the front entrance, the sunny young blonde leaned forward, unfastening her seat belt. “I think you can leave the car, James. I’m just going in to change and grab something to eat. Please,” she smiled, turning to address the saturnine youth beside her. “Won’t you come in?” He looked at her with raised brows, plainly surprised - and gratified - at the invitation. For an instant, the too-old-for-his-years demeanour cracked and he smiled - not a thin quirk of his lips or a wry smirk - but a genuine warm smile that came and went like a ray of sunshine across a frosted field. "I'd like that, yeah." he said as his composure slid back into place, nodding as he moved to follow her out of the car. "Thank you." he added gravely, but the flash of warmth lingered in the mismatched gaze that glanced from her to the house and back again. Although he’d only thanked her for inviting him in, the instant, unrehearsed brilliance of Laurie’s answering smile was such that it almost seemed Grim had been the one to do her some kindness or favor. Leaving the omnipresent violin case in the back seat, she led him up the front walk, matching his pace despite the characteristic awkwardness of his gait. “I apologize in advance for not being a great hostess, by the way. Obviously I didn’t know you’d be coming over or I’d have been more prepared.” As the unlikely pair passed beneath an arched entryway, the inestimably competent valet opened the large wood and glass door, and the heir to Brightman Manor received her first guest. “James, do you think you could-“ “Certainly, and welcome home, Young Miss. And for the gentleman?” She turned, eyeing Grim speculatively as she unbuttoned her jacket and draped it over the rack there in the foyer. “Coffee, I think, since he wasn’t able to finish it earlier. He might like sugar, as well. Oh! And a thermos for both, please. And maybe a quick bite? Thank you, James. Grim, I’ll show you the library, if that’s all right.” With another smile, she waved him along into the manor proper. “It’s just down the hall, here, past the music room.” Although the girl’s voice echoed in the grand entrance hall, down the broad corridors on either side and up through the second-story, there was no answering call, no sign of movement or activity in response to her homecoming. “I thought you might like to wait there while I get ready. If nothing else, it’s got a really nice view of the garden.” She glanced over her shoulder at him as they walked down the carpeted hallway, one eyebrow twitching in amusement. “And my father’s bar, as well.”
  19. "Hey, Grimsley." Mrs Kochinski was a large woman - not quite fat, thanks to being reasonably active and a foster mom to a sometimes busy household - but 'matronly' would not be a poor word to describe her. She smiled at the boy as she caught sight of him, heartened a little by his return smile, scant though it was. He was an old soul, as her mom would say, and why wouldn't he be, really, given what the poor kid had gone through? Despite his closed-in and stand-offish nature, he was polite and unfailingly helpful around the house, and she never had to chase him to do homework or check that he'd done chores. On the downside, he had nightmares, was shy of physical contact and reticent to talk about his ordeal, something that the counsellor at the school had said would 'sort itself out', which was good for a snort of doubt from the den mother. That no-good counsellor wasn't the one that had to wake up hearing the boy cry out in a strange language in his sleep, sounding like he was in pain... "Hey, Mrs K." Grim peered around the kitchen, eyes alighting on the cookie jar. "I've got a schoolwork thing to do with some of my classmates - is it okay if I grab something for the road?" "Nuh-uh, mister." She pointed a spoon at him. "Cookies are not food 'for the road'. Grab a sandwich. And where are you going and with who?" Grim rolled his eyes slightly as she turned away, but quickly grabbed the bread, bologna and mustard, assembling two sandwiches with adept speed, bagging them, then cheekily grabbing three cookies as well and packing them with the rest of the impromptu lunch/dinner. "Working with Laurel and Dale." he said truthfully, checking his phone for messages and grunting softly as he scrolled through them. "We're meeting up and headed to the cemetery - a Halloween thing." True enough, if not the whole truth and nothing but. "Not getting up to mischief, are you?" Mrs K's gaze was piercing, but then Grim was expecting it and simply smiled a little, shaking his head as he stowed the lunch in his satchel before going to the fridge and taking out a can of Coke. "If anything, the opposite, Mrs K." He chuckled softly to himself as he jogged lopsidedly upstairs, retrieving the blackwood stave from under his bed, then back down again. Mrs K was by the lounge windows, looking out. "There's a pretty blonde out there with a car and driver, looks like she's waiting." She looked at Grim askance, one eyebrow raised as if mentally comparing the scruffy young raven in front of her with the radiant beauty outside. "Oh, that's Laurel." Grim nodded. "Guess she arranged transport." He flashed a rare charming grin at his foster mom. "I'll be back soon, Mrs K. Thanks for the cookies!" He repressed a chuckle at her huff of annoyance and headed for the door, escaping further questions. "Stay out of trouble!" she called out behind him as he left the house and stumped down to the sidewalk, the staff in his hand tapping the ground as he walked up to Laurel. "All set." he announced, mismatched eyes studying the car and the driver patiently waiting beside it before glancing at Apollo's daughter. "Sorry for the wait."
  20. Austin shrugged, finished his drink and paid for everyone's tab, leaving a generous tip for Darcy because of how they all piled on, as a means of apology, before leaving. Nadya made sense in her assessment, and he head out for his jeep after tapping a text to Fisher. "Want some backup for the Pier? Rachel and Nadya are going to another spot, you were the only one who went alone. I can pick you up." It took a few moments for Fisher to text him back saying he wanted to handle this alone, and that he'd meet him at the Pier. Austin sighed and headed for the Pier on his own. It wasn't like he had never been there before.
  21. Okay, Nadya had totally not intended to let it go that far dealing with Adrianna, especially as she was someone who could tie Dane up in knots like that. She'd just been curious what Grim would do or say when put on the spot. He'd done... fine, maybe a little bland, in her consideration, but totally props for the possible flirt. But then Lite Bright sunbeamed her way in and Nadya couldn't help but think about her failed attempt at pulling a fast one on Marius and failing utterly. Risk. Reward. Sometimes for a big payoff, you had to gamble. Problem was, she hadn't been the one to pay the forfeit. It had been their loved ones. She could have cried about it not being fair, but she knew what he father would have said about that. While she did believe that there was a tendency towards Balance, no one ever said it was timely or didn't need help at times, nor that it couldn't be cheated. She hadn't needed Lite Bright's excoriation, having felt enough of a shitheel. She couldn't thank Dane enough for coming to her dad's aid. Then Fisher mentioned the Nekyia and Nadya had felt the air sucked out of her lungs, like her death's breath slipping inexorably through her lips. She'd thought she was over being trapped inside her own mind, but it seemed it wasn't the case, the trauma lingering in the dark corners of her head. The Romani girl couldn't help but wince in sympathy and feline delight as Grim icily tore into Fisher for his blunder. Grim laid out his plan of action and left, followed by Laurie, sunlight after shadow. Fisher trudged out a moment later, looking like death warmed over at the prospect of telling Archie what he'd done. After him, Dale slunk out like a dusky, busty cat on her growling motorcycle. And finally, it felt like Nadya could breathe again. Basking in the deliciousness of the confection Darcy had bestowed on her - it was more of a hot milkshake with several pumps of vanilla and raspberry syrup than mere coffee - she pondered where they'd already gone and where they were going, trying to track down the bitchy witches as they witchly bitched about town, trying to fit the pieces together, enough to get an idea of what the con looked like. She got a text from Fisher, updating her about the dead birds being found at the pier. She furrowed her sharp brows, then swiped to Google maps, pinning locations. One point, a second... The Rule of Three, three witches... "Then we should go in pairs, at least, Aquaboy," Nadya countered, with a grin, draining the last of her 'coffee' and popping up to her feet. "You go join Fisher at the pier. Rae-Rae, you're with me." "Why am I going with Fisher?" Austin asked, not that he was opposed, just out of vague but habitual caution whenever Nadya proposed... almost anything. Nadya gave him a silver-eyed stare of seeming genuine puzzlement. "Dude? Pier? Water? Splish-splash?" She pointed at him with a pair of fingers. "Aquaboy. Kinda obvious, don'tcha think?" Austin sighed and began to shrug on his coat. "And where are you girls going?" he asked just as Rachel said, "And where are we going?" "Not sure, yet, but I'll let you both know when we get there. C'mon, Rae-Rae, we have our own sleuthing to do before joining the others at Harmony Grove. We can get Wolf on the way." Grunting in belligerent resignation, Rachel followed the short, wiry felony in oddly silently clomping heels out of the Drip. "Seriously, Nadya, where are we going?" "Three witches, right?" Nadya said, flashing her phone at the taller Scion. "Right..." "Two things of the weird the others are checking out. We're gonna look for a third. The other two happened here and here." Nadya showed the points on a Google Map on her iTeru III. "Looking for patterns and shit, I figure they are witching themselves a triangle. Why else hit places as random as the pier and Mrs. Cunningham's garden - I mean, unless that's where they are hanging out and they are oozing out radioactive protoplasm or junk. If we're looking at a roughly equilateral triangle, the third point would be here, or here. The middle of Salem Harbor seems unlikely, so let's try the other one first, hey? It that doesn't pan out, well, Aquaboy can check the other. Or at least get us a boat." The tall blonde gave the sleek brunette a weird look. "What?" "You know what an equilateral triangle is?" "Oh, go drown yourself in the sludge of the Nile. I'm fine in math. You got a nose for guilt, I got eyes for crime scenes, and Wolf just has a nose. For smelling stuff. Let's see if we can scrounge ourselves up a clue on what's going on."
  22. Dale shook her head with a sigh. She had a bad feeling about this whole chasing-the-witches stuff, but she had to face the truth: it was going to be her life from now on. "It's not like..." She paused, then gave the thought a shrug. "You know what, nevermind. I texted Grim to let him know I'd help him out." She finished her coffee, dropped some change next to the cup, then suddenly stood up, a twitch on her cheek. "Gotta go. Hate standing still. I'll catch up with him at Cunningham's garden. ¡Hasta luego!" And off she stormed, her brain bucket in hand. It wasn't long till they heard the roar of the Triumph's three cylinders, growling then fading away, as she rode her way to her uncle's. "¡Hola tío!" She said as soon as she crossed the door, a short moment after parking her bike. Her uncle's voice could be heard from the garage. The man was working on a car engine, his arms covered in... oil? grease? or so Dale noticed once she peeked her head inside the open garage. "¿Todo bien?" she asked. "¡Ara!" Her uncle replied, a smile crossing his tanned features. "¿Dame esa llave, sí?" The reluctant teenager grabbed the dirty spanner between two fingers and threw it at him with a mischievous smile. "¡Toma!" A good-natured laugh was his reply as he deftly grabbed the tool and made it spin around his finger. "Tío, me voy a salir con amigos esta noche. ¿Le dirás a mi mamá?" "Sí." "¡Gracias!" Dale quickly left the garage, and headed to her room. She wanted to grab something before even considering searching the woods with her Band. She wouldn't bring her knife to school, but school was over for today. She doubted that anything would need her to go stabby-stab during the search, but she'd rather be safe than sorry. Shortly after, she was back on her motorcycle, on her way to Cunningham's garden, her weapon in her backpack. It was no Birthright, but it made her feel less naked to know it was close. The wind quickly washed away those morose thoughts.
  23. Fisher wilted under Grim and Laurie's vitriol, as her reminder caught up to him. Kami. He really had fucked up. His head slipped into the palm of one hand. You idiot. Just like with when you tried to bind the witches. Can't think even slightly beyond the task at hand, and all you've done is make things worse. "Dale, I made the mistake of giving her information she and her dad could use against Mr. Syracuse. The Greek Gods are a very cutthroat family. Anyway, start looking into Ms. Cunningham, as Grim suggested. We fell down on the job because we thought Adrianna could solve our problems, and look how that's worked out." He got up with resignation. Darcy deposited another coffee in front of Austin at the same time, and Fisher turned to her. "I'm sorry we dumped everything on you like you." He pecked her quickly on the cheek. "Forget the tea." Fisher left the Coffee Pot with heavy tread of guilt and resignation. As everyone said, he needed to visit Mr. Syracuse, and the the library was his destination. While he was on the way, Fisher dialed Dane's number, schooling himself to adopt a more calm, even tone when he spoke. One could not be a voice of support if you sounded like you were full of your own issues. When Dane came on the line, before he even spoke, Fisher could hear the faint rhythm of Ed Sheeran in the background and a what sounded like a woman in the back talking. With only her voice, he assumed she was on a phone call too, laughing and catching up with some she knew. "This is Dane." The golden haired son of the Aesir sun god spoke gently and calmly into the receiver. "S'up Fish-bro? Everything go okay? She going to help?" "I think so." Fisher responded, trying not put too much into his voice. "How are you holding up?" "Good, I guess." Although Fisher couldn't see him he could hear the shrug in his tone. "I mean, I hate dumping Adrianna on you guys like that, but if she can help, right? Just be careful, she's not a bad person, just," he sighed. Dane saying bad things about others didn't really seem to be in his nature. "Well, she can be a conniving lady. Keep your guard up." "That's good advice, thanks." Oh, Fate was howling its head off somewhere. "Look, if you feel like wanting to talk about it later, my door's open." Fisher promised, seeking to remain reassuring. "Talk about what?" He replied. Dane, like any other guy out there, bottled his negative side within and pretended like it didn't exist, Fisher knew type: jocks, tough guys, overachievers, all the Aesir. "I mean, if she gives you problems, hit me up, but her and I in the same room... well, that's probably not a good idea." Although in Rachel's case, she let it spew out like a volcano. "You know, what happened between you two - if you want to." Fisher explained patiently. "One more thing. Where did you see those birds falling from the sky?" There was a pause as whomever the female was, Fisher suspected his aunt whom he talked a lot about, hijacked the conversation and spoke to Dane about some groceries she wanted him to run and get. Fisher smirked and shook his head as he patiently waited for Dane who spoke to her with nothing but sweetness in his voice. Finally his voice was more clear as he placed it back near his mouth. "The Pier, bruh. Uhh, you know how all the birds go under when the rain comes?" He paused for Fisher's 'yeah' before he continued. "Well, they were all packed under there, dead. Pretty gross. I called the Sheriff and he was sending his boys down to do whatever he does in that instance. That was yesterday in the evening that I called, so they might still be at it." "All right, thank you." Fisher smiled. "See you tomorrow night then?" There was a pause of confusion as Dane didn't quite connect he dots of Fisher's thoughts. "Oh! The party. Right, yeah, bruh, certainly. See you guys there." "Same here. Have a good day." Fisher listened to Dane's goodbye before hanging up, and sighing. Well, that hadn't went catastrophically wrong. Fisher tapped out a quick text to Grim: Birds at Pier. Will investigate after visit with AS. Now to the school and face Archimedes.
  24. Austin looked at Rachel, who was still there, and then took a seat in the vacated booth. Rachel sat down, They'd piled a workload on Darcy, and even if no one else did, they were going to sit and at least drink their drinks. He looked at Fisher and Dale and sighed. "Okay, so that could have gone better all around. Stuff didn't get done that probably should have, and things got said that shouldn't have. It's over and past, we learn from our mistakes and do our damnedest to not repeat them. Fisher, I do think you need to pay Archie a visit, explain what happened just be honest with him. He'll probably be mad, but we can still make this right." He smiled. "We will make this right." Rachel looked over to Austin, wondering what had gotten into him. "She must have got to you.." Austin's features darkened. 'Yeah. She did. I expect to catch some manner of lecture, or something when all this gets back to him. Her father and mine aren't exactly what you'd call close.and this situation is not going to help that." He looked at Dale. "We're all probably going to be roaming the town tonight in teams. To explain why she acted like that, Fisher admitted we screwed up, pretty big, and while reaching out to her was a seemingly good idea, it's going to bite us in the ass now, and cause problems for Archie as well. I don't know what she's going to do with the information, but the fact she has it does put us on a clock. Now we have to scramble to clean this up, to mitigate any lasting effects." "I can already see us going all Scooby-gang and splitting up, but we need to be smart about how we do it."
  25. Dale waved a puzzled hand back as the Scion of Apollo departed. A cup of coffee magically appeared in front of her when she looked back at the table, and she barely had the time to thank Darcy as the latter returned to the herculean amount of other orders she had to get through. The fragile mask of affability she had maintained during the conversation finally cracked, and she took a sip of her coffee, hiding a pout behind her cup. "Okay. What the Hell? No entiendo lo que pasó, dimelo. ¿Porque la chica de Hades se comportó como una descarada puta?" The cup travelled back to the table, and the chocolate-skinned teenager fished out her phone. "I'm at a loss here, but least I can do is try to help when someone offers to do something." Her fingers fluttered across the tactile keyboard as she sent a text to 'El Severo' Grim, as her contacts labeled him. [Hey, I'm coming with you tonight. My cat could be of help, so count both of us in.]
  26. He half-turned as he stepped out onto the sidewalk, fixing the radiant girl with a glower that lost it's wintery force almost as soon as it alighted on the sun-framed cerulean skies of her gaze. Sighing, he rubbed a hand on the back of his neck and gave her a lopsided smile. "You never seem to catch me at my best, hmm?" he shrugged, smile turning apologetic "Either I'm the new kid wondering what the Hel I stepped into, or I'm pissed at my band-mate. I don't even think you and I ever exchanged more than a couple words." Mismatched eyes studying her, he offered Laurie a thin, scarred hand. "Pleased to meet you." he said with humorous over-formality. "I'm Grim." "No, no. The pleasure's all mine," she replied sincerely, her expression registering first surprise, and then genuine gratification as she clasped Grim's extended hand. "Laurel. Though, if you prefer, you're welcome to call me Laurie. I don't mind, in either case." Her smile mirrored his, a suggestion of apology in the upturned curve, and she glanced briefly back at the door of the cafe. "I'm sorry for calling out to you so suddenly, but you mentioned we should contact you, and..." Releasing her grip on his fingers, the aspiring performer stepped aside to allow a young couple into the Drip. "And I realized I had no way to do that, if I needed to." Realisation widened his eyes, then he nodded, smiling as he stepped aside with her, fishing his still relatively-new second-hand phone from the depths of his voluminous coat. "That's right. You don't really hang around with the Band all that much, do you?" he noted as he reeled off his own number, then called up his contacts list as Laurel entered the details and in turn gave him her number. Nodding again, he tucked the phone away, fixing her with an assessing stare. When he spoke next, his tone was thoughtful. "Archimedes mentioned you were part of this Band... but this is only the second time I've seen you - outside school, anyway." he noted with a one-shouldered shrug, then motioned up the street. "You mind if we walk and talk? Standing still gives my leg fits. That is, if you have the time?" "Ah!" she exclaimed, glancing up as she finished making a note in her contacts and slid her own smartphone back into the front pocket of her coat, her smile briefly reappearing. "If that's easier for you, of course. A little fresh air might do me some good, as well, so I'm happy to make a little time for it.." Shifting the violin case to her other hand to prevent it being jostled by passers-by, Laurie matched her companion's pace with neither a false start nor hesitation as they headed up the sidewalk. "I think..." A tiny crease appeared between her brows as she tried to remember whether she had seen him any other time, her voice trailing off. "No, I think you're right. It was at the barn." Nodding, Laurel tucked her free hand into her jacket, watching the people and traffic as they talked. "I am- or was, maybe- part of Rachel's Band, yes, but apparently by default." The smile she directed at him only just reached her eyes, a dim shadow in comparison to the first. "Most of them seem to have known each other for years, so I suppose I don't have that inborn sense of... Hmm. Camaraderie, maybe." "You and me both." The skinny boy with the old man eyes replied with a wry smile, shoving both hands inelegantly into the deep pockets of his coat as they walked. "It's an adjustment. Most of them - hell, all of them - didn't much notice me before. Not that I blame them - friends weren't something I was allowed, so I didn't try to cultivate any." He glanced up at the grey Fall sky, then at her with a raised eyebrow. "Fate has a curious sense of humor. Might as well enjoy the joke, huh?" His stride became a little easier as the healing muscles and tendons were eased the gentle exercise of walking. The sidewalks of Salem after school were not exactly crowded, but there was a certain amount of activity, especially this close to Halloween. "Archie briefed me on everything that happened while I was... away." he said quietly after they had walked maybe a block. "Something is bothering me about this Marius guy. He's setting fires, keeping everyone busy running around putting them out." Grim's air was of one musing aloud. "But what does he want? Why kill a guardian wolf spirit? What was it guarding? He draws the Band out, then puts their families at risk so they can't stop him doing what he's really aiming for. I can't help think that the witch hunt is another distraction. We can't ignore it, but it's another fire he's set to keep us looking elsewhere." He drew a coin from his pocket, holding it up between two fingers of his right hand so Laurel could see it, then clapped his hands together and showed an empty hand, then turned the left hand over to show the silvery glint of the quarter. "Sleight of hand, y'know?" The slender blonde walking beside him was silent for a moment, her features a porcelain mask of intense consideration as she fixed her gaze on a memory, rather than their surroundings. There was really very little reason to chat so casually about all of this with someone she'd only met once before, but at least he seemed to care about the answers, or even about finding them. That, in itself, was refreshing, even when coming from someone whose manner seemed cooler than the autumn breeze that warned of winter's advance on Salem. "Maybe," she allowed finally. "I remember some of that a little differently, but I think that's probably accurate, yes. Mostly." Glancing up at her taciturn companion, Laurie made a soft sound, tongue against her teeth, and returned her attention to the path ahead. "I don't think the witch hunt itself is the distraction, though. Sometimes the trick is sleight of hand." Withdrawing a coin of her own from her pocket, the violinist held it in her palm for him to see: a small, well-preserved disc of aged gold, with an archer on its face. "And sometimes, the trick is just the trick." Her fingertips moved over the coin, carefully turning it in her hand, so that the smooth, well-worn reverse was exposed instead. Bright blue eyes, far younger than his own, met Grim's mis-matched ones in another smile. "Hmmph." It was such an old expressive grunt that Laurel found herself smiling a little wider at the curious youth as Grim's eyes narrowed thoughtfully before he nodded. "You're not wrong." He tugged on an earlobe, plainly still mulling it over as they reached his foster parent's home, where he stopped and turned to her. "Look, I know I rapped out orders like I was a drill sergeant back there... but I want to ask you personally if you'd be willing to help out this evening - if you can, that is." he added with a small smile. "I need at least one other level head checking my thinking." Laurie inhaled deeply, the warmth in her expression fading slightly as she held her breath for a long moment, tucked the coin away again, and then exhaled. "I don't have a problem with you, personally. You have a small army at your disposal, though, and almost none of them are among my favorite people. So I'm willing to help you, specifically, because you asked, because I pride myself on being good at what I do, and because it needs to be done. A gesture of good will," she added, inclining her head slightly. "It's appreciated." Grim nodded in return, plainly considering her words carefully, turning them over in his head. He thumbed over his shoulder at the unassuming house behind him. "If you're okay to wait a moment, then, I'll grab my walking stick and we can get going? I have the feeling," he appended with another of those wry half-smiles "-that tonight will be informative."

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