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IC: S1:E4 "Quit Yer Witchin'!"

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[Nadya] Not gonna lie, Nadya was expecting... more. A pentagram burned into the grass or black candles partially melted on the boulders, maybe a creepy scarecrow or two or some abstract thingamajigs hanging from the trees about the clearing, or even a skull somewhere. An old one dug up from a grave or something, not a new one, with bits of meat still on it and a patina of blood, dry or still wet, because ugh! Something!

Instead, it was just a bucolic scene, the only pall over it coming from the overcast skies and dry leaves fallen early crackling under their feet, the colour of the trees just beginning to turn. Hardly witching weather at all. But there was nothing! Or, at least, there appeared to be nothing.

"That's what the Witch-Bitch wants us to think, Rae-Rae," Nadya countered, burying doubt behind brashness, a finger tapping her temple, her other hand patting a pocket, feeling the Goddess-granted knife inside. Through the pang of resentment and disappointment the wiry Romani offered the Aesir Athlete a scoffing smirk. "You don't think she'd make it that easy, do ya? Let's look 'round a little.  Maybe old witches aren't good at math and messed up on the coordinates something. Can't expect them to figure out GPS that quickly right?"

This was a totally fantastic and insightful idea, and while Nadya hadn't really expected it to be that easy, how awesome would it have been if she'd been proven right just as soon as they had stepped into the clearing?

Rachel snorted doubtfully. "Riiiight. I think the baddest things we're going to find here are some broken beer bottles and some stubbed out joints."

"I betcha we find something more than that," Nadya said as she began padding out into the clearing on the balls of her feet, silent and sure-footed despite her chunky heels. "If I'm wrong, I'll take your next turn at giving Wolf a bath, if I'm right, you take mine."

Rachel blinked, then followed after her Moon-touched - in more than one sense of the word - friend. "Hey! You haven't washed him once yet."

Nadya flapped a dismissive hand behind her. If wasn't her fault that it just very, very conveniently fell out that way through precisely factored machinations of her own. She wasn't a tracker, but her sharp, silvery eyes knew what a crime scene looked like, what it felt like, and what it took to cover it up. She looked for disturbed dirt, where something may have been buried or dug up, sniffed at the air, for traces of burnt... anything, sage or patchouli or eye or newt or whatever else witches might use in their spells.

"You heard what Archie said 'bout this place. Beasties and baddies hiding here, just waiting to be stirred up, seems like just the place for a witch to cause some trouble for Salem. Y'know, rile up a... wicker man and a swarm of bees," Nadya said softly, listening for any sort of possibly riled up beastie. "Or a Nemean Skunk or something. At least none of the guys are with us, right? Might've been been pestered by one of the Nymphs on the way if we were."

"C'mon, Nads, be serious," Rachel growled, gloved hands balling into fists.

"I am. Those nymphs are worse than the Plastics in Mean Girls, not to mention making a girl question her own quite evident hawtness." She flashed the blonde a quick grin over her shoulder. "Not me, of course." Nadya turned back to the near picturesque scene, idly continuing her blather. "Do you think there might be unicorns in these woods." She couldn't quite quell a childhood squee at the thought of riding a Gods honest fucking unicorn. "Probably aren't prancy horses that fart rainbows though. Badass mofos that go berserk at the scent of wap, ya think?"

Rachel sighed.

"Let's just get this done and meet up with the others at the cemetery, 'kay, Nadya?" 

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“Ah,” Archimedes nodded and gestured to a chair and for Fisher to take a seat. He say across form the boy, crossing his legs and straightening his vest before continuing. “Fisher, Zeus knows. I assure you he's known for quite some time, because I told him. I wouldn't keep something like that from him for reasons just like this: somewhere there is always someone trying to get the upper hand on you with blackmail or other such form of skullduggery. My father trusts me to handle my affairs down here in the World, so I keep things honest with him. He's not a monster,” he shrugged and smirk. “Despite the legends.”

The ancient god laced his fingers together and rest his arms on the table, leaning in a bit to Fisher like a mentor or parents trying to make sure whom they were addressing was listening clearly. “I commend your character, Fisher. Coming here and telling me something like that takes courage, especially since you have no idea how I would react.” He smiled and nodded as he pieced together his next thought. “For now, let Adrianna believe she has the upper hand. Let her keep holding this whole situation over your head like a ripe apple she's threatening to shoot off your head. It may give us some insight into her end game and whether ot not she can be trusted. Use her as she is using you.”

“That's a little dishonest, Mr Syracuse.” Fisher grinned. “I'm impressed. You've been hanging around a high school too long.”

“Lot's of Game of Thrones,” he quipped. “Besides, I'm the god of Arithmetic, not honesty.”

 

“Make it right?” Sheriff Farrow looked at Austin and shook his head. “Son, near as I can tell you and yours ain't done nothing wrong. Whoever this guy is he's playing us at every angle and got us grabbing our ankles and thanking him for whatever comes next.”

“C'mon,” he waved Austin on. “Until Fisher gets here you tell me what it is you're looking for and we'll talk. Looks to me like you got more on your mind than any boy your age had a right to. I've been there. I know.” The two stepped off together and made their past a few officers and medical experts who were called in to make sure it wasn't any sort of mass plague or pandemic about to infect the local population.

“You holdin' up okay?” He finally asked as they under the pier.

 

While down right serene and peaceful, the two ladies spent the better part of a half an hour searching for something and about all they came up with was a few torn open condom wrappers, discarded liquor bottles and various cigarette butts left by members of their high school who used this site as a hook up spot.

It didn't make sense.

There were no signs of any sort of witchcraft here. No discarded items of relics, no bubbling cauldron or small bones or... nothing. “Nadya, I'm looking at Google Maps and....”  Rachel reversed their search and sent the pin to northern most route, towards the more populated areas of Salem.  After all the triangulation went both ways.  If nothing was here, then maybe something was there. “ We've covered nearly a quarter of an acre with super senses. There's nothing here.”

“There's gotta be!” she protested. “The math checks out, unless...”

“Yeah.” Rachel pursed her lips together and held up her phone to show her bestie what she was looking at.

"Oh, you gotta be kidding me..." Nadya's face went pale.

Twenty minutes later...

“You're sure?” Nadya asked Rachel. “This can't be right.  Please tell me this is not right.”

“Yup.” Rachel said lazily, more displeased by the sudden revelation the two ladies were facing than anything else. “Positive. Fan-fucking-tastic.”

The two ladies stood in front of a massive gate to massive private residence. The mansion was situated behind tall walls and it looked like it belonged more in Beverly Hills than Salem. A bright white exterior and open air balconies added a charm to the place along with the large white columns supported the large gabled walkway that led to the front entrance.

Nadya didn't want to believe it, but she knew the home because she'd been there before. The bronze plaque bolted to the wall outside the gate read: 'Rhodes'.

“Well, poo.” Nadya huffed.

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"Yeah I guess, though I gotta admit I've got alot more stress in my life now."   The young scion shrugged.   "I mean there's just so much going on, all happening so fast.   We're still butting heads with Eric and his band, which is abit more complicated for me, since well, I'm going to the dance with Yokiko."  His tone certainly indicated he was hoping for this to be more than a one-time thing.  All the signs were there.  "We've got new bandmates that just joined us, and I think things will be alright, but it's all been pretty crazy and there's a fair amount of friction.   There's just so much we don't know, and I think we all still take things for granted.  I know we're demigods, that things are only gonna get worse, but I'm not ready to just live for all that.  My family's already been threatened once, all of ours were.   I don't want to keep endangering them, but short of just leaving, I can't  see a way forward that might do that."

"So I'm just gonna move forward, do the best I can, and swallow my pride and ask for help when I need it, because right now, there's alot I can't do on my own."   

  He looked around, at all the dead birds, and shook his head. "Damn this smell is pretty damn awful though."  He grunted, and tried not to breathe deeply.  the smell of death mixed with the sea, and it was rather unpleasant.    "I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for, something that is just out of place.  The fact these three things are supposedly equidistant means they're setting up some sort of ritual, and this is one of the two points we actually knew. I'd been hoping for Fisher to get here since he's got abit more feel for that sort of thing."

Austin sighed.  "Got way too many things I need to actually start learning it seems, and far too little time to do so."   

He looked over to the water.   "Something tells me there won't be anything in the water, they can't guarantee it'd stay there.   I figure it's some sort of carving, or maybe a group of carvings, but I could be wrong."

Edited by Austin Lange

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Fisher nodded, very relieved that things had not turned out for the worst. The disappointment and sense of betrayal Mr. Syracuse could have brought to bear would have cut out his heart worse than a dozen very sad Jewish mothers. "Fair enough. I'll let the others know that's the game plan. Thank you, again, Mr. Syracuse. Now I need to go help Austin follow up a lead. Those witches aren't going to banish themselves. And wipe that smug smile off Marius' scummy face."

Mistakes had been made, but he could bounce back. He was Fisher Capra, a kami demigod! Even in the face of trouble, you could always go beyond, Plus Ultra!

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[Austin, Fisher] “There’s a reason they were all put together, Austin,” said the Sheriff as the two kept walking about the ‘crime scene’.  “Like you, they were visited and trained, but they were just greedy and spoiled, disrespectful and unkind.  The Norns foresaw a great tragedy coming and we needed heroes, not what Eric’s band had become so you and your friends were visited.”

“What tragedy?  Why couldn’t you and the faculty handle it,” asked Austin.  It was a logical question considering how much more experienced and powerful the faculty were as legitimate demigods.

The Sheriff shrugged, chuckling a bit.  “Ain’t prophecies work, kid.  Look, all we could figure out is that one of the bands in the prophecy isn’t playing by the rules and they were all students from the school, since there was only one Band of teens at the time, well… do the math.”

“So, the gods visited a second band to make sure the prophecy had all of its actors on stage?”  Austin scoffed and shook his head.

“S’how the gods work, boy,” he looked off to the horizon.  The Atlantic Ocean stretched on forever and the Sheriff seemed to take some solace in the view.  He adjusted his gun belt, like all police seemed prone to do several times per shift.  “You get used to it.  Look, my point, Austin, is that she ain’t your friend.  There’s a reason Yokiko is with Eric’s

Band, remember that.  Her loyalty is to Eric and the others, not you and yours, so you watch what you say around her.”

“I know it’s hard sometimes, what with the visitation and family and all,” he patted Austin on the shoulder.  “The truth?  It doesn’t get any easier.  You’re going to lose.  One day you are going to lose and you need prepare for that, because not everyone can be saved Austin.  Kid, the gods and monsters that fight in this war, they’re horrible.  One day you have to fight friends, the next, you’re choosing between saving your family or all of Salem.  They revel in their games and the only way to truly win is to welcome death or simply not play the game and slip into senility and obscurity.  Just prepare yourself for the dark days you have ahead of you, and if you need people, we’re here.  S’why we’re mentors, kid.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Fisher huffed as he slowed down from a run.  “I had a… thing.”

“No harm, Fisher,” the Sheriff smirked as he let the kid gather his breath.  “Well, since you two are here, let me show you something.”  With a jerk of his head, he gestured for them to follow him.  Soon they were under the massive wooden pylons of the pier and the footsteps on the boardwalk above made a hollow echo where the citizens of Salem were still trying figure out happened and share their conspiracy theories while getting footage for their social media accounts.  He pointed to the massive pillars that supported the great pier and there, occulted by shadow and at a height most people could not crane their heads casually to notice, were four runes carved across four of the pillars.

It appeared to be the same rune on all of them, facing inward and meeting in the center of the four supports, like an ‘X’, but there was nothing in the center or lying in the sand anywhere near the whereabouts that the teens could see that gave away the purpose of the strange carvings.

Spoiler

large.Ormid.jpg

 

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Fisher frowned as he examined the rune. Grim of course, was the unquestionable authority on those in this Band, but Fisher's studious nature made him a close second to the younger Scion on matters of the mystic and occult. "I'm not sure if Grim would be intrigued, or offended. This is... I dunno, Splenda Norse? Vegan Substitute Norse?" The power was real though, as the death energy, though fading, still touched Fisher's skin like the cold of that Jigoku experience.

Fisher pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the rune for later, so Grim could offer more analysis and commentary about it. "But it definitely channeled a death-linked ritual. Beyond that, I don't know." An idea occurred to him, blooming like a rose. "But I can find out."

Fisher cleared his throat and cast his mind back through anime, looking for all those moments of politesse and times when characters had to employ decorum. "Kami of the boardwalk." He bowed, facing one of the pillars. "Sorry to disturb you, but we would be grateful for your help. The wicked are perverting the natural order in this town." He bowed again, for safe measure.

Spoiler

Intelligence + Occult
Gabe Roll: [8, 7, 7, 4, 2, 2, 2] Result: 3 + Epic Int 2 = 5 succ.

Activating The Wakeful Spirit Boon as well, Cha + Presence for that.
Gabe Roll: [9, 7, 2, 2, 1] Result: 2 + Epic Cha 1 = 3 succ.

 

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The wood warped and twisted where Fisher addressed it.  The grain on the old wood took shape, like oil on water, until it resembled a two dimensional long faced, old and grizzled man who looked like a salty sea dog, complete with corncob pipe.  Salem's Pier was older than America itself, and the powerful kami opened its 'eyes' for the first time since 1768.  "Gah!" it screamed, it's eyes widening like a Disney cartoon character.

"Well, I'll be!  Look at my supports!  Oh, what did that snarling brute do to my body!"  The kami spat, which was comical because he was essentially an animated face on wood, so nothing actually happened.

"This never was the most reliable way to get info," Sheriff Farrow rolled his eyes.  "Once, we summoned a kami for info, thing was dumb as a post," he caught himself offered an apologetic half smile.  "No offense."

"None taken!"  The kami replied, in a mariners thick accent.  "You.  Boy!  You woke me?  Who are you?  What do you want of me?"

Spoiler

You can get three minor questions (less detail, but more opportunity to inquire) or one exact question (more info, but phrasing is important).  These are not genie wishes, phrasing them a particular way to absorb all possible information form a single question will only result in irritating the gods (me) and the kami (also me).  Be sensible and respectful, this thing is doing you a favor.

 

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"I am Fisher Capra, child of Izanami-sama." Fisher decided for this first time, it couldn't hurt to keep the formality. "I humbly ask of you three things. Can you describe the person who carved the runes? What time were they carved? And did you see or feel anything happen after the runes were carved?" Hopefully this one would be more helpful than the one in Sheriff Farrow's example. And if not, the opportunity had to be better than nothing, right?

Edited by Fisher Capra

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"Large woman!  Huge!  Big as you on his shoulders," he slanted a glare at Austin.  "Was here with two others, grunting and chortling in some savage gibberish.  I could feel her knife, didn't think much of it and didn't bother to care; I've the love and memories of so many carved on my body  W.A. + V.T., M.A. + C.D., ahh, the list goes on.  But this!  This is not what my pillars are for!  Bah, they were here not long before the witching hour."  The old spirit sighed, and looked up to Fisher.  "I felt nothing.  I am the pier, this ancient place where people have gathered for nigh three centuries.  If those carvings did anything, it was to the living world, not the spirit one."

After the kami answered, Fisher bowed one last time. "We are most grateful for your time, kami of the boardwalk. May your resumed slumber be comfortable."

"And may you find what you seek, young one, all my best to She Who Invites."  He closed his eyes and the two-dimensional image 'nodded' politely as the grain on the wood seemed to disperse back into it's original pattern, leaving nothing but simple, bare wood.

"Well, I'll be damned kid," Sheriff Farrow nodded, tightening his lips into a frown.  "I don't impress easy, but that was damn fine detective work.  Sounds like a seiðkonur, an old giant with pretty potent seiðr."  When Austin and Fisher looked at Sheriff Farrow and shrugged he smiled, remembering when all this was new to him too.  "A sorceress.  Ran into a few in my day.  Smarter than your average giant, so if be on your guard if you cross birthrights with her."

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Harmony Grove Cemetery, about an hour later...

Grimm and Fisher had been texting constantly back and forth about the runes Fisher had sent him.  With Grimm's knowledge of magic, they both collective intellects and several websites later, the two converged upon Harmony Grove Cemetery with their respective groups in tow as Nadya and Rachel arrived as well.  It seemed like a perfectly executed plan, all of them arriving from three different points only to end up at the same place within only moments of each other, they were starting to wonder if it was all a part of this Fate plan all the others kept going on about.

There was a quick rundown on everything everyone had discovered, brining everyone up to speed.  The runes were a conglomeration of several runes put together that, near as Fisher and Grimm could discern meant 'the way of death' or 'death's path'.  It was hard to be certain.  What they were certain of, however, was that whomever cast the ritual had to remain in the center of the four like symbols.  While they didn't find such symbols at the garden, they now knew to keep their eyes peeled here in the cemetery.

From the gates they followed the sounds of music, soft, lovely melodies that traveled on the cool air until they finally saw Dane, sitting with his back against a large tombstone, singing quietly and plucking the strings on his guitar.  At their approach he smiled and offered a wave as he stood up.  "Hey.  So, uh, everything go alright?"

"It could be better," Rachel offered.  "Thought you were running from your ex?  Hiding here, singing for the dead?  Why?  Their song is over."

"Their melody lingers on," was the blonde's reply.  "They like music too.  Being dead doesn't mean the party is over, man."

"C'est certain." Dale said with a slight smirk.

"Besides, Darcy is here with me," he smiled.  "She's doing ricola or something."

"Recon," Grimm corrected him with as much feeling as he could muster towards the handsome, athletic blonde who was his polar opposite in every way.

"No, dude,"  Dane nodded and smiled as if he were in an audition for a modern day Bill & Ted movie.  "She's out looking ahead to make sure we don't get surprised by anyone or see if she notices anything out of the ordinary."  Grimm's glare was nothing short of the All Father's own to still the mead halls in Asgard so that might address the other gods, but Dane, as always, was too baked to notice.  "S'okay, cousin, we'll get you spun up on all the jargon.  Took me a bit to learn it all too."  Laurel and Nadya bit their lips together, trying not to snicker at Dane's absurdity.  The poor guy was so blissfully ignorant.

All the heads turned as Darcy stepped from the foliage of an obscured side path several yards away, her map looking a little worse for wear.  It was hard not to compare her to an overeager Dora the Explorer, what with the map and backpack and sudden kindling of wanting to help the super powered teenagers of Salem on their quest to save the World from... believe it or not... Titans.  It was so cool!  "Hey guys!" she greeted them as she approached.  "Okay, so... place is huge, but no one seems to be here except a few people doing charcoal rubbings, but I only went a little ways in.  This place is so old and big... we could be looking all night."

"I'll help."  Dane offered.

Spoiler

Dane has joined the party!

His health drops from 9,999,999HLs to 7HLs.  Also none of the world shattering special moves he knew as an NPC seem to work now.  He forgot them.  He does have a guitar, though... so there's that.

Plan, decide, then we'll move on.

 

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"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?"

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After a moment, everyone shook their heads in response to Grim's question. "Okay!" Darcy proclaimed exuberantly, before looking over the map. "So we need to-"

"Excuse me." At this point, Fisher's mind had observed the metaphorical form titled 'Proposal: Darcy Running Around the Cemetery,' and stamped a big red DENIED on top of it. "Thank you for helping out-"

"Oh no, mister." Darcy scowled and held up a hand. "I am part of this 'we.' You are not going to keep me out of this 'for my own good.'"

Fisher stepped forward and frowned at her. "Look, if it were just zombies, that would be dangerous enough, but there's a sorceress giant involved. It's just not safe. I'd never forgive myself if I let something happen to you."

"Dude, don't worry." Dane voiced, the sunny Aesir stepping in to back up his fellow peppy personages. "I'll stick close to Darcy and make sure nothing happens to your girlfriend." Fisher's mouth twisted and parted, but... ...For the love of the kami. If this was Grim in Fisher's place, he'd obviously have no issue informing the stoner of his low opinion of Dane's ability to provide protection. Unfortunately, Fisher was a nice guy, which meant he had to come up with the herculean task of finding a tactful way to respond.

"Then someone else would have to cover for you." Grim blessedly delivered his blunt opinion. "Right now, Darcy, you're going to be dead weight."

"She should get the chance to prove herself." Laurie stated. "No one ever became great simply by watching from the sidelines."

At this moment, the daughter of the music god could have passed for Dionysus' daughter, standing upon her mark while Fisher delivered a betrayed, 'Et tu, Laurie?' expression. Grim regarded this argument in stony silence before reluctantly nodding. "A fair point." He acknowledged, but with semi-bad grace. Personal heroism mattered greatly to the Aesir, after all.

"Seriously?!" Fisher weakly replied, caught up in shock. Even Rachel was nodding. Traitors! Traitors, all! Finally, he latched onto one hope. Maybe after seeing this, she'd realize it was too dangerous. "Ugh. Fine, but you are staying in the back. All the way back."

Edited by Fisher Capra

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Austin was apprehensive about Darcy being there with them, especially since they really didn't know how bad this was going to get.   Still the others had spoken, and like Fisher, he went along.  

In response to Grim's question regarding Laurel's suggested  course of action, he replied.  "I think that's the right call too.   Despite the truth that we could certainly cover more ground splitting up, I think we all know that's a bad idea if we spread out all across the cemetery.  We've already seen how destructive these witches can be, so let's all stay on guard, and play this abit safer than we normally do things."

The young scion of Poseidon was abit more cautious than normal.   Seeing all the death beneath the pier had him worried, he knew they'd caused all that death for a reason, perhaps harvesting  life force or something, and he was not looking forward to finding out what exactly they could do with it.   He looked at Grim and Fisher.  "I'm not well-versed in runes or magic, but do you think they could have done that beneath the pier to harvest  all that lifeforce for something bigger?  I mean I was just thinking that's a lot of power,  even if it was only animals that were affected, it killed alot of fish and birds."

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"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.

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She supposed it couldn't be helped, having agreed to assist Grim with this investigation, that she'd have to tolerate the presence of people she'd generally prefer to avoid. ...And, perhaps that was somewhat unfair a judgement. Disliking someone personally did not necessarily mean they had nothing to teach, even if only in serving as examples of what not to do in a given situation. It might also, the young violinist reflected, make for a good opportunity to observe them further. If nothing else, the experience could prove useful when she would inevitably be forced to interact with tedious, ignorant, or otherwise frustrating people later in life. It was worth considering, at least.

Yes, she decided with a quick smile at Dane that was reciprocated sincerely, if somewhat dazedly. That would absolutely be useful, and regardless of the outcome, some good could be gained from the experience. Perhaps they might even benefit from her presence, as well! Thus cheered, Laurel hummed softly to herself as she adjusted the carrying strap of her violin case, shifting it to rest across her torso rather than sit on a single shoulder.

"I'm so glad you've decided to come along," she chimed up, turning that same sunny expression on Darcy as she matched the pace of their enthusiastic navigator. "Seeing you this afternoon at the café, you seemed so exhausted I was a little worried. It's good to see you're feeling better, now."

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"I was," Darcy sighed quietly.  "Still am if I'm being honest.  Lynnette came in to close tonight, and she said I could go ahead and go home.”  Lynette was the co-owner of The Drip and was a mother of two young boys herself, so she knew what it was like to have her hands full.  She always seemed to accommodate the high schoolers who worked for her, having them assist her at the coffee shop while she was handling her after-school mom duties and later coming in to close so her staff could get their homework done.  “Since they can only work me so much each week, they like to save me for Friday nights." It didn't take a natural empath to notice that she was hiding something, or at the very least not telling the whole truth with that statement, and with practiced grace she changed the subject.  "Besides, I'd much rather be out here with you guys.  It's way more interesting than homework anyway.  I'm just glad I can be of help."

Laurie didn't see the need to press the issue, after all there was a time and a place for everything, and this time was reserved for other ventures.  For the better part of ten minutes, the group of teenagers wove their way through ancient headstones, some barely legible in the eldest portion of the cemetery.  

Grim began checking boxes in his mind as they passed by modernized mausoleums and headstones into the more ancient part of the burial grounds, the place that seeped with character, stories, history… legends.  ‘This was Bob.  He was a good guy and loving father’ and other such bland and unoriginal epitaphs gave way to the rough, weathered stones of those who’d passed so long ago one couldn’t even read who they were anymore.  The air was already chilly from the autumn air, but a thick blanket of mist settled at their feet and crawled slowly along the ground, consuming plot and withered flower as it passed.  Birds no longer chirped their songs of congregation in preparation for departing to warmer climes.

“Are, uh… those ladies buried here?”  Dane asked as the cemetery grew more and more creepy.

“No,” Darcy shook her head, completely undaunted by the spook-factor the landscape was settling into.  “They’re buried about five miles down the road.”

Dane looked around like a Shaggy in need of a Great Dane.  “Then uh… who’s doin’ all this?”

They followed a path just for just five or so more steps, rounding the corner of a large family mausoleum when they caught three figures, broad shouldered and tall, two male one female.  The two men wore oversized hoodies, cargo pants and combat boots while the woman was in combat boots, 5.11 cargos and a thick leather vest with a fur collar and trim.

Grim raised an eye brown and perused his surroundings.  He cursed silently as his perceptions noticed too late that the party had wandered into the area of a warding spell, the origin and purpose of which he couldn’t quite decipher.  “Them,” he said softly.  “Would be my guess.”

The female was in the middle of some ritual, judging by the carvings in the tombstones and the items strewn about where she was kneeling.  She stood and her guise melted away, the mists cleared to reveal what she really was to those capable of seeing such things.  All three were tall, the men were nine feet, easily and their hoodies stressed under the bulk of their powerful frames, they could see the links of chain slipping from their sleeves and waists, their hoodies concealing armor underneath.  The woman was smaller, only about eight feet or so, but her corded muscles were no less impressive.  Her skin was blue, with tattoos that seemed to glow an icy hue in knotwork, runic patterns along her arms and face.  Her hair was bound in a tight ponytail that was braided and she seemed attractive, in a Sarah Connor Chronicles sort of way and by giant standards seemed… young?

The frost giant turned to face the children, her common, pale skinned cousins grumbled and grunted in their guttural language but made move against the teens.  As the mists finished clearing the duffel bag slung over her shoulder whisked away to reveal a large bow and quiver, and the massive double-bladed axe in her hand she turned upside down and dug it into the earth and rest both her hands on the pommel in a dramatic display.  “As predicted,” she said, her voice was frigid and devoid of emotion or unnecessary expression.  Her shimmering, frozen eyes told nothing of what intentions rested behind them.  “The witch hunters come.  I am Runa.”  A low guttural growl rose from the tree line as a massive nemean wolf, white as snow made itself known.  “Rimuldr and I bid you welcome.  We are destined to battle offspring of the Betrayers, but not here.  Not today.”

Darcy had displayed gumption until the wolf, Rimuldr, made its appearance.  She took a few visible steps back, hiding behind Dane who looked at her than the giants like he wasn't exactly sure what he was supposed to do against these odds.

Runa chuckled, "You brought your mortal pet?" A grin spread across her matte blue lips.  "Adorable."

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"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?"

Spoiler

nīðingr - A low person;  The sort of person who would murder (as opposed to kill) an enemy by stealth, especially by poison or other 'weak' methods, or would also perjure their word.  Basically someone who's word means nothing, and who is a coward and a false friend.

Dave:  Grim is laying on a touch of flattery and fishing for information.  He's also assessing the ritual markings and trying to determine what the Hel Runa was doing here.  Lemme know if you need any rolls made.

 

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"They asked nicely," the giantess replied coldly.  She looked at the small, frail Scion and his band.  Her gaze seemed to falter as it passed by Dane.  Grim took note, as she spoke of prophetic things it was largely possible that it was either her, or Dane that would fall at the others hands.

"While my comrades desired to simply battle you and be done with it, I've spent too much time in this world to concern myself with petty old wounds and old wars, Betrayer."  Rimuldr padded up to the back row, slithering through her two giant companions with a predatory glare locked on the young group.  "I believe in civility, so I offer you a warning: you are out of your depth, children.  You are not warriors, you are hobbling school kids, stumbling in the dark.  We are all pawns of a greater game and the only way to win, is not to play."

The giants behind her began chuckling, but she silenced them.  "Go home.  While I've no qualms with killing foolish Scions who overstep thier boundaries, there's no glory in it."

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"That's very gracious of you." Fisher replied, no trace of sarcasm, outwardly, at any rate. It had already taken him a bit of focused self-control to not snap at Runa's mocking comment towards Darcy. He took a few steps forward, coming up behind Grim and to the right. "But what is happening won't be a game, to the people who will suffer because of it, to our home. If the Aesir chose to act this way in Joutenheim, would you stand for it either, foolish as it might be?"

Fisher offered them a humorless smile. "And despite your warning, you have chosen to involve yourself in the game." Though she said there was no glory in killing them, that itself still implied the seiðkonur valued it, which raised in turn other questions. "Why have you taken the risks? What glory do you expect to gain from participating in the Salem witches' plots? Please, enlighten we children with your experience and wisdom."

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"We gain nothing," Runa said calmly.  "Nothing more than simple payment for a job well done.  My jotun brethren and I are... what is the American word?  Mercenaries?  Your quarry approached and offered payment to accomplish what would take them too long, so here we are."  She waved one arm outward, to encompass the cemetery.

"You prey on my sympathies, Betrayer?"  She chuckled but it was dry and emotionless.  Her breath was visible in slight puffs as she exhaled, but it wasn't really cold enough for that yet this season.  "My heart is ice.  I care nothing for you, this World, or it's mewling and pathetically weak inhabitants with their 'iced hot chocolates."  Her face scrunched up in disgust and her own words  seemed to have struck a nerve.  "Are they so stupid as to not realize that once it's 'iced' it's no longer 'hot'.  Make up your minds!  It's either iced chocolate, or it's hot chocolate!  It can not be both!"  The two giants behind her tapped their fists to their chests gently and rhythmically and nodded like she was testifying in a sermon.  Rimuldr snorted and licked his chops like he didn't like what he was hearing either.  She inhaled and calmed herself.  "But that is neither here, nor there."

"Okay... that wasn't weird at all," Darcy said under her breath.  Rimuldr growled at her his teeth bared as the mortal dared to speak out of turn.

"Shh, shh, my friend." Runa smirked and gently patted her thigh.  The great wolf approached and forced its head beneath her hand, demanding attention.  "Silence your pet.  It is in the presence of its betters, I would encourage you to be more heavy handed with her."

"I-I'm not afraid of you, lady!" Darcy snapped.  The hesitation in her voice told them all she was horrible at lying.

"Oh, but you are," Runa glared at the mortal teenager, her ice blue orbs seemed to stare right through Darcy, chilling her blood.  "But you've nothing to fear from me ignorant girl.  You will do far more harm to yourself than I ever could."  Dane stood in front of Darcy, shielding her like he vowed so that Fisher and Grim could continue doing what they were doing.  The action seemed to snap Runa back into the moment, and again, she looked away.  "Killing you wasn't part of our job, so I offer you peace, albeit for now.  You will go your way, we will go ours."  She spoke in definite terms, like she knew the outcome already.

Her eyes narrowed on the band and she inhaled and exhaled more wisps of chill air.  "Your witches are planning a ritual, a powerful one.  I have completed most of the legwork for them, summing the legend they'll need to accomplish something great and terrible, the rupturing of a seal, I believe.  Tomorrow night.  I do not know where, nor how they intend to do it, nor why.  I didn't ask.  All I know is they would not shut up about costumes.  Ugh," she rolled her eyes in annoyance.  "It was like listening to chicks just peep, peep, peep.  Their voices were so irritating."

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Laurie rested a gloved hand on Darcy's shoulder reassuringly, her clear blue gaze the contrast of tropical skies to Runa's arctic stare. She'd never seen anything like this living frost-maiden, terrible and beautiful, but there didn't seem to be any need or desire for deception in the massive woman's glacial eyes or demeanor; she meant what she said. As far as she was concerned, and as far as the young violinist could tell, the giantess had simply done a job, and that was that. The significance of the arcane symbols and terminology was lost on the summery scion, as was the source of the curious undercurrent of tension between Dane, Grim, and their brawny opposition. She made a mental note to inquire about it once they were on their way.

Still, the bit about witches and costumes, commentary regarding irritating voices notwithstanding, was useful information.

"Well, then," she chimed in pleasantly. "That gives us the 'when' and the 'where,' at least." And possibly the 'who,' as well, she considered, reflecting on what the Disastrous Duo of Nadya and Rachel had shared about their own findings. "I hadn't planned on going, myself, but I suppose I could throw something together."

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Posted (edited)

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.

Edited by Grim
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"Because he always looked out for himself first Dane, and when he realized what was about to happen he hid as opposed to standing there.   That or maybe he had it in his contract he could only get "Slimed" once in a movie."   Austin answered and shrugged.   "I'd say even odds of both."

Austin had let Grimm do the talking, indeed, most of them had, and things had worked out well enough.  They knew What was going on, where, and when, and he'd outlined a good start to a plan.   "So who's going as what to the party?"

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There was no scorn or derision in the azure eyes that regarded the son of Poseidon; only pity accompanied the slightly sympathetic smile Laurel directed at him as she adjusted the strap of her violin case for comfort. "I'm sure you're helping in the best way you know how. All things considered, though, perhaps more pressing concerns than decades-old film analysis or costume choices should take priority. I'm certain that wasn't the entirety of your conclusions and impressions, was it?" She watched Austin for a moment, her expression one of polite expectation, before nodding in the direction Grim had gone. "Come. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter while we walk."  Pairing action with speech, the svelte young muse graced Darcy with a smile and began heading back toward the more well-maintained pathways. "How do you propose we get your cousin to loan us her amulet, for example?"

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Austin walked along with her, "We find something she wants, and offer a trade.  Now what that is I don't know, and if the reality is anything like mythology, I'm probably the worst of us to actually propose anything to her, given who our fathers are.   We'd need to know more about her to hazard a guess as to what could make  acceptable collateral for such a loan."   He looked back at Dane who knew her.   "If you can think of anything on that front, it'd probably be more helpful than the rest of us guessing."     

He turned his attention back to Laurie.   "As for the rest, Grim did a great job keeping us out of a fight I'm not at all sure we could win.   He got them to talk, got us information we didn't have, and I think we've all got a pretty good hunch on who the possessed are, at least one of them.  Now it occurs to me that that could have been part of the plan, to get us there, because it could also just be a trap, despite her essentially saying she was just a mercenary in this, and that it was no skin off her nose what actually happened.    That at least hints at a certain level of loyalty, perhaps to a contract of some sort."

"There's alot about all of this, they mythical side of everything going on that I'm ignorant of.  That's something I'd actually like to remedy sooner rather than later."  his voice was quiet as he acknowledged an area of weakness.   He'd already resolved to see if Archie could make some time to help him, to teach him more about things.   

 

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Fisher breathed out, some of the tension going away as the group left. It could have gone much worse, particularly with Darcy drawing attention as she did. He was forced to utter another, smaller sigh at Dane's... Dane-ness, and Grim's understandable reaction. Austin going alone with it did not help. For now he just settled for holding Darcy's hand as they walked away. "See," he told her, "this is what I was talking about."

"In their eyes - and I suspect, most of the beings we're gonna be dealing with - you're just a 'mortal.' As Popo put it: you're below the dirt, let alone the worms in the dirt. If it wouldn't have started a fight, she'd probably have..." Fisher shied away from directly spelling it out. "Well, 'pecking order, bitch' and you don't have Krillin's ability to take a hit. And this was a peaceful conversation."

A fight from the beginning, with Dane as a protector, Fisher knew how easily that would end tragically. "So do you get why I don't want you going in with us in these situations?"

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"No, Fisher, I don't," Darcy replied flatly.  She stopped and rolled her eyes, sighing loudly and raising her voice so everyone could hear her.  "Look, I get that you want to protect me, all of you, and I appreciate it.  Your concern is noted.  Also, it's summarily discarded.  I understand that all of you have been, and I hate to quote a god, 'burdened with glorious purpose'.  The amount of anxiety and stress and drama you've had to go through I am truly sorry for."

She paced about for a moment, obviously pissed but trying not to laser line that ire to one specific person, in this case, Fisher hadn't done or said anything wrong, his intentions were noble and pure, but as always, his deliver needed work.  This time, he was merely the catalyst, not the problem.  "Yet here you are!  The graceful and the elegant," she motioned to Laurel and then to Nadya and Dane.  "Hanging out with the criminal and the 'stoner dude'.  The anti-social," she gestured to Grim then Fisher and Austin.  "Ready to fight and die along side the anime dork and the local prep-jock who has a perfect foster life!  Why?  Because that's what you have to do get the job done.  A unified front.  If the World ended tomorrow you guys have a fifty-fifty chance of being swept away to whatever god-worlds your parents live in, right?  Not me.  That's it for me.  I'm dust, a cloud in the wind, one more soul for Asphodel, or Duat, or... wherever in the Nine-Hells I'm going!"

She glared at them all, seething at her friends as she let the stress of a mortal who was recently confronted by existence of the Divine vent.  "I would rather Felicity Smoak in a chair and feed all of you guys the intel you don't have the time to research on your own or get my Speedy on and be out here in the shit getting dirty with the rest of you than sit on my ass and do nothing.  So, here is where I will be.  This is my World.  This is my home."  Now she turned to Fisher and too a few steps towards him.  "Let a son of an Amatsukami tell me I haven't a duty, on my honor to protect it.  Or," she turned to Grim and Dane, although Dane had agreed to let her come, he did so on the condition of being her knight.  She was thankful for it, but still, she didn't want to admit that she needed them for any of that.  It wasn't until Runa singled her out that she felt her resolve harden into contempt, what was the giantess trying to say to her?  "Would the mighty Aesir like to  tell me that when outsiders appear on my land and wish to do me and my people harm that I've not the right to pick up a weapon and spit in their face as I scream 'not today'."

She didn't touch on the others, as she didn't know much about the Greeks, Loa or Egyptian gods.  Facing Fisher again, her cheeks rosy and flushed with rage mingled with the autumn chill.  Leaning in she kissed him gently.  "I don't want a security blanket, Fisher, I want my boyfriend."

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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.

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"Yeah." Fisher said, trying to bring up the Fisherhigherlogic.exe in the welter of emotion and hormones. Darcy's words were... well, they resounded surprisingly well with Fisher despite his wish otherwise. Because, let's be honest, Fisher wouldn't have liked her like that if Darcy wasn't that energetic, go-getting, determined girl. The Amatsukami Scion had subordinated that to a desire to keep her safe and protected. Knowing how willing she was to step up and take the risk alongside him was both alarming and comforting too, he realized.

Something Fisher wasn't going to work through in an evening.

Grim moving the topic over to Adrianna reminded him. "About that. So I went and told Mr. Syracuse... He said it was all right, he'd told Zeus about the Nekiya a while ago. He also advised us to continue pretending she's got leverage over us, and use that to help figure out what Adrianna's plans and if we can trust her. Something to keep in mind while we're planning this."

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1 hour ago, Fisher Capra said:

Grim moving the topic over to Adrianna reminded him. "About that. So I went and told Mr. Syracuse... He said it was all right, he'd told Zeus about the Nekiya a while ago. He also advised us to continue pretending she's got leverage over us, and use that to help figure out what Adrianna's plans and if we can trust her. Something to keep in mind while we're planning this."

"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."

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Grim turned back towards Dane and titled his head away from everyone, signaling for tall, broad-shouldered young Scion of Baldur to step away with him.  Everyone could still see them, but only those with the most heightened of hearing, like Rachel could listen in, and she did, a bit concerned for them both knowing what she knew of her cousins.  They were walking without going anywhere, just taking slow steps in the autumn leaves as lives that ended long ago made up their audience.

"We need to talk," Grim stated calmly, the hood he wore seemed to carefully conceal his features as he spoke to the young man at his side.  "We need to know, Dane.  We need to know everything."

Okay, yeah," Dane nodded and sighed.  "I'll try.  See, our whole universe was in a hot, dense state.  Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started.  The earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to drool, neanderthals developed tools-"

Grim sighed, and his frail frame betrayed how fast he could actually move.  In a single shove Grimsley had Dane pressed to a tree, his staff cross wise against his chest, holding him there.  Surprise owned the son of Baldur's expression.  "I grow weary of these constant games, cousin!  I do not want jokes, I want answers.  Unpickle you brain and find them or-"

With a shove Grimsley founds himself staggering back a few steps.  He noted the hidden power in Dane's retaliation, no one was that strong who hadn't seen a battle or two.  "Get off me, little one."  His eyes were cleared, if only momentarily, and his 'surfer dude' accent was replaced by something more... Norse.  He sounded, for the first time any of them had heard, like a man.  He took two heavy steps forward and shoved Grimsley again, which only resulted in the smaller Scion shoving him back in return.  "I am warning you, Grimsley.  I do not want this fight.  I agreed to help, but this is your war, not mine!"

They were collecting an audience from the other assembled Scions.  They all watched, not sure what to do as Rachel stood there like a gargoyle on the path that led to them, arms crossed and unmoving.  Darcy mumbled something about it 'being enough' and made it two steps in their direction before Rachel, not taking her eyes off Grimsley and Dane, told her, "Stay put."

"We shouldn't be fighting!"  Darcy snapped at her.

Rachel didn't look at her, just kept observing her kinsmen.  "We'd make for poor warriors were that true.  Let my cousins settle their differences."

"-they don't care if it's your war or not," Grimsley snarled, his staff raised in defense as he continued to press Dane's buttons.  "I think what you mean to say, is you're nothing but a mewling coward.  Stay here then, fade away in obscurity.  We've no use for cowards."

The tall, smiling blonde was always so gentle and fun to be around, but all that bled away in these last few moments as they all saw his face contort into pure rage at the wiry young man's insults.  Grimsley could have done a lot of things, parried, dodged, engaged in full-scale battle, but he didn't.  He groaned in pain as his back slammed against the same tree he'd pressed his cousin against moments ago.  With a single motion and only one arm, he'd hoisted the skinny boy up and flung him about, slamming him into the trunk of wood and orange leaves.  "I warned you," Dane snarled, a guttural growl rising up in the back of his throat.

All the cloaked boy in his grasp did was laugh.  A low, soft chuckle before his eyes lowered and he met his cousin's eyes with his.  There was no fear coming from Grim, as always the entire scene was unfolding precisely as he had calculated it.  "There he is.  Finally, we meet the warrior.  Where have you been hiding, hmm?  Do tell."

Dane allowed Grim to slide down the tree, loosening his grip and freeing him before turning and walking away from the subject of his ire.  With his head down he paced for a moment, the strands of his usually kempt blonde locks had sprung loose in the tussle and his long hair was curtain over act two to his expression.  He looked at his hands in disbelief that he'd raised them against his own cousin, and softly shook his head.  "It's true," his deep, stern voice admitted.  "I am a coward.  There were ten of us, two bands."

Rachel took a step forward and as she did the other felt it safe now to do the same.  On boundary of the small arena for the two she stopped, positioning herself to hear the young man speak.  The others did the same, but none of them stepped past Rachel.  "I am Úlfhéðnar.  Visited young, I lost my parents had to learn to fight the titans early.  There were others like me, we band together for strength in numbers, then... then we found Adrianna.  She was a few years older, but her father forbade her form helping us directly, indirectly was another matter so she'd often drop hints for refuge or food or 'accidently' drop an envelope of cash for us.  All of us became fast friends, but one day we were discovered by giants and harpies... the titanspawn had come for us in this small warehouse were squatting in.  Adrianna was with us that day and she tried to lead us all out so we could escape.  Later, I learned that she was punished by her father for disobeying him by directly assisting in saving our lives."

His eyes glossed over and his voiced trailed off at the memory.  "My cursed blood wouldn't allow me to flee.  I rushed in hungry for death, theirs of my own, for Valhalla was mine either way.  In the battle, five us were trapped in the office.  They'd hidden there and were trying to escape but debris and old shelving units, they weren't warriors like the rest of us, they didn't realize we were in over our heads.  They were easy pickings and the titanspawn left us alone to go after them, Ty and Kiki, they dragged me out of there kicking and screaming, frothing at the mouth and demanding blood..." he shrugged and managed a smirk.  "I think I said some foul things about their lineage too.  I was pretty creative back in the day with my insults."

"After we escaped," He inhaled and sighed.  "We had a big fight.  We'd left five of us behind, I blamed myself, they said it couldn't be helped... it was bad.  We parted ways, not on the best of terms," he shrugged.  "Things were said, you know how it goes.  Not long after, Ida, my 'aunt' found me hungry and half dead in Miami, she gave me a home and she's helped me control my rage with," he fished in his pocket and produced his metal case that held his herbal remedies.  "Prescription medication.  I can't fight when I'm high on this, and I can't let what's inside out."

He stepped to Grimsley who stood tall with no worry visible in his expression.  Dane places a hand on his shoulder.  "I'm sorry, cousin, I've no desire to be that warrior ever again.  I will go with you to see Adrianna, I owe you that much."

Arms still crossed, Rachel looked at Darcy, the hint of a matronly smile faintly appearing on her lips.  "See?  Right as rain."  Darcy said nothing as a relieved smile spread across her features, relieved that they didn't hurt one another.

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