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  1. 1 point
    Team Pluck The basement door was ajar, a fact that gave both fearless, plucky explorers pause, during which they glanced at one another as if to remind themselves that yes, they had company and yes, they were indeed as plucky as they had initially believed. Both gripped their flashlights tightly, and Autumn's grip on the prybar was white-knuckled as she reached out and gently prodded the door further open, ready to thwack anything that popped out of the gloom at them. The door swung open in relative silence, only a whispering groan from the hinges betraying that it had been moved, and both girls tensed for a long moment. Cassie stepped forward then, playing her flashlight down the stairs, half-expecting to see some skeletal, clawed version of Cody come lunging up at her with the light shining red in his feral eyes... But nothing was there. Just bare stone steps and the floor at the base of them. She glanced back at Autumn with a smile she didn't feel. "Imagine if Devin suddenly popped out of nowhere right now." she said with a smirk. "I think I'd shriek loud enough to break glass." "Don't even joke." Autumn felt the faintest of urges to giggle, nervous tension warring with the grimness of the place. She waggled the prybar. "He can be an asshat, but I don't actually want to brain him with this thing." "Yeah." Cassie looked back down the stone steps and took a deep breath. "Okay. Let's do this." "Let me go first. " Autumn firmly suggested as she stepped up. "Anyone or thing grabs me, I've got this plus my Shine to fight with." For a moment Cassie wanted to argue, but reluctantly conceded the point and nodded, then nodded again as Autumn handed her the pepper spray. Thus armed, the two of them started down a few paces apart... Meanwhile He stood in the shadows and watched the two of them together, eyes burning with conflicting hungers as the conjoined minds of Cody Sikes and the Horned Man took in the sight of Charlie and Sophia coupling on the TV room couch. Cody was barely aware he was Cody anymore. Every day, it seemed, he was less Cody and more Araun, something that he realised dimly in some parts of his mind that were still his own was not what he had bargained for when he had struck this deal. Araun had promised him accolades, and girls, and revenge on those who thought themselves better than him, and most of all he had been promised power. Power to achieve his dreams. First Homecoming King, then star player for the team, then college on a scholarship ride... But he didn't dream of those things anymore, did he? Now when he tried to think of what he wanted, he saw blood flowing black in the moonlight, he heard screams and felt soft flesh rending under his claws. He dreamed of chasing girls as prey, girls he'd once dreamed of fucking, only now sex wasn't the only thing he wanted from them. He wondered if that was why he'd wanted so badly to hurt Coraline, with her long legs and pretty smile. Had he always been Araun's creature? No, the thought came back to him. No, he was his own person when he'd had those urges. All Araun did was strip away the pretentious morality that told him such things were bad. The strong did as they pleased, the weak suffered what they must. Once, Cody had been weak and afraid. Now, he wasn't afraid of anything, was he? No, Cody decided as he listened to Sophia's gasping cries and Charlie's soft climactic grunts, watching the sweat bead on their skins as they screwed like rabbits. He wasn't afraid of anything anymore. It was time for them to be afraid. And then, to be dead. Team Pluck The cellar was much as Cassandra's vision had described it. A large, gloomy, dank space, unfurnished but for an old oil furnace at one end, long gone to rust. Well, almost unfurnished. As Cassie had hinted, there were dead animals hanging from the low ceiling, strung up with nails and wire or twine. Cats... possums... small dogs... all killed and then strung up like gross, perverse hunting trophies. The smell of old death and decay was noticeable here, but not quite overpowering. "Shit." Autumn muttered. "Oh, shit." "Yeah." Cassie replied, her mood somber as she played her torch over the walls and floor. Scrawled in black charcoal or some similar substance on one wall, just as her vision had shown, was a weird cave-painting stick figure of the large man with antlers branching from his skull. The floor bore scuffs, footprints in the dust and, most disturbingly, bloody drag-marks as though something had been dragged across the floor. Perhaps most eerily, the drag marks disappeared at the wall with the antlered man drawn on it, with no sign that of going anywhere else. "Look." Autumn said in a low voice. Cassie followed the beam of her flashlight and saw a small shoe. A child's sneaker, laying in one corner, a patina of dust on the fluorescent strips on it's sides.
  2. 1 point
    Meanwhile "How long is it for?" Sophia asked plaintively, with an understandable pout of her lower lip. After all, she had just gotten Charlie to be her boyfriend, and now he was going away. "Eight weeks." Charlie replied, his own feelings mixed on the matter. On the one hand, the exclusive theater and performing arts workshop camp that his father had sprung on him was a massive stepping stone for someone who wanted to make a career on the stage. It would look brilliant on his resume when time came to pick the right stage school post-graduation. On the other hand, he was leaving his girlfriend... and his friends to face unknowable peril and exciting adventures without him. "I go after Homecoming, and will be back before Thanksgiving, so it's not so bad." he said as much to himself as her. After all, he'd get to take Sophia to Homecoming - and he wouldn't be abandoning the team when they needed him most, taking down Cody and the Dark. After all, that had to happen before Homecoming, according to Cassie's vision. It was odd for Charlie to think of himself as the tank - though his Dwarven cleric in Sean's game was pretty resilient, he wasn't the frontline lynchpin of the group. But now real life had bestowed powers on Charlie that made him a literal combat monster - Devin's jokes about him being Zoidberg aside. That was an important role to play, and though he was as scared as any of the Fellowship - apart from Jase, he mentally appended - he was eager to be there for his friends. "I guess it's not so bad." Sophia grumped, snuggling up against him. The TV loaned it's flicker to the soft warm illumination of the lamps in the lounge, and the busty girl smiled, a naughty little smile, as she realised something. "Say, your mom is gone till Monday, right?" "Yeah." Charlie's attention was torn between the snuggling and the comedy special on the TV, so he was momentarily surprised as he felt nimble fingers tugging at his fly zipper. "Uh, something on your mind?" he asked with a grin starting on his lips. Sophia gave a soft, breathy giggle and leaned in, kissing him soundly. "Yeah. Making sure I'm on your mind when all those theater hoes start trying too hard." she murmured, kissing him again as she felt him stirring under her questing fingers. "Call it safeguarding my investment." she quipped as she lowered her head to his lap. "Investment?" Charlie asked, a laugh in his voice which swiftly faded as he felt her warm breath on his skin... Team Pluck The search of the ground floor had yielded nothing except more creeping unease. The sibilance of whispers seemed to be caught and echoed a little too readily by the derelict building , so the intrepid duo conversed in low murmurs. The rooms were all bare, not even old desks or furniture yielding up to the perfunctory search. The walls were the same patchy leprousness throughout, though here and there like ancient cave paintings were stick-figure drawings depicting disturbing images - at least, they were disturbing to Cassie and Autumn. Apparently no more than childish scrawls, in a variety of pigments, they were all variations on a single theme: A cluster of small stick figures, under... A larger stick figure with antlers growing from his head, standing before... A large, dark tree. In some of the drawings, the antlered figure seemed to be chasing the smaller figures. In others, the smaller ones seemed to be worshipping him. And in all the depictions of the tree, it was shown the same way: bare of branch, black, twisted, gnarled. Cassie realised that the drawings were all of varying ages, some more faded than others, as if drawn in different decades. She pointed this out to Autumn, who swallowed and nodded. "How old did you say this place was?" she asked. Cassie took a quick snapshot of one of the wall paintings before answering. "It was built in 1923. Before that, there was an old railway shed on this site. The town hall was supposed to put Shelly on the map, but like Jase pointed out in his mini-lecture, for some reason Shelly never boomed. Almost like someone didn't want it to." Autumn nodded, thinking of the possible suspects, all with their own reasons for keeping Shelly low-key. Heck, even her own family and the local Blackfeet might have preferred it that way. There were so many reasons to keep the world away from Shelly - but now with the Aeon Society on one hand and the mysterious Crossroads on the other, parts of the world had realised Shelly was unusual, which loaned an urgency to everything even without the imminent threat of a crazy possessed boy doing something horrible before Homecoming. A tour of the top floor yielded more of the same, the single-room loft office containing only cobwebs, mouse turds and, on the east wall, a larger version of the stick-figure paintings. This one had been made in a rusty brown pigment, and it wasn't until Cassie stepped closer that she realised that the source of the 'paint' was lying in a heap at the bottom of the wall. Cats. Several of them, dead as doornails with flies crawling on the dusty fur of their limp little bodies. They had been slashed open and the blood used as... as... Holy fucking shit, both teens thought with an almost identical urge to throw up rising in their stomachs.
  3. 1 point
    Sure enough, the window was there, the board across the lower half hanging loosely on it's bent and rusty nails. Autumn was pretty confident she could just take the prybar and take the whole damn board off with one good pull... but that would leave too-visible a sign that they had been here. Cassie, careful of stray nails, pulled the loose edge of the board aside, allowing her redheaded companion to slide agilely through the gap, wrecking bar in hand. Autumn's hiking boots hit the floor inside lightly and she took a pace into the room, allowing Cass to enter behind her as her own eyes adapted to the dank gloom within. The sight that met her eyes was not reassuring. This had likely been an office once, but the Old Town Hall had been shut down before even telephones were commonplace. Warped floorboards creaked underfoot, the wallpaper was rotted and hanging off in patches, giving the place a leprous look, and the paintwork - what there was of it - was similarly mold-covered and patchy. Worse, though, was the feeling of wrongness about the place. That oily, slick, sickly feeling she had felt when in the burned woods of the Other Side and earlier this week, when the monsters had come hunting in the Marias Medical Center was here, like a spiritual(?) tar stain on the cloth of reality. Perhaps most shocking is that, this time, the sensation was not surprising. It still sucked, to be sure, but the wrenching shock of the laws of nature being twisted, whilst still unsettling, did not leave her as rattled as last time. There was a soft grunt and shuffle from Cassandra as she slid through the window, straightened and looked around, and Autumn could see on her friend's face that the 'Eyes' felt the sensation too. The pair looked at each other and, barely perceptibly, nodded, each taking a deep breath and steeling their resolve. To Cassie's senses, the place had a 'they just stepped out' feeling. The Old Town Hall was not a large building. A hallway and four rooms on the ground floor, and a large open office space above. And, of course, the basement. The place felt lived-in, despite it's derelict and rotting facade. Not-Quite-Cody wasn't home right now... she thought so, anyway. She was pretty sure. Almost. Like, ninety- eighty- Uh, seventy percent sure.
  4. 1 point
    Owen Kavanagh had been gone from this world for more than a year, his ashes scattered at Logan Pass just as the dawn broke over Going-to-the-Sun Mountain one morning in late June. It was exactly the farewell he’d asked for, an informal gathering of two small families and a wary flock of bighorn sheep watching from the mist-veiled hillside. The somewhat fussier to-do had come a couple of weeks later, an obligatory ritual to satisfy the townsfolk’s compulsion to foist their condolences and casseroles onto people who didn’t necessarily want either. The clutching hands of near-strangers, the almost metronomic litany of sorry-for-your-losses, the forest’s worth of paper fashioned into mass-produced sympathy cards- all well-intentioned gestures that, ultimately, seemed shallow and meaningless. For them, life would go on. And yet, even now, something of her grandfather lingered in this room, in every amorphous whorl of dark-grained wood and whisper of aromatic tobacco that rose from the plush carpet, her toes sinking in with each step. It was a bittersweet feeling, this flicker of wonder at the mysteries the place contained overlaid with the emptiness of loss, the uncomfortable tightening in her chest at odds with the warmth of her affection for someone who could no longer share it. Autumn stared at the envelopes on the desk, eyes tracing the neat script she recognized from documents they’d shredded, and from half a dozen birthday cards kept in a box of treasures under her bed. Deep blue ink on crisp white paper stared back at her. Sit, it bade her, and she did, unthinking, sinking into the wooden chair that gave only a half-hearted creak of protest after long disuse. As Autumn glanced at the first envelope, the one addressed to herself and her mother, her fingers practically twitched with the urge to reach out, to open it, but she hadn’t come here for sentiment alone. She’d come for the journals, to see if what Nathan had said was true. This is what she reminded herself, that there was a point to all of this, a purpose. Her grandfather’s notes, the historical references he’d collected could be useful, could maybe help them figure out what was happening in Shelly and why… And, maybe, if they were lucky, how to stop it. For all the strangeness of feeling surrounded by the presence of someone she’d known and loved in a place she’d never been- and it was strange, and strangely reassuring- there were more pressing issues to deal with first. Priorities. “To Whomsoever Opened The Door,” she murmured, smiling in spite of herself. “Still putting on your good manners for company, huh?” She took up the second envelope- after all, she was the one who unlocked the door, so it should be totally fine. Right? Right. Opening it, she took a deep breath and drew forth two sheets of stationery folded together. There was no date, no emblem or monogram, just faint grey horizontal lines on paper that felt heavier, more official somehow, than the kind used for normal note-taking or correspondence. Exhaling, she leaned back in the chair and began to read. “To Whomsoever Opened The Door,” she repeated quietly, and in the stillness of the room the young redhead could almost hear the words in her grandfather’s rumbling voice. “Obviously, I’m not here to greet you in person. A source of great sorrow to me, but not so great as the sorrow I feel in leaving my family in sadness and without protection. Unless my old friend…” She paused, frowning at the name that followed, and hazarded a clumsy attempt at pronouncing the unfamiliar arrangement of syllables. “...my old friend Askuwheteau was wrong- and in all the time I’ve known him, he never has been- you have what the Blackfeet call the ‘Dawning Light’. Either that, or the protection his grandfather gave mine doesn’t work and the whole lot of them have been laughing at us this whole time.” Huh. ‘Dawning Light.' Pausing, Autumn considered the sound of it, the way the words felt in her head. She had to admit, it sounded a little better than “the Shine,” which reminded her unpleasantly of that old horror movie with the guy who went crazy in a hotel, tried to kill his family, and froze to death in a hedge maze. Ugh. Suppressing a shiver, the girl pushed the thought aside. So far, what she’d read seemed to fit Nathan’s story- that people from their families who underwent ...whatever this coming-of-age ritual was... were supposed to be protected somehow from the Dark and those influenced by it. “Pardon, stranger. I feel death coming, and it makes me bitter.” There was no warning, no way to prepare for the shock of reading that admission aloud. The words swam before her eyes as if blurred by a surge of warm waves in clear blue shallows, remnants of which dripped silently down her cheeks. No. No, no, no. Absolutely not. You do not have time to cry right now, Autumn! Get it together. This is important, her inner voice chided her, and despite the sudden, sharp aching in her chest, practicality demanded she focus. Blinking rapidly as if to banish the upwelling of the emotional sea within her, the heir apparent to this increasingly strange legacy quickly skimmed the rest of the paragraph, her eyes catching here and there on certain words but not stopping to process them fully until she reached a passage that seemed safer. Less personal. “A man who is like a son to me has also been entrusted with this, but I am asking you as well, though I have no right…” Okay, yeah. That would have to be Warden Crocker, who’d said he’d come on her grandfather’s behalf- as much as she loved her dad, her grandfather had been as much a part of Nathan’s childhood as Nathan was of hers. She paused, as a sudden thought struck home: if Nathan really had been asked directly by her grandfather to talk to her, that meant he’d been carrying this around for almost a year and a half, along with everything else he was dealing with at home. Oh, god. Her heart sank a little at the realization, made heavier by a twinge of guilt at the little selfish surge of resentment she’d felt when he’d dumped all this in her lap yesterday. “...See that my granddaughter goes to the Reservation,” she continued soberly, “and meets either with Askuwheteau - ‘Laughing Joe’ they call him - or with whoever is in his place. Tell them she is Owen Kavanagh’s granddaughter, and they will know what is to be done.” Well, she conceded, ‘Laughing Joe’ was definitely easier to pronounce, at least. It was nice to have a name she wouldn’t be likely to screw up when she asked for him. When she’d talked to everyone at the bleachers, earlier, she hadn’t been entirely sure who she was looking for, and Sophia seemed nice, but she wasn’t like them and Autumn didn’t really know her, and Devin had freaked out, and things had just been kind of… weird. Though, she guessed they’d been weird for a little while now, hadn’t they? Or Weird, even; the memory of her phone call with Jase, brief though it was, brought a sudden rush of warmth to her cheeks. With a quick shake of her head, Autumn tried again to concentrate on the task at hand, toes drawing formless designs in the carpet as she swung her feet. “In the bottom drawer of my desk is a small lockbox. One of the keys on my old key ring opens it. If you are what I hope you are, what Laughing Joe thought you’d be, then what’s in there is for you. ‘Protections for warriors’, he called it.” A thrill of excitement raced through her at this new revelation, sea-colored eyes intent on the bold blue script as she leaned forward, eliciting a faint creak from the old chair. The letter didn’t specify what they were, or how they worked, and apparently this friend of her grandfather’s wasn’t sure, either- just that they’d been passed down to him ‘against a time promised when warriors would come and drive out the Darkness.’ Frustratingly, there was no further explanation of the nature of the protection, the warriors they were meant for, or the fact that it suggested some kind of prophecy. She’d just have to find out on Sunday, which, in that moment, seemed a lifetime away to the restive red-haired girl. Her grandfather did, however, mention the journals she’d come to find, although apparently they hadn’t been of much help to him. Maybe it would be different for the Fellowship? Sure, they were still trying to piece things together themselves, but Nathan had said on Wednesday that he’d never actually seen some of the things she’d described, so maybe that perspective would give them some kind of advantage reading through the old records. “A final favor I ask of you, stranger. A favor to a dead man, who will not be able to repay it.” Autumn’s voice wavered threateningly, that telltale stinging behind her eyes again as she exhaled slowly and forged ahead. “Take the other letter on my desk to my daughter and granddaughter, along with the talisman that hangs above the door of my den. Tell them that it was my wish for them to read the letter together and to follow the instructions therein.” Unconsciously, her gaze drifted up to the strange beaded object above the doorway, its outline luminous in her mind’s eye, down to the envelope with her name and her mother’s name on it, and back to the letter trembling faintly in her hands. Why? The dull, hollow feeling of grief and the flickers of pleasure at happy memories were familiar to Autumn when thinking of her grandfather, were easily processed, but this frustration Ms. Kyleson had conjured yesterday… this anger, was still relatively new, and as she felt her face grow hot a part of her couldn’t help but wonder why he’d done all this. Why didn’t he ever say anything when he was alive?! How could he just… just push that responsibility off onto other people, like Nathan, and this random person he was blindly trusting to do what he asked? Why would he trust a total stranger to find out who she and her mom were, and deliver his message? What if he’d been wrong, and no one had ever said anything, or found the room?! How were they even supposed to have found it, anyway, or gotten the keys, or put all of it together? “Fuck,” she groaned, leaning back abruptly to rest her head on the back of the chair. “Sorry, I know I’m not supposed to swear, but seriously, Grandpa. Seriously. This isn’t fair, you know?” Only silence answered her. Closing her eyes, the faint scents of smoke and long-unopened rooms filled her awareness, along with the solidity of the chair she was sitting in and the soft, dense pile of the carpet beneath her feet. There couldn’t be an answer, of course, to any of it. It was as pointless to ask as it was to be angry at someone who wasn’t there, and there were plenty of other things, other people more deserving of her ire. She knew that. The knowing didn’t make it any easier. With a sigh, Autumn opened her eyes again, staring up at the painted wood ceiling before sitting upright and returning her attention to the paper in her hand. “May the Dawning Light guide your path, and may you always know your star,” she breathed finally. It seemed unnecessary to read his signature aloud, especially after such an uncharacteristically poetic line. It reminded her a little of camping trips they’d all taken when she was younger, when both families had all been together, and her grandfather and Joe Crocker had told her and Jacob stories about how the constellations came to be, and how to use them to find your way if you were ever lost in the world. Truth be told, she was feeling kind of lost, and she wondered for a moment exactly how long she’d felt that way. ...Or whether, if it hadn’t been for the events of the past few days, she would ever even have noticed. Still, she kind of liked the sound of it, almost like a prayer, or a benediction. May you always know your star. “Thanks, Grandpa,” she murmured, smiling a little. “I’ll be sure to keep an eye out. For now, though, let’s see what these ‘protections for warriors’ are.” Reaching into the pocket of her hoodie, Autumn pulled the plastic keyring out again, bits of brass and nickel silver jingling musically in a quick, bright chime of encouragement. To her surprise, the wooden drawer slid open easily, empty but for a slightly weathered metal lockbox that seemed to shimmer with soft luminescence as the inquisitive teen lifted it out almost reverently and set it on the desk.
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