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  1. Grim had listened to Dane's and Adrianna's tale with something approaching sympathy in his expression. Certainly, it sounded like Ty had made a terrible choice, and on the surface one that no true Aesir should make, and yet... And yet. The scion of Odin considered... That terrible choice, that shocking betrayal, had kept everyone else alive. Had kept Dane and Adrianna alive, and so led to the confluence of events that had them both here, now, when they were needed. The son of Tyr had, much like his father, sacrificed for the greater good, losing something dear to him so that the rest of what he held dear could be preserved. He had taken upon himself that horrible burden, so that others did not have to. And now he faced death at Dane's hand, the ultimate price for his actions. Grim wondered if he should intervene, perhaps try to talk Dane out of his course of action. Did he even have the right to do so? Perhaps he did. What would the vengeance, even if deserved, do to Dane? That survivor guilt, mingled with something close to kinslaying. What would be left of the happy, smiling son of Baldur that so got on Grim's nerves from his cluelessness? And if vengeance was denied, how would that eat at Dane? I am not my Father. I do not have his wisdom. Grim thought to himself, at a loss. Would he, in Ty's place, have done something similar? He hoped not. He would hope, perhaps, that he could come up with some cunning scheme, some trickery that would serve better as diversion. And at the worst, he would sacrifice himself, rather than others, to ensure that the majority survived. He hoped he would, at least. Perhaps that, if anything, was something he could condemn Ty for - not for sacrificing comrades in arms and friends, but for sacrificing others without being willing to put himself on the line. Perhaps, that is. For Grim did not know enough about Ty, or enough of his reasons on the day. The unwise man is awake all night, and ponders everything over; when morning comes he is weary in mind, and all is a burden as ever. Yeah. Not going to get anywhere thinking that over. It's tail-chasing, and I simply don't know en- A cough from Adrianna brought him out of his reverie, and he realised he was staring at - well, letting his eyes rest on - her shapely behind in the well-fitting (tight) jeans. The son of Odin didn't quite guiltily jerk his mismatched eyes up to meet the narrowed gaze of the daughter of Hades, but it did take every ounce of self control for him not to blush crimson and stammer out an apology like the schoolboy he, in fact, was. Instead, despite his cheeks going a little pink, he managed to merely blink and cleared his throat. "We need to get close to the ritual vessel and destroy it, scattering the gathered power. We need your medallion to send the three witches back to your Father's realm." he told her, trying to pretend he hadn't been unconsciously ogling her. His lips quirked in a crooked smile as he tilted his head, regarding Adrianna wryly. "In short, we're going to a party. Wanna come?"
  2. "We learned that someone is trying to perform a ritual to break an imprisoning seal." Grim's voice was quietly businesslike, a cold breeze blowing off the glaciers of Niflheim. "I'm inclined to think it's something they gleaned from the Nekiya, but perhaps not - I'm going from gut feeling there. The various strange events around town have been funneling the power of Fate into the rite, the climax of which will take place tomorrow night at midnight." He shrugged slightly, favoring Adrianna with a smile. "Fate does love synchronicity, and Halloween is the perfect time to release something big, powerful and not of this world." "We're also pretty sure that the spirits of the three witches have possessed female students from the school, as we mentioned in our last meeting. Given the central focal point of the ritual, at least one of them is likely to be Mercedes Rhodes, daughter of Aphrodite." he went on in the same intent, businesslike fashion. "It can't be coincidence that her home is at the geomantic fulcrum of all the strange happenings. The plan is to attend her costume party, find the vessel being used to store the mystical energies so far raised, and neutralise it. We also use your amulet to banish the witches back to your Father's realm." He shifted his feet, leaning on his staff as his mismatched eyes studied Adrianna. "I am new to all of this." he said in the tone of one confessing. "But it strikes me that stopping those witches, and preventing the release of whatever destructive evil they plan to unleash, is more important than simple high school hijinks. We know what needs doing, we know what we need in order to do it. And your amulet is one of those key ingredients. You ask 'what have we to trade'? I have nothing to offer you right now. I can promise that I will consider this a favor to be returned: whatever you need from me, if it is in my power to grant or loan, I will do so." He grinned a little, a wolfish expression of amusement. his green eye sparkling. "Except the Nekiya. If we are able to recover that, it goes back to Archie. It's not on the bargaining table, oh Daughter of Hades." he essayed a half-bow, giving her a lopsided smile.
  3. "It is." Grim said thoughtfully as he walked along, staff tapping in cadence with his footfalls. He cast a glance over his shoulder at Fisher, nodding as if deciding something. "I want you in the meeting too. Not to keep busting your balls, but seeing you might make her take us less seriously after your performance last time - only this time we can make it work for us. She might let something slip if she feels overconfident." He shrugged. "Or she might play it straight, in which case all is well. Either way, you're a good geiger counter to have present."
  4. Grim had been leaning against the gatepost of the cemetary's main entrance like a particularly brooding form of gargoyle as the group had approached and drawn level with him, his seething at his cousin's weed-rotted thought processes and boneheaded 'question' having largely returned to his usual sullen equilibrium when Darcy suddenly stopped dead and gave Fisher - and others - a piece of her mind. As she finished, he pushed off from where he was leaning and approached, wry amusement flickering in his gaze as he looked at the tongue-tied scion of Izanami before those odd-coloured eyes rested on the flushed mortal. His head tilted slightly, his expression hard to read as he asked "'The anti-social'?" Darcy's red cheeks reddened a little further. "Oh god, did I say that out loud?" she muttered, then firmed her jaw and looked right at him. "Well... you kind of are." she told him, her tone somewhere between defiant and diplomatic. "Sorry, but... yeah." "S'true, dude." Dane put in helpfully, nodding slowly. "You're all quiet and surly and stuff. But it's cool. Sorta like Batman." "Maybe that should be your costume." Laurel suggested pleasantly, her blue eyes sparkling. Grim looked at her, one corner of his mouth twitching in an almost-smile, then glowered at Dane, then finally stared at Darcy as he rested against his staff. "If Creation were to end tomorrow, and I went to the Hall of my Father." he said quietly, his eyes on the student barista. "When I was called upon to tell a tale, I would be sure to tell the tale of the girl who stood with us at the Ending of All Things with nothing more than a willing spirit. In that regard, at least, I can see to it you end up as more than dust on the wind." There was a moment of silence. Darcy wasn't sure what to say. The other scions looked at Grim with various levels of surprise. He shifted his weight then, resting the staff against his shoulder as he stood up straight again, smiling a little at Darcy. "Of course, if we make it through tomorrow, we shall have to see about making sure you're equipped with more than just a willing spirit. If you want to walk the walk, you're going to need to be able to keep up, if only a little." he went on, his manner more businesslike. "That means learning. And training." He shrugged, glancing at Fisher, then the others. "Something to think about. For now, though, we've got a party to prepare for. Dane? I need you to get straight - or at least straight-er - and call Adrianna. You and me and one or two others need to sit down with her and get her to agree to lend us her amulet. So I'm going to need your thoughts on that. Actual thoughts. Not thoughts about Bill Murray." He added, eyes narrowing as he motioned his cousin to accompany him. "Come on, let's walk and talk. Standing around makes my leg hurt." "I don't think I ever asked." Darcy murmured to Fisher as the group moved on out of the graveyard. "Who exactly is his father?" "Odin." Fisher answered, still getting over the sight of an impassioned Darcy and the kiss she'd given him in front of everyone. "Oh." Darcy pondered. "Right." she said after a few more moments.
  5. The skinny youth dressed in the oversized longcoat had remained silent, leaning on his staff, as Fisher and Runa spoke, his mismatched eyes apparently idly scanning their surroundings. As Laurel spoke up, he seemed to awaken from whatever speculation his mind was engaged in, straightening a little and throwing the giantess a polite nod. Though he still seemed woefully underfed, when he stood straight it was noticeable that the Aesir scion was not as small or frail-seeming as his body language usually suggested, being almost as tall as his cousin with the sunnier disposition. His shoulders, too, did not seem so hunched or narrow within the confines of the coat. "My thanks to you, fair Runa, for your time - upon which we have intruded far too much already." The son of Odin said with careful formality. "We shall leave as we arrived - in peace." He paused in the process of turning as he gave her a slight smile. "Should we meet again under peaceful circumstance, perhaps we could share an iced chocolate." Without waiting for a reply he completed his turn, tapping Fisher on the shoulder as a signal to follow as he headed away from the giants and their Nemean ally. "Let's get going." he told the others quietly as he drew level with them, not looking back at Runa and her companions. "We've got all we need." "We have?" Darcy looked from Grim to the giants, to Grim again, and finally at the others. Fisher shrugged acceptance, as did Austin. Rachel frowned, feeling ill at ease turning her back on Titanspawn, but also didn't want to bicker in front of enemies. Laurel simply nodded with her usual grace and turned to go. Nadya, confused but trusting that Glumsley knew what he was talking about, likewise fell into step as the Band began to head out of the graveyard. Once they were near the entrance to the place of final rest, Grim began talking. "They're gathering power, a lot of it. The power of Fate, of Legend. That's what all the strange incidents have been for." he began, drawing a sandwich from his satchel and taking bites between sentences. "Runa was telling the truth - her part of it is just legwork. The ritual is to break a magical seal - probably set by someone divine, given the amount of power they're drawing." "Right." Laurel frowned, nodding as she absorbed this. "So I'm assuming the ritual likely isn't complete, or we'd know about it by now." "Correct." Grim nodded as he finished the sandwich, then popped the tab on a can of Coke. "The power is being funneled into a vessel - an actual vessel. Something old and/or valuable, a vase or a pithos, with a mystical presence of it's own, perhaps. The power will then be consumed at the apex of the ritual by the person running it, and they will then break the seal." He looked around at them all, the verdant hue of his right eye a stark contrast to the wintery grey of his scarred one. "Best bet, the ritual will be tomorrow night, at midnight. The place will be Mercedes party. So we're all going, and we're going to get our hands on that vessel before the Witching Hour starts." He smiled wryly. "Halloween is a great night for breaking seals, especially ones between the lands of the living and the dead. Whatever our enemies are trying to set loose, it's a great idea to stop that from happening." "So our tasks are, in order, secure Adrianna's help with her amulet. We then infiltrate the party in costume-" he made a face "- and find, in no special order, the vessel and the possessed partygoers. Before midnight." He glanced around them again. "Any questions?" he asked before tilting back his head and taking a long drink of soda. "Yeah," Dane nodded as he began flicking a lighter to spark his medicinal remedy. "Why was Venkman the only one not covered in marshmallow? I never understood that." Grim had just taken a large mouthful of soda, and it was a testament to his presence of mind and sheer cussedness that the Band didn't end up wearing it. A couple of worrying choking noises emitted from his throat, and then he swallowed, coughed once, and stared at Dane ominously. "Are you serious?" "Well, yeah, man. I mean, Mr Stay Puft was all -*ker-blooey* and there was fluff everywhere, but not on Venkman." Dane replied earnestly. "You..." Grim began, then stopped himself. "I..." he began again, then halted whatever diatribe he'd been about to spew forth like dragonfire. And the damned scion of Baldur just stood there with an expression somewhere between curiousity and worry. Grim opened his mouth one last time, then shut it with an audible snap, turned on his heel, and stalked from the graveyard, muttering to himself.
  6. "Everybody play cool." Grim's voice was a low but audible murmur through barely-moving lips to the others. "Nobody swing first." He stepped forward, and if he seemed to his companions to be limping a little more than usual, or seemed to be leaning on his staff more than he had before, well... perhaps he was tired after the long walk. Perhaps. He approached the frost giantess steadily, his staff tapping the ground as he assessed her. That she had skill with runes indicated learning, yet she seemed young. Her axe was at hand, but hardly ready to strike - a parade rest of sorts. Her sheer size reminded him uncomfortably of the trolls, and he had to fight the hackle-raising fear that prickled up his spine as he stepped close enough to be within reach of her axe before coming to a stop, leaning heavily on the black wood stave and meeting her gaze with his own. You've survived eighteen months without going in a troll's stewpot, and that was before your Visitation. he reminded himself, taking a moment before speaking. "Thank you for the welcome, Runa - and Rimuldr." he acknowledged with a courteous dip of his head to both the giantess and the snow-white Nemean. "I am Grim, and I greet you in kind. It may be that we are fated to meet one day in battle, and if so I welcome it. A man - or woman - can be known by the caliber of their foe, after all. Better a strong and cunning enemy than a nīðingr. If you say there is to be no violence here and now, so let it be for my party also." He cocked his head slightly, examining the markings and carvings that adorned the gravestones and tomb slabs around them, then fixed Runa once more with his mismatched gaze. . "You are right that we seek the spirits of witches, those who should lie quiet and yet roam to create mischief. I confess myself puzzled, mighty Runa." He gestured to her, a sweep of his arm meant to indicate her impressiveness. "What manner of dead witches can call upon one such as yourself to do their work?"
  7. "Plants too." Grim put in. "Mrs Cunningham's garden - a labor of love over many years - was drained dry. I agree," he stated, glancing at Austin, then at Fisher, before looking at the others. "Someone wanted life-force for something." He grunted then, looking around the headstones and monuments as he leaned on his staff, the twisted black wood comforting under his hand. "Let's go to the oldest section together, since that's the most likely hotspot. If we find zip there, then we can think about splitting into two teams to search the rest of this place." His piercing mismatched gaze fell on the map-bearer. "Darcy? Where are we headed?" Trying not to grin too widely now that the question of her tagging along had been resolved, the girl unfolded her map with a rustle, consulting it for a moment, then pointed down one of the well-tended pathways. "That way. It's sort of central - this place grew outwards around the original graves." "Like the rings of a tree." Grim noted, rubbing absently at the scar over his left eye, the grey one. "Let's get going while we still have some light, then." Shrugging his shoulders inside his voluminous long coat, he set off down the path Darcy had indicated, his staff tapping in time with his footsteps.
  8. "Wonderful." Grim studied the graveyard as though it was personally offending him, his tone was one of absentminded sarcasm as he replied to Dane. The thin-faced young man blinked, then, and seemed to remember himself. "Sorry, Dane. I'm new at this, and the whole situation is getting to me." He offered a faint smile to the scion of Baldur. "Glad you're with us. The more help, the better." The handsome sun-blessed youth, the antithesis in every way to the dark, dour and scarred Grim, beamed at his 'cousin'. "No problem, dude. We Aesir gotta stick together." He leaned close to Rachel. "See? Little dude is warming to me." he stage-whispered loud enough for all the Band to hear. Grim's jaw tightened slightly, but he didn't rise to the bait, instead sighing softly and looking around at the others. "Thoughts?" "Start with the oldest sections of the cemetery?" Laurel repressed a shiver from the depths of her coat as she glanced around the bleak place, the chill Fall breeze seeming extra frost-laden here. She met Grim's mismatched gaze, her own blue eyes expressive as she nodded. "I'm no expert on the occult, but people are another matter. Perhaps the witches will be sticking close to graves that were from their own lifetimes." She watched as Odin's son mulled that over like he was chewing a tough piece of meat, considering it before nodding. "It's as good a plan as any." he agreed, flashing her one of his quick smiles before looking at the others. "Anyone else got anything better?"
  9. "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."
  10. "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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. "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."
  14. 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."
  15. "Well." Grim leaned back in his chair as Adrianna, having dished out her digits to all concerned, tucked her phone back into her designer purse and, with another faintly condescending but still businesslike smile, slid out of the booth and briskly left The Drip. It couldn't be helped that some, or most, or all of the Scions left behind felt like she was getting away before she caught a chronic case of Fail. The scion of Odin's pale features were even paler right now, the scars on his cheeks and the one bisecting across his grey eye showing up almost silvery as he looked at Laurie, then Austin, then Dale, then Nadya, then Rachel... and finally Fisher, where his mismatched gaze lingered as the long fingers of one scarred hand tapped a short tattoo on the tabletop. Grim was angry. Not offended, or hurt, or even grumpy or irritated. Angry. Right now, he had a powerful urge to take his Band-mate gently by the neck and strangle him with his own tongue. To those sensitive to such things, his pissed-offedness roiled in the air around him and was focused in the glare he was giving the son of the Kami. "Leaving aside the fact you told the daughter of the god of the Underworld that a powerful book in his area of interest is loose in the world - unnecessarily - you more importantly just threw the good name of our mentor, our ally, our friend under the bus. And behind that bus was another bus." He said in a cold, level tone that nevertheless vibrated with anger. "Good job, Capra." Grim liked Archie. Liked his learned nature, liked his wisdom, liked his love of knowledge and the dedication he had to his duty. As Fisher shifted and opened his mouth, Grim went on. "Adrianna was right. It's fucking amazing we got this far without tripping on our shoelaces. That fuckery comes to a screeching stop, now. Tonight, we've got some Scooby-Doo'ing to be doing." He tugged absently at the braid of hair around his neck. "If anyone has plans tonight, cancel them. We cover Harmony Grove Cemetery. We cover the woods. If we can, we find out if Mrs Cunningham has had a feud or argument with anyone who might wish her ill - it's thin, but it might be a lead. Get the gossip mill going, those who are plugged in." He kept his stare on Fisher. "When you talk to Dane, ask him where the birds were falling from the sky. We add that to the list of leads. Like we should have yesterday, only I was distracted by the dread of going to this gods-damned party." His thin lips quirked self-deprecatingly. "That's on me." He downed his coffee, dropping some change next to the mug as a tip for Darcy, and stood up. "I'm heading home to pick up my staff, then I'm going to start with giving Cunningham's garden the once over. Perhaps someone used a curse, perhaps something was left I can pick up. Then I'm headed to the Cemetery. Anyone who wants to join in, meet me there. Once I've done that, I'm going to the woods. Rachel, bring Wolf to the woods too. The more eyes, ears and noses, the better. If someone finds out anything about Mrs Cunningham, you've all got my number." He paused, as thought taking a moment to ensure he hadn't missed anything, then nodded to Laurie and the others. "See you all later, I hope." He fixed Fisher with another stare and looked like he wanted to say - or rather, snarl - something more, but then clamped his lips tightly together and turned, stalking away with that slight limp of his through the crowded Drip.
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