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  1. "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."
  2. "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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. "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."
  6. 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."
  7. "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.
  8. Pallid gray and leaf-green eyes regarded Adrianna as she posed her reasonable query, then turned to study Fisher, then Austin expectantly before shifting to Rachel and Nadya. Sighing very softly, the scion of Odin exchanged a glance with Apollo's daughter then shrugged to himself before turning back to the elegant young woman across from him in the booth, folding his hands with their myriad of white scars together on the table before him as he leaned forward slightly, all business. "Understand I was not present for a lot - if not all of this. So this is second-hand information from first-hand sources. With some theorising thrown in." he began with another shrug. "The others can correct me if I get anything substantially wrong. So here's what I understand so far: A person called Marius, by means of cunning manipulation of a foolish teenage boy who got hold of some relic that was not his, has arranged for the release of three spirits from the underworld - specifically actual by-gods witches once burned in Salem. We believe they have possessed students of the school, since those would have been the closest victims when they were released. As such they are well-hidden, but we believe they will likely attempt something on Halloween, probably at the witching hour when the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is traditionally weakest- Hey, thanks Darcy." He gave the girl a quick smile as she slid the mug of black coffee before him in a bad mood, then busied himself adding sugar to the brew as Darcy stormed back off while he continued speaking. "The 'good' news is that Mercedes Rhodes - who is very rich and popular, has invited the entire school to her Halloween party. There is a synchronicity that the spirits of witches killed by Salem would wish to visit vengeance on the children of Salem, and given that the witches are likely riding inside some of the students, that makes the party twice as likely a target for whatever they have planned." He politely indicated Adrianna. "We need you, because our friend suggested you are ideally equipped - and motivated - to recover things that belong to your father." He took a sip of his coffee, frowned at it, then added more sugar before taking another drink. "I think that covers everything important." It wasn't quite a question, and definitely wasn't an expression of uncertainty, and might have contained an element of dry humor as the slightly scruffy Odinsson smiled at Adrianna, watching her with mismatched eyes. "Sooo... what are you doing on Halloween night?" Some of the others in the Band exchanged glances. Did... Grimsley just flirt? Even in jest? Surely a sign of the End Times.
  9. Grim pondered the missing piece - or rather the space Maurice had indicated where the missing piece had been - then 'hmmed', took a sip of the beer in his hand, and eyeballed Nadya. "Don't even think it." Nadya scowled at him, pouting as her gaze returned to the heart, confusion and frustration mingling in her eyes. "I think I got all the pieces, Austin." she said plaintively. "I was pretty careful, but I guess I coulda missed one." "Hmm." Grim repeated. Nadya stuck her tongue out at him, but the mismatched green-and-grey eyes were focused on the middle distance now as Odin's scion stared into space. "Who else was present?" he asked absently, tugging on an earlobe as he gazed off into nowhere. "Anyone else that might have gotten close to the remnants of the creature's heart?" "So you don't think it was me?" Nadya sounded mildly surprised and relieved. "Do I think you're a light-fingered magpie? Yes, I do." Grim looked at her with a wry smile. "But I don't believe you'd sabotage the Band. I've not seen anything in you that would lead me to that, which means the missing piece is either still out there, or someone grabbed it without you, Nadya, seeing them do so. Which implies more than human stealth."
  10. "Good." Grim said as he moved past Fisher, having entered on the other Scion's heels, and took a moment to scrutinise the woman in the booth. Looking back at Fisher and Darcy, who were regarding him with a certain amount of 'what the hell' in their eyes, he sighed. "Good, she's here." he clarified. "Not 'good, Dane's not okay'. Honestly - do I really have to explain that?" "You kinda do, Glumsley." Nadya put in with a sly smirk. The scion of Odin snorted, then fixed Fisher with a gimlet mismatched stare. "You should probably talk to Dane, make sure he's okay." he suggested. "It's plain even to me that setting up this meeting cost him some peace of mind." "Why don't you talk to him, then?" Fisher challenged, not that he disagreed, but Grim inspired contrariness at times. "I'm not a people person." Grimsley said with a shrug. "You are. Black coffee, two sugars." And with that he headed towards the booth, the oldest grumpiest young man in Creation, wearing an oversized duster and limping slightly as he wove through the tables and patrons. "I better catch up and make sure he doesn't start a war or something." Nadya said with an expressive pout as she stepped after him. "My usual when you get the time, Darce." Grim was not a people person - in that he didn't much like people in general. He was not lacking in people skills - those lacking in people skills don't manage to stay alive through eighteen months in a troll den by dint of verbal agility and cunning. So it was safe to say that when the occasion demanded, Grim was perfectly capable of being personable, even charming. He just didn't bother with it for unimportant things. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with us." he said as he stepped up to the booth, offering a scarred hand. "I'm Grim. The girl hurrying over here is Nadya. The others should be along shortly."
  11. "In high-falutin' strategic circles, that's known as putting all your eggs in one basket." Grim's tone was so dry it pulled and tightened the skin of one's face like a desert wind. "It's not my trophy, and I don't see myself as deserving a relic from it, but my advice is to distribute the power it provides amongst those who were present and took Spearfinger down. For a couple of reasons." "Go on." Rachel looked at the raw-boned boy sipping the dark ale on an oversized stool, her eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "First, having the power concentrated with Nadya means that if she gets put down, we're shit out of luck if we're depending on it. We lose flexibility." Grim took another swig of the porter, grimaced thoughtfully as he contemplated the bottle, then went on. "Second, our relics, the gifts from our parents, are not supposed to be the be-all and end-all of our worth. Having one exceptional relic in her possession lends itself to the temptation of Nadya using it as a crutch - of it becoming the hammer and every problem becoming a nail." "Gee, thanks Glumsley." the pixieish Romani girl stuck her tongue out at the somber figure, who smiled faintly. "Consider it a compliment. You don't need a crutch." He took a drink as the others chewed over his words, looking at Maurice. "I don't like talking about myself." he said quietly. "But seeing as I'm drinking your beer, I can give you the high points. Mom died giving birth to me, never knew her. Raised by my maternal grandpa, a mean old shit-stick who blamed me for his daughter's death." His voice was cool and dispassionate, a matter of fact recounting rather than a tale told. "When I turned fifteen, two trolls killed him and abducted me. I stayed alive and uneaten by making myself useful and ingratiating myself to them until about a month ago when I had my visitation." "You were gone a year and a half." Rachel said quiet. Grim smirked, a hard-edged quirk of his lips accompanied by a shrug of his bony shoulders. "Time flies when you're trying to avoid a cookpot. Anyway, then Hugin came on my father's behalf, guided me through my visitation, and here I am." He spread his arms wide, one hand still holding his black wood staff and the other holding a beer bottle. "An' de trolls?" Maurice asked, looking up from his work. Grim hesitated for a moment, then fished out something from under his t-shirt. The pendant some had already seen, made of red-gold hair and with a large tusk or tooth suspended from it. "Are no longer with us." The scion of Odin answered with an air of finality as he held the pendant up so all could see it for a moment, then stuffed it back under his shirt.
  12. He'd remained silent so far, letting the others handle talking to the cyclops. Despite his admirable poker face, Grim had almost taken a step back when Maurice had opened the door. The monstrously sized humanoid reminded him uncomfortably of the trolls, and his fingers had tightened almost reflexively on the black wood stave as his heart rate had jumped a notch. Rationality saved him, the realisation that Maurice was a Cyclops, not a Troll, and that the Cyclops were, according to myth, the artisans and workmen of the Greek gods. That, and the dreadlocks and Rastafarian garb and accent. The incongruity of it was enough to jar him from the threat response the creature's sheer size had almost provoked. More settled now as Maurice and the others spoke back and forth, Grim likewise grabbed a bottle from the fridge, but was so distracted rubbernecking around the workshop that it wasn't until he sat down that he realised he'd grabbed a bottle of Guinness West Indies porter, not a soda. Screw it, he thought, and knocked off the cap against a workbench before sitting on a convenient surface and taking a pull. It was bitter, and dark, and... surprisingly good, actually. Ahh, the Aesir genes coming through, he thought to himself wryly as he took another drink. "You said Spearfinger's story was a sad one." he said, speaking for the first time since they'd entered the workshop. He watched Maurice intently - not with suspicion, but with curiosity, attempting to discern what the giant humanoid was doing with the pieces of the monster previously vanquished and, more importantly, how he was doing it. To be able to create Relics, or even have knowledge of how they were created, was a useful thing. Also, he was curious about the perspective of the cyclops, now that his initial fear was mostly conquered. Keen eyes flickered from Maurice to the tools and devices on the bench before him. "I've never heard it. Do you mind sharing it?"
  13. "And about the witches." Grim muttered. When one or two of the others glanced at him askance, he shrugged, said "Never mind." and looked at Dane. "It's a good plan, cousin. Just one thing I want to know - you two have history: are we going to have to be careful not to mention you or tread on any eggshells?" He arched his scarred eyebrow. "I suppose what I'm asking is: is she likely to spit curses and hellfire at the mention of your name, or dissolve into tears and start eating tubs of icecream?" "Uh..." Dane looked uncomfortable. Grim held up a slender hand. "I don't need gory details, Dane. I just need to know where the land mines are so I don't step on them." "I need gory details." Nadya appended, grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Grim sighed. "Okay, Nadya needs gory details. But those can wait till later, right?" he glared at her. "When we're not on a clock, perhaps?"
  14. Grim, by contrast to Fisher, was less than sympathetic to popular, pretty and healthy Rachel's problems, whatever they were. He wryly mused to himself that no, he probably wouldn't 'get it', though he did award her grudging points for owning her mistakes in dealing with him. As his thin fingers eased the knot of pain in his leg, he took up his staff from where it leaned against the wall and got to his feet, coming back to the planning table and nodding in silent acknowledgement of the athletic blonde's words. Rachel was indeed right - they were in this together and needed to have each other's backs. "Do the details matter overmuch?" he asked rhetorically. "Most exorcisms involve a spiritual wrestling match, focus and will against focus and will. Ceremonial trappings differ from culture to culture, and are important only in that they are recognised by both spirit and exorcist as important. Dane's friend, if she has practical knowledge of such things-" he shot his 'cousin' a glance and a nod "-is likely as intense a personality as he suggests. And the easiest way to take her measure is to go and meet her rather than interrogate Dane. I'll go with him." He added, glancing around at the others. "Anyone else?"
  15. "Along the cliffs of Fort Pickering Beach." Nadya and Grim said almost in unison, with just enough discordance that it made them both stop and glower at each other for a moment. Then Nadya opened her mouth to continue - and Grim did likewise half an eyeblink behind her, the verbal equivalent of treading on someone's heels. "-a cave not far from the park-" "...park-" "Do you mind?!" the pretty daughter of Bast glared at Odin's son, who smiled disingenuously. "Not at all." he indicated for her to go ahead. She gave him a narrow-eyed look, then snorted in apparent satisfaction and turned back to Fisher, opening her mouth- "Mortals have trouble seeing Maurice's lair, but we can't miss it." Grimsley finished the info-dump a second before Nadya could speak, causing her to stamp one of the absurdly-chunky-soled boots that currently accounted for four inches of her apparent height. He smiled, very faintly, as he stood and slid his dark blue coat on, then shouldered his satchel. "Ugh!" Nadya's protest was expressive, as was the annoyed toss of her hair and irritated pout. "You suck so bad, Glumsley." "Sorry. I thought you were done." he peered at her in mock-surprise from under his mop of tousled dark hair. "Were you not done? I could have sworn you were done." He glanced around at the others, then back at Nadya. The ghost of a sly smile still hung around his lips and glinted in the verdant green of his right eye. "Sorry. Go ahead. I'll stay quiet." Nadya stared at him, then folded her arms and turned her head away with an audible 'hmmph'. Still with admirable lack of smiling or grinning at his teasing of his friend, Grim looked at the others. "Guess there's nothing more to say. Shall we get going to Fort Pickering Beach, then?"
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