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"Taken to Market" S1:E4

Dave ST

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Taken to Market


Amelia and Ravi awoke to the morning staff tending to their rooms and bringing them fresh towels with which to shower and prepare for the day.  Sable had taken the liberty of supply them with a fresh change of clothes.  While Ravi didn’t mind Sable’s rather keen fashion sense, Amelia could help but feel picked on, as her clothing seemed to forcibly make her look like a responsible, adult member of society from the business casual end of the spectrum instead of ‘I wore this yesterday because my computer doesn’t judge the wrinkles in my tee shirt’ look that Sable seemed convinced Amelia rocked on the daily.  True of not, it was, at the very least, not and outfit covered in blood from the night before.

Ravi’s injury seemed to be in the final stages of healing.  Pink with minor scabbing and dreadfully sensitive to the touch.  He’d healed eight weeks’ worth of physical trauma in a little less than seven hours.  He still wasn’t sure what sport D’Sombra or her loyal retainer were playing, but one thing was certain… one couldn’t deny healing a wound that should have been fatal in only a few hours as anything less than worthy of more investigation.

The two greeted each other in a large dining room where Sable waited for them, and they enjoyed breakfast of fresh fruit and eggs.  As they sat and ate, and to Amelia it tasted expensive.  How could eggs taste expensive?  To Ravi it reminded him of the home he’d left behind.

Sable seemed dressed for the work day, in a suit that was probably worth more than both of their income from the previous year and there was a small measure of relief in Ravi’s mind that she toned on the tight faux leather and under-arm gun holsters when conducting her everyday business (or did she?).  Still, it was all black to the point that she seemed to absorb light around her and appeared to blend in almost to the point of invisible on the black marble halls and décor of Ms. D’Sombra’s home.

“I know we left much up in the air last evening,” the dark-haired woman spoke in that rich, non-specific accent of hers.  “However, something has come up and I think it is a perfect opportunity for you two to meet the others who are assumed to be, well, like you.”  She patted her lips, taking care to not smudge or ruin her makeup.  “Amelia,” one of the huge, dark skinned bodyguards approached from behind Amelia, his shadow blotting out her eating experience.  He placed an envelope next to her and stepped away, no longer eclipsing her breakfast.  “Key, lease agreement, fob for the front door.  Everything for your new apartment is there.”

“On to the matters at hand,” she looked to the both of them.  “Frankly, I’ve a company run in my Marquess’s absence, so I’ll be well and swamped until the late evening.  However, an associate of mine seems to be having difficulty with a young woman named Maya Flynn.”  She looks to Ravi and raises her eyebrow, smirking.  “I believe you’ve met her.  The poor dear has gone and managed to get herself cursed by, um,” she seemed almost unable to say it out loud.  After a few nods and she managed a mumble.  “Goblins.”  She cleared her throat as if to move on past that.

“They have a lead as to how they might handle it, and frankly, this is exactly the sort of strangeness that is a part of your lives now, so I figured you’d do well to jump in with both feet and provide them an assist.”  They could both notice the way her cheeks flushed slightly at the talk of ‘goblins’ as if dealing with such an obviously inane concept was embarrassing in and of itself.  Despite all she’d seen in her long lifetime, her logical mind still seemed to refuse to accept, or perhaps hated being forced to accept, that certain things were, indeed, a thing.  "If you two would be so kind.  Miss Flynn is a bit edgy when it comes to crepes, but aside from that, I'm told she's a delightful soul, a curse just ill suits her."

“My associate’s name is Kestrel,” she nodded to another of the bodyguards who set another envelope, next to Ravi this time, on the table.  She is with Miss Flynn now, at her apartment.  The address, Kestrel's number, keys to one of the vehicles, and some cash for expenses is all there in that envelope.  She will be expecting you two, I can’t say the same for the others.  Do try and work together,” she smirked.  “I will be in meetings well until after three, then it’s my gym time then it’s paperwork and briefings until well after sundown, for obvious reasons.” They knew she meant the vampire she worked for.  She smiled at Ravi.  “I picked out something sporty in the garage.  I do hope you like it.”

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Ravi, in fact, did like the car.

To Amelia, it was black, and gleaming, and looked fast and sleek and above all expensive.  Ravi, dressed in a stylish black wool suit, dark green shirt open at the throat, and likewise looking sleek and expensive prowled around it, his gold-green eyes gleaming in the dim overhead lighting of the DaSombra vehicle garage, fingers caressing the bodywork in a way that made Amelia feel as though she should give him and the car some alone time.  Or maybe get a bucket of water.  Or, considering the gorgeous sharp dressed man's almost boyish smile, just standing there and trying not to drool on herself worked too.

"Oh, darling, look at you..."  Ravi purred, and it really was like velvet stroking your eardrums. Damn the man.  "I am going to have to be extra nice to Sable when I see her next."

"Okay, so it's a car.  Fancy." Amelia flapped a hand to him to get it over with.  She'd snorted at the mention of goblins, but other than that hadn't raised any protest at breakfast, so now the two of them had headed down to the garage.

"Shh!  She'll hear you." Ravi looks shocked and pretended as though covering one of the wing mirrors.  "This, dear Amelia, is a Jaguar F-Type R.  Five hundred and sixty horsepower, zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, top speed of a hundred and eighty.  And above all, it's a Jag."  He drawled the word as though it explained everything.  "Scoundrels and shady persons of class have driven Jaguars since time immemorial."  He stepped back to her side and regarded the car fondly, adding as an afterthought.  "My family had several." 

"Right."  Amelia just stared at the car, then at the package in her hand detailing her new place, then at Ravi.  "Should we-?"

"Of course." Ravi clicked the fob, there was a low chirp from the gleaming black machine, and he stepped forward, opening the passenger side door for her as though a chauffeur.  "I'll let you call this Kestrel person as we drive."  he said, motioning Amelia into the incredibly comfortable looking interior.

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"I'll let you bounce on the pavement after I hip-check you out the door," Amelia replied amiably as she ducked into the passenger side seat. It was a nice car. She had to admit that, even if only to herself. "You're injured, man. The shark smells blood."

Ravi glanced at her, grinning and ready to rejoin, but Amelia had already dug her phone out. Ravi was driving so obviously he wasn't going to call Kestrel, she'd just been giving him shit.

Even so she couldn't help but laugh as the morning's conversation played back in her head. "Cursed by goblins. Goblins. That is...somehow the weirdest thing in two days of solid weird things."

"You're right. They're as real as cyborgs or immortal women or men who don't die of bullets." Ravi replied with a cheery shrug.  "There's probably an explanation for all of it, but until we find it, quibbling over what's possible isn't helping us." He hit the starter, smile spreading as the engine growled into life.  "Ahhhh..."  he sighed.  "And we have expenses cash too, so if you're nice to me I'll take you for a bagel."  he grinned as they peeled out of the parking deck.

Amelia shook her head at that, "Okay but I have so many questions right now," she said. "Like, are these wimpy green world of warcraft goblins, or like...hot-ass David Bowie goblins? Exactly how much shit does this Maya girl deserve to eat over this? A spoonful of shit, or all of the shit? These are important, hard-hitting questions."

Then she added with a grin, "Also you can keep the fucking bagels. We just had breakfast, are you joking?"

Her fingers tapped out the numbers as if on autopilot, and she waited for the phone to pick up.

"Hey, is this Kestrel? This is Amelia. We're on our way over. ETA...uh...pretty soon. Ten or fifteen minutes maybe."

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"Yeah, sure, great," Kestrel smiled and nodded as she looked up to Mel, who'd brought breakfast over to Maya's about a half hour ago.  "We'll see you when you get here."

Kestrel stood and tapped the screen on her phone, ending the call.  She looked to Mel who was nursing some form of tar he called 'coffee'.  He'd brought her McDonalds, but his own Yeti was filled with hardcore Black Label with enough caffeine to kill a small anything.  He sipped from his cup and quietly paid attention to the young woman as she took the call.  They'd been discussing Deacon before her phone rang and he was just waiting to get back to that.

"Well?"  He asked.

She sighed, setting her phone down as she flaked off crumbs onto a napkin from the biscuit she was holding the entire time she was on the phone.  She was sitting on Maya's kitchen counter one foot tucked under her knee in the tank top she wore to sleep last night and a pair of gray cotton boy shorts.  It was obvious the woman was not the least bit shy.  While Mel remained a loyal, devoted man to his wife that had passed, he could certainly appreciate the eye-candy.  "Well, apparently that was Amelia.  She and 'they' will be over in fifteen minutes."

"So?"  Mel shrugged.

"I don't know any Amelia," Kestrel added.  "I reached out to a contact of mine and she said she was sending people, but she sends professionals, not... 'Amelias'.  Girl gets point for being bubbly, though."  She stood and crunched up all of her wrappers and stuffed them back into the Micky D's bag and discarded it.  "They could be legit," she added.  "I mean, The Society has been a bit topsy-turvy lately and good help might be hard to find, I don't know.  I just know that Sable, my contact, works for a vampire."

"A vampire?" Mel asked, at this point he was oblivious to the mind numbing absurdity of fifty percent of what Kestrel said.  "Sure, why not."

"...and you never trust a vampire."  She finished.

"Twenty questions, then?"  The redhaired man leaned to the window, and pulled the curtain aside like he'd suddenly found himself in a Jason Bourne flick.

"Twenty questions then." Kestrel smirked.  "I'm gonna go put pants on."  She slid off the counter.  "Keep an eye on him Sully, that last sausage biscuit is mine."  Maya's keeper, the large gray cat Sulieman looked from his comfortable position on the sofa to Kestrel, then to Mel, then just put his head down like he washing his hands of both of them.

Ten or fifteen maybe minutes later...

"It's open!" Kestrel called out after Ravi had rapped a few times on the door to Maya's apartment.  He and Amelia entered, taking a look around and momentarily impressed at how her own Maya had managed to make her small and incredibly over-priced apartment.  The scent of vanilla, musk, toasted coconut and orchids was the first thing to catch their senses and second was how no one was there to greet them.

"Out in a second," called Kestrel from , whose voice Amelia recognized.  "Putting on pants..." and just as she spoke there was the slight thud of someone doing the 'over-the-butt' jeans hop.  As their attention waxed to the voice and noise they didn't notice Mel round the divider between the entrance and the kitchen and train his gun on them.  His foot steps finally gave him away and earned their attention only to result in Kestrel, who'd been in pants for the better part of ten or fifteen maybe minutes, leaned out from the bedroom, her gun on them as well.

Amelia cursed silently and Ravi pursed his lips in frustration, but his sense of honor had to give them props for properly getting the drop on them.  Kestrel's posture was professional, if a bit unorthodox, but Mel trained his sidearm on them with poise and discipline that told them both he would have their obituary written and posted before they even realize they'd been shot.

"You must be Amelia," Kestrel said, giving her the once-over.  "No offense, but I don't know any Amelia.  You obviously know I made a phone call, but that doesn't mean she sent you."  Her level of paranoia was off the charts, but she also seemed like a woman who'd been in the world a tad bit longer than they had.  "I've seen her people, I know her people, and you ain't it."

"Mr. Grimson,"  Ravi nodded his head, recognizing the red haired man from the gala the other evening.  Their meeting was brief, but he recalled his name, well enough.  "Pleasure.  Can't say this isn't a bit awkward."

Mel shrugged but his gun didn't flinch.  "Not for me."

"You know this guy?"  Kestrel asked, nodding to Ravi while looking at Mel.

"Nope."  Mel said honestly.

"Okay, the lady that owns this place is not too bad, so I'd hate to paint the walls of this place with you two," they weren't sure she was being honest about that.  "We're all professionals here, so, let's do this civil-like-"

"You're pointing guns at us."  Amelia pointed out.

"Fine.  Ish.  Civil-ish." The brunette added.  "Who're you working for and how did you get this address?"


It may seem like a strange greeting, but Amelia and Ravi in a world now where the rich, powerful and supernatural are always listening or watching, or have the potential to be.  Kestrel is a fine example of some of the paranoia that can develop over time as calls get traced, tapped, or emails hacked.  Plus, Sable may have omitted that she wasn't sending her usual crew (she's human after all, sort of), and you two do not look like her 'usual crew'.


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"Uh..." Amelia's eyes went from the twiggy ginger dude with a gun to the recently be-pantzed girl with a gun, then back. Neither was much better than the other. She didn't really think she was working FOR anyone, but also recognized this wasn't the time or place to get into the nuance of the situation. That could wait for when bullets weren't in play. "Okay. DeSombra sent us. Sable said she'd talked to you, and she let us know where to go. I'm not exactly 'one of her people' though; I just met them last night."

Inspiration flickered and she added, "I have my phone right here if you wanna call in and verify." She did have the presence of mind not to actually make a move to get the phone out though.

Then Amelia glanced at Ravi. He was the professional here, right? The long-time righthand henchman? He'd know what to say to make the guns go away.

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"We're both new at this." Ravi admitted.  "I've been working for Sable maybe two, three weeks?"  He made no sudden moves, but nor did he raise his hands, instead eyeing both gunmen - uh, gunpersons - with a commendable sang froid that fairly oozed poise and aristocratic bearing.  Because he wasn't an idiot, and didn't want to be oozing blood instead, he fixed his yellow-green eyes on Kestrel's.  "DeSombra is a long-lived lady who doesn't look like it. Loves black.  Lots and lots of black. No mirrors in her personal quarters."  He tilted his head charmingly.  "Sable is her Girl Friday, right hand woman, what have you.  Also dressed in black, tight leather and underarm holsters if she's not in the office."

"Does that help at all?"

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"Does it?" Mel asked rhetorically, gun and eyes not moving in the slightest. The dark-skinned man did seem vaguely familiar. Intuition suggested to Mel that the man might have been at that gala. If so, and if he was telling the truth, that meant D'Sombra was in fact, a vampire. Given his eerie experience with the woman in question, and Brent's descriptions of her, Mel found such a prospect shockingly plausible for such. It would explain how she knew about the dreams in his head, if she could pluck it right out of his mind.

If their visitors were being truthful and on the level, of course. He didn't have the info to judge that. "Kestrel?"

The calm voice of the man behind them only confirmed to Ravi and Amelia that their lives were in Kestrel's hands at this point. If she was unconvinced, they'd both die of bullets in less time than it would take to say it.

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Mel looked to Kestrel who in turn nodded as they both lowered their weapons.  "She did the whole leather and guns bit with you huh?"  She looked at the two of them.  "They're good Mel."

Unconvinced, and still not a hundred percent on who all these names were that were being thrown around, Mel lowered his gun and slid it back into his concealable holster.  "They could have gotten that intel from anywhere."  He grumbled, feeling the whole thing was sloppy.

"No, because only people with D'Sombra's blessing would still be alive if they saw Sable doing the whole leather and guns routine.  The guns, mostly... D'Sombra and her cronies own more leather than a BDSM conference.  It's a vampire thing, I hear."  She tucked her weapon into her jeans at the small of her back.  "She's her secretary, Vice-Chairperson, assassin, lover, and all around yes-girl."

"You two aren't friends, I take it."  Amelia inquired.  "Sounds like a bit of contempt."

"We're not.  Excluding the lover bit and all around yes-girl, she is for D'Sombra what I am for Mourne, D'Sombra's direct rival and all around pain in her ass.  Name's Kestrel, this is Mel.  Sorry about the guns, but last thing you want is to be too trusting and before you know it a gibbering umbrood is playing hopscotch with your entrails.  I hear that sucks.  However, while we might not be scissor sisters, while our bosses are making of things, we're stuck cleaning them up, so we've agreed to at least be civil with each other."

"Civil-like or civil-ish?"  Chimed Amelia.

"Cute." Kestrel said flatly.  "So, she tell you guys what was going on?"

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"Yeah, but she didn't seem too concerned if we understood what's going on," Amelia said. She took a breath and closed her eyes, running her mind's eye back in time. Photographic memory was a myth, and if it wasn't she sure as hell didn't have it...but she could usually hit the high points on her mental tape drive.

"She said Ravi and me were 'chosen' for something, and that she was a 'watcher,'" she started. "But she doesn't know who chose us or what we were chosen to do, or why she was a watcher. She also said she needed Mourne's help, and didn't seem too happy about it."

Amelia opened her eyes. "D'Sombra's had Ravi following me for a while now, but yesterday it all went to shit when a couple of actual men in black showed up and started doing their best John Woo audition all over the club we were in. Sable pulled our asses out of the fire and took us straight to D'Sombra. Pretty much everything that's happened from that second up until now has been..." she held a hand up a few inches over her scalp, "right about here, in terms how far over my head it is. I've just about gotten on board with the vampire thing and the illuminati. Chosen...watcher...still have no idea where that's going."

At that Amelia made her way to one of the barstools up against the counter and sat heavily down on it. She still had no idea what to do, no plan. She was bouncing around like a pinball, and it was eating at her that somewhere along the way she'd completely lost agency, and was at the mercy of forces way beyond her.

"I've got a blog," she said to the polished countertop. "I mean, okay, I've done a few shady things but...I'm low profile. No big botnet hacks, no big names; I don't even take money. Why the fuck is this happening?"

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"More specifically, in this case, the young lady we're here to help has a bad case of... goblins?"  Ravi moved over to lean against the counter, looking for all the world like he was modeling the black wool suit and green shirt he was wearing.  Neither professional missed the fact that, for all his smooth voice and ridiculous good looks, the pretty man was tall, broad shouldered and moved with casual grace and self-assurance.

Admittedly, in this case, the self-assurance was more of an ingrained habit than an actual sense he was any more in control of things than Amelia.  Unlike her, though, he had the advantage of knowing that literally centuries worth of FitzCoventrys were behind him, and those fuckers were judgey  to those that let the stiff upper lip wobble.  It would not do for even a disgraced scion of the house to betray the blood by letting slip even a hint of panic.  This attitude wasn't even formally taught or learned, really.  It was simply demonstrated, and expected, and had been ever since he'd been a child, as much a part of him as his coal-dark hair and his dazzling eyes.  It had stood him in good stead in prison, when dancing on stage, when meeting DeSombra, and even when being shot by killer cyborgs and not dying - which had really hurt and ruined his shirt and pants.  And it served him well now, lounging against the counter for all the world like two guns hadn't just been almost-emptied into his body.

He glanced at Mel, which was not an edifying experience from any perspective, then moved his gaze to Kestrel, which was much better.  "Now I'm not familiar with any of this strange supernatural thing... Vampires there's plenty of movies and books about, but the only goblins I know about are from those Hobbit movies.  I doubt those are a reputable source so... what exactly are goblins?"  he asked her with a charming, attentive smile.

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"Hell if I know," Kestrel shrugged.  Seeing how that didn't really build any confidence in those assembled, she sighed and walked to the fridge.  Opening it, she produced a six of bottles and just set the cold beers on the fridge.  Ten in the morning was the perfect time for day drinking, in and apartment that wasn't theirs.  She invited herself to one and twisted the cap.

"Okay, look, it's just the working stiffs here now, so let's water cooler this shit real fast.  Mourne is a watcher, D'Sombra is a Watcher, and no one knows how the fuck that happened.  The Mages currently have no Watcher and the fae's Watcher is a complete cunt.  What's a Watcher?  I'll get to that."  She took a swig and leaned back into the fridge.  "Supernatural world is broken down like so... you have the werewolves, or The People or Garou, like any culture, you have what they call themselves and what others call them, in the end, it's all the same.  Then you have the Changelings, or Fae, or Fairies, again, all the same.  Then the Mages, or the Awakened or Wizards... see previous statements."

"Now, those three things have been around since before time.  Like seriously, we know it was after dinosaurs, but before humans were throwing mud and poop at each other.  Enter Vampires and Wraiths," she sipped her beer again.  "These guys are not natural.  They're dead.  No one knows when, but at some point the first vampire was made, birthed?  I don't know.  Skipping past all the years and wars and plans of world domination, eventually supernatural society had to band together because humanity was wiping us out... so, we disappeared."

"How?"  Amelia asked.  "Magic portals?  Paths to other worlds?"

"Christianity."  Kestrel smiled.  "But we'll get to paths to other worlds later.  The vamps had this awesome idea, God.  Fun fact, there has been a vampire stationed at the Vatican since it was founded in like... the twelve hundreds or some shit."

"Sixteen twenty six," Ravi added.

"Right, so," Kestrel sipped her beer, pushing off the fridge and walked about, making she was speaking to everyone.  "Since then we've kept a low profile, kept all our wars shadow wars-"

"Don't tell me everyone just lived in peace," Mel harumph'd through his coffee.  "Ain't no way."

"And you'd be right," Kestrel said with a smirk.  "So, we all had our own societies.  Mages traditions came together to meet, vamp clans did the same, werewolves tribes did the same, you get the idea.  So, all our forefathers had the idea to have our leaders come together and have one unified council.  Werewolves and vamps solving problems, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria... but it worked.  We all have our problems, our own societies, but we come together and rule our realms jointly and for the most part it has worked.  Enter about five hundred years ago, an Incarnae," she looked to them all, knowing they had no idea what that was but offered them a look of assurance that she was about to explain.  "Which are powerful spirits, like... gods, so to speak.  Came to the leaders of all the supes and basically gave us Watchers.  One member within the societies who would act as sort of an impartial observer and guides for the societies while searching for the Incarnae's chosen.  They're as much spiritual leaders as they are advisors and are sworn to remain impartial."

"The vamps, not being 'natural' were not awarded Watcher status, so obviously thought themselves exempt of impartiality.  Butt hurt over the Watcher thing, they've been subverting the Watchers for generations, finding the Chosen and trying to figure out what the hell they've been Chosen for... don't ask me, by the way, I've no frickin' clue.  Enter not long ago... when D'Sombra was chosen as a Watcher.  This flipped the vamps on their ear, because now they are bound, by an Incarnae, to adhere to impartiality and observe the Watcher's Code.  Not even the leeches will go against an Incarnae,"

"For five hundred years they've been searching for Chosen.  Those Chosen are tested and so far... none have passed, but never have there been this many Chosen at once.  People are looking at you guys like you're the supernatural apocalypse or its salvation... and their sphincters are clinched like the ball is dropping on Y2K, you feel me?"  She let that sink in for a moment and pressed on.  "Which is why we need to help Maya.  Someone out there is trying to eliminate you guys.  The MiBs are no joke, so someone powerful wants you gone.  As a Watcher D'Sombra can keep you all safe, for the most part, and Mourne is very much the same.  I'm here to help on his behalf, but fae shit?  Yeah, I'm way out of my depth, which is why Mel here knows a guy who might be able to shed some light."

"Spiritualist?"  Amelia asked.

"Occultist?"  Ravi inquired.

"D&D nerd."  Mel offered.

"Okay," all confidence slipped from Amelia's voice.  "Better than influencer, I suppose."

"Guys, trust me," Kestrel said with a reassuring smile.  "I've been in tighter spots than this.  The supernatural world is unlike anything you've ever known and sometimes logic takes a back seat to luck.  This kid showed up exactly where a Theurge said he would.  I'm still young to this game, but even know when to read a sign.  After Maya gets off work, we're all going over there and seeing how he can help us.  So... anything that I missed?"

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"Persuading Maya to come along?" Mel asked matter of factly, before sipping more of his coffee. Kestrel's story offered a great deal more information, and important context for Mel and the others. Namely, that they were all apparently picked by spirit gods to fulfill an unknown mission. Except no one had made it out of boot camp, the supernatural world considered them HVTs, and Mel's unofficial boss was a vampire with a second position of possible authority over him in this Chosen arrangement. "If you'd recall yesterday..."

"We're in her apartment." Kestrel gestured around them, as if that answered the question.

"So she's willing to consider." Mel observed. "I'd rather not take her agreement for granted."

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"Given she was probably as incredulous as I and Amelia both were and yet hasn't called the cops to escort you from her premises..."  Ravi sauntered over to where Kestrel was leaning by the fridge, helping himself to a beer before moving back to the counter and taking up a perch there, likewise twisting the cap off and taking a drink.  "Ahhh... Where was I? Oh, yes.  I think Ms. Flynn's cooperation is at least a reasonable assumption, Mr Grimson.  Ms...?" he gestured invitingly at Kestrel, who looked at him blankly.  "I'm sorry - I don't know your surname."

"First name: Kestrel.  Only name: Kestrel."  she retorted, though not without a small smile.

"As you would have it."  To his credit, Ravi didn't appear at all nonplussed at this.  "Ms Kestrel has the right of it there, I think."  So saying, he removed his jacket, hanging it over a chair back, then appropriated the couch, stretching out along it and plumping a couple of cushions under his head to get comfortable and taking another pull on the beer in his hand.  "So I suppose we just wait until Ms Flynn gets back from her day job - poor girl - and then go and see Mr Grimson's, um, expert."

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Amelia perched on the armrest of the couch opposite Ravi's head. Kestrel was doing most of the talking. This 'Mel' guy had been listening pretty closely. Was he not working for Morne too? Maybe this was a new clearance level for him...

"So...Kestrel..." she said. "You mentioned each 'type' of supernatural being had it's own watcher...except the vampires up until recently. What about the Chosen though? Do they get picked out of supernatural beings too, or are they just normal folks usually? What does being Chosen mean for them, other than a sudden uptick in the amount of bullets being aimed at them?"

Her fingers itched, and she flexed them uncomfortably. How long had it been since she'd had a chance to get on her computers? Not quite twenty-four hours, but getting there. She had her phone, but it was so limited. She had projects going. Feeling this cut off was definitely starting to get to her.

They'll be watching my door, but what about the window? Or maybe I can get in from above? Crawlspace? There has to be something I can do...

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"Well," Kestrel shrugged.  "To be honest I don't know.  To my knowledge you guys can get picked from any walk of life, supes or muggle."  The Harry Potter reference wasn't lost on anyone in the room.  "But that's honestly a question for Mr. Mourne, who will most assuredly want to talk to all of you at some point.  I know it's a lot to take in, trust me, I've been there.  Problem is, no Chosen has ever passed whatever tests are put before them... so we have no idea what comes after the  'Chosen' part.  At least, I don't.  I know that's not much, and I know it's hard to believe anything right now."

There was a slight awkward silence as Kestrel's eyes wandered as if searching for something only she could see, that haze of thought and memory that everyone was familiar with but never really spoke about.  "A ye-," she stammered.  "A year ago I woke up in a field, covered in blood.  No memory of how I got there or what happened and come to find out nearly four days of my life were blacked out.  Sable was there for you guys, you're lucky for that.  Shock, panic, anxiety... I can't even go through the rolodex of emotions I was tumbling through.  Several campers in the area were mutilated, Friday the 13th-style, all over the trees, sleeping bag smoothies, and there I was... butt naked and covered in blood head to toe with no memory."

"Fast forward a long walk and some stolen clothes later, some strangers found me, introduced themselves and told me what had happened."  Her hands kneaded the neck of the bottle she held, the memories coming to her in a rush that made her anxious and excited all at once.  "They told me I didn't hurt those campers, that hunted and killed what had attacked them.  I didn't believe them at first, obviously, but they showed me, taught me how to open my eyes."  She chuckled as she spoke.  "And oh, are my eyes open.  The power is incredible.  So, I know what you guys are dealing with, I think that's why Mourne chose me to help Maya."

"I went through my First Change," she added with almost a sense of pride.  "It's a cathartic experience for werewolves, and the spirits called me to that spot to battle that beast.  I answered, and my standing here is proof that I earned my blessings.  We usually don't have any recollection, or control of our First Change, which explained the black out.  Mourne thinks that all of you are 'Lost'.  A term that refers to supernatural people who were never awakened, you sort of 'slipped through the system', so to speak.  The difficulty is determining if that's true or not.  I guess what I'm saying is... is that I know how weird this all is, so... if you need to talk, I'm here, okay?  Because I've been through it."

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He'd remained silent through Kestrel's frankly incredible tale, a thoughtful expression on his face as he now and then took a swig from the beer in his hand.  A werewolf, he mused, examining the attractive young woman.  But not a serial-killing, hiker-munching werewolf from a horror movie - if she was to be believed. Something different, something called by 'the spirits' to avenge the dead.  Interesting...

"I have a question."  He raised his bottle in one hand to get Kestrel's attention.  "I took a bullet last night whilst helping to extract Amelia here from the clutches of some killer cyborgs."  He gently tapped the area of his chest where the still-sensitive scar was.  "It was the first time I've been shot and, whilst I'd hope it's the last I don't think I'm that lucky.  Point being, I didn't die from it, or need a respirator, or an ICU.  Just the bullet yanked out and some needlepoint from Sable."  He took another drink.  "Right now, it's a little sensitive, but mostly pink new skin rather than an oozing wound."

"So the question is:  what heals like that?  Because I'm pretty sure human people don't."

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"Cyborgs." Mel darkly muttered, taking another swallow of coffee. So one werewolf, Ravi most likely one of these 'Lost' from the sound of his story... What was clear was that there were still plenty of battles going on behind the scenes. Would guns even be of any help against enemies like these? If you put a bullet in the brain then that would surely still work. Right?

If decades-long military experience didn't transfer over to this kind of war, Mel didn't fancy his odds surviving long. "If you get shot or stabbed, someone did something wrong, generally you. Doing it in the name of 'testing' is just dumb and crazy." Mel disdainfully commented. "Also, we're guests in Ms. Flynn's apartment. She'd be upset at us shedding blood here without good reason."

"Um," Amelia tentatively asked, "so then would you really have-"

"Without good reason." Mel repeated without batting an eye.

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"Uh," Kestrel shrugged.  "Maybe?  Genetics and forensics is bit outside my wheel house.  I know vampires can appear alive and human for short time, and if tested during that time will register multiple blood types.  I knw that right now, were I tested, I'd just pop as human, since this is my breed form."  She took a moment to explain what a breed form was and pressed on.  "But there's no way to test or quantify a soul, and from what I've been told, that's how magic works."

"Sounds like all of this is magic, to me." Mel offered.

"Well, in a manner of speaking, it is.  All super naturals possess powers," tipped back her bottle and gestured with her free hand, drawing in the air with her fingernail to represent the various supers.  "Kindred call them disciplines, garou call them gifts, fae call them cantrips... the list goes on.  They are specialized, effects that we can create using our innate connection to the supernatural.  As an example, animals are put off by the presence of garou or other shifters.  They recognize some is off and sense the human and animal mingling in our spirits.  Dogs bark, cats hiss, etcetera."

"Suleman over there seems fin with you," Ravi smiled at the kitty loaf who couldn't have cared less.

"I was getting that," she smirked.  "We have a basic gift we can learn.  Essentially it disguises our nature and doesn't freak animals out.  It's a simple, basic trick.  The more powerful we get, the fancier our tricks, or so I've been told.  Personally I've never seen powerful gifts used.  Magick, however, with a 'cee kay', is completely different... it's not localized into a disciplined, 'always does this', effect.  Mages are wild because they literally warp reality and make it do whatever they want, no limits, at least, that's what I hear.  They can make all your bones jelly, or turn the Eifel Tower into gold.  Generally, it's best to avoid them.  They're weird."

"If you healed fast," she gestured Ravi.  "You could be a shifter.  The body's survival instinct can sometimes kick in even before your First Change.  You're obviously not a vampire, despite smelling like one.  Mages need to willfully chose to heal, it's not reflexive, and fae?  Well... fae are just weird because it depends on which of their bodies was injured, it's a mess." She waved away the thought like she didn't want to deal with a fae, at all.  "Problem is, gorgeous, there's no way to force The Change.  It'll happen only when it happens, and it's possible it never will."

"What then?"

"We call you kin."  She put it simply but so tersely that it immediately sounded like something he didn't want to happen.  "You have the blood in you.  You can see and interact with the supernatural without any major mental trauma... you just never changed.  In garou society, you'd be respected, but never afforded any measure of station beyond what humans are already permitted."

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For want of anything better to do or say, Amelia went over to Suleman and offered a fingertip to sniff. The cat diffidently stretched out its neck to tap it's cold, slightly moist nose, then gave Amelia a single lick, then flopped back, apparently spent. She gave him a little ear scritch.

"So, process of elimination then. I'm not dead, at least not yet. I don't heal particularly fast. So I'm either...a weird mage or a weirder 'fae'...or I'm just a regular girl who's in way over her head." She sighed and went into the kitchen to hunt for a glass to get some water. Cabinets opened, then closed.

"I do not know offhand which of those options appeals more. Hey, you guys got any caffeine in the place? Don't really care what it's in. Coffee, tea, soda...whatever you got."

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Mel drank down his coffee, mentally glowering over the situation. So in other words, there was no easy way to identify any supernatural beings, meaning hostiles could come from anywhere. Another unpleasant fact for the mental notebook. Mel also decided as a rule, to not get in a fight with mages. The only sensible option, if it came to violent conflict against a reality warper, was a sniper bullet from far away or a bomb with you far away.

"Assume you're regular until proven otherwise." Mel informed Amelia. He certainly was - anything else would result in a swift grave. A memory of the past day - gray skin and a long pointed nose - struck him, and he realized there was a hole in what Kestrel was saying. "The goblins. Are they fae? They certainly weren't passing for human."

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"In one form or fashion, I believe so, yeah."  She nodded at him.  "There are beings and things out there that you wouldn't believe.  Not everything is so easily classified, but it generally breaks down in to spirit, fae, monster or... other."

"Humans can't see them," she'd already peeled the label completely off her bottle.  "Hell, they most barely notice a werewolf standing in front of them-"

"-wait."  Amelia poked her head up from the fridge where she was fishing for a soda after Kestrel had offered her free reign of an apartment that wasn't hers.  "How is that even-"

"Long story."  Kestrel chuckled trying to keep focus on the topics at hand.  "I'm not expert on anything outside garou society, aside from all of our basic survival manuals.  Don't dare a drunk Mage.  Don't juggle silver.  Don't accept a blowjob from a vampire.  It's pretty basic stuff.  I've never hunted anything like this before, that's when I went to Bones-of-the-Past to ask her help and she helped us find an expert, Mel's friend Damon."

"Deacon." Mel corrected.

"Yeah, him."  She nodded, setting down her empty, hollow bottle and almost immediately twisting the cap off a new one.  "Ol' Momma Bones is never wrong.  Once Maya get's home, we'll meet up with this guy and everything will be gravy.  Trust me."

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  • 4 weeks later...

Boxed wine hadn't made the long conversation with Kestrel at her apartment any less weird, although it had motivated her to get out of bed and on her way to work earlier that morning than any sane person would just to avoid continuing it after the sun rose. If Maya had expected that today would be any easier than the day before, though, she was to be sorely disappointed. The array of misfortunes for the week hadn't ended with the Great Mille Crepe Debacle, or the first (and hopefully last) episode of Coffee Stalk; if anything, the combination of strangeness and misery she'd experienced over the last several days only seemed enhanced by her awareness of them. Not only had she scorched her second-best blouse with the iron that morning after stepping barefoot in an uncomfortably wet hairball- a sensation that continued to make her toes scrunch occasionally even hours later- Lorraine had gone home sick just after lunch, leaving her to deal with not just the regular patrons, but faces that lingered like afterimages in the periphery of her vision and the uncomfortably paranoid feeling that the woman on the radio was talking specifically to her. As she wearily scrubbed down the tables in the children's reading room at the end of the night, the sharp scent of citrus cleaner filling the air, she wondered somewhat bleakly if this "fatal goblin curse" was meant to murder her with anxiety. Or maybe it just meant a church bell would fall on her head, assuming the weird nursery rhyme theme held up. That wasn't really a thing, though, right?

Nevertheless, she couldn't help but glance up now and then on her ride home, skirting the impressive Gothic Revival facade of St. Monica's; the Yorkville parish church didn't actually have a bell tower, but given the week she'd had it just wasn't worth tempting fate.

Would it have been better if Kestrel hadn't started tugging at the veil of reality that'd hung in front of her eyes all her life? She considered that, trudging slowly up the stairs toward her apartment and the respite of a long, hot shower. Despite the occasional oddity, easily attributed to being over-tired and underappreciated, the world had mostly made sense before that night in the library, hadn't it? Tea and spooky podcasts and daydreamed travel itineraries had made it bearable, however much it might've sucked on a daily basis. But without that dream, and the party, she might never have noticed the wrinkles here and there in the fabric of that veil, the corner slowly lifting like a strip of old wallpaper-

"No," she frowned, fumbling for her keys in the empty hallway as she turned that last bit over in her mind, weighing its potential for inclusion in the podcast. "That doesn't make any sense. Is it some kind of fabric, or peeling paper? Pick a metaphor and stick with it, Maya." She paused, considering that. "Unless the point is to mix them and make it sound more disjointed... but it's harder to be clear that you're doing that intentionally. Hm." It could work. The essential weirdness of the whole situation definitely fit the show's narrative aesthetic, if there was such a thing; she'd just have to make some adjustments to keep it from being too personal. As she opened the door to her apartment, she wondered idly if anyone would recognize a description of either Mel or Kestrel if she threw them into the story at some point. "Sully, I'm home," she called out, hanging up her coat. Huh. If anybody had ever met him, describing a ginger Dirty Harry who looks like the kind of guy that chases kids off hopscotch drawings at gunpoint would definitely get their attention. Maybe if I just change a couple of details...

Lost in thought as she dropped her keys into the little ceramic bowl on the bar with a jingle of brass, it took a few moments for the distracted woman's brain to catch up to the fact that there were definitely more people in her apartment than when she'd left that morning. "Uhh... Who the f-" Suleiman chirped insistently from somewhere near her knees, interrupting his caretaker's less-than-eloquent inquiry as he demanded attention, but Maya hardly heard him. Her dark eyes moved around the room, noting the coffee cups, plates of antipasti, and drinking glasses scattered over the various surfaces and skimming briefly over those present.

The Grim Creeper was sitting at the counter, reading a familiar-looking copy of The Geography of Bliss- not that she expected it'd do him any good, but, hey. Stranger things had definitely happened. Maybe a vacation would get him to relax a little. She wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of him hanging out at her place while she wasn't around... or being there at all, if she was honest... but Kestrel had stayed over, and presumably they had business to discuss. Okay. Fine. 

Kestrel herself was leaning against the end of the bar near Mel, and, straightening as Maya noticed her, put away her cell phone. She opened her mouth to speak, but a long, slim finger held aloft gave her pause. "Not yet. Processing," it suggested silently. The tall New Yorker stepped past her temporary houseguest into the living area, slowly exhaling as she willed herself to keep it together despite the internal screams echoing through her mind. 

The first of the apartment's other occupants, a young-ish looking girl- Late high school? Maybe early college?- who'd made herself at home on the brightly-colored Uzbek rug, elbows resting on the coffee table, seemed wholly absorbed by something she was listening intently to on her phone as she scrolled through text and images on the screen. Her earbuds, hair, and posture were charmingly at odds with the clothes she was wearing- like one of the owners of some little tech startup, or someone who'd just come from a job interview at Starbucks or B&N. Maybe both, in the current economy.

The second lay stretched out on her couch as if he owned the damned thing, apparently asleep, and the longer she stared the more infuriated Maya became. Yes, infuriated was definitely the right word here. It didn't matter that he was attractive enough, even from this distance, to merit a #blessed insta collage, or that he looked inexplicably... expensive. It was her couch, damn it- Sully meowed again, winding around her ankles and looking pointedly from his caretaker to the interloper on the sofa. Okay. Yes. Mostly her couch, but also her apartment, and she looked back over her shoulder at Kestrel, who guiltily (?) took a sip from the beer in her hand. She could feel her lower eyelid twitching, invisible flames snaking up the sides of her face.

"So." Maya surveyed the scene again- the delivery containers from Caputo's, the full bottles of wine on the kitchen counter, the line of empty beer bottles and soda cans- waving a hand toward the strangers who'd made themselves comfortable in her home. "A text would've been nice," she stated tersely, clearly exasperated. 

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A text would have been nice...

Amelia had some experience with dealing with people about to freak out because of something she'd done. An experience deriving from an inglorious history to be divulged only under the influence, and then while constantly giggling. An experience that informed her on an instinctive, reflexive level.

She looked over and up at the newcomer to the room. What had her name been? Maya, her brain reported, serving up a paraphrased summary of Kestrel talking awhile ago. Yes, Maya. She looked a bit worn out, with her dark slacks bearing a day's worth of wrinkles and her off-white blouse starting to sneakily work its way untucked from her beltline. Not a great time to be getting surprises. Some glad-handing was in order.

"Maya!" said Amelia in greeting. She popped up to her feet, leaving her phone on the table, and approached a couple of steps...still leaving enough space between them that Maya would have to move towards her before shaking it. "Nice to see you! I am Amelia Parsons, and this is Ravi..." her brain stuttered and stalled on his last name so she quickly paved it over, "...who is from England. We came to help you with your...goblin problem?"

Amelia then glanced over at Kestrel, sipping her beer over there, and decided that when there was a bus, it was worth throwing someone under it.

"Sorry, I would have gotten your number and let you know, but I assumed someone had already taken care of that. Was not my intention to get sprung on you like this."

With a quick cut of her eyes towards Ravi, she finished off with, "Buuuuuuut...glass half full, we do want to help you, even if we are seriously new to this whole...'everything you never believed about the world is real' thing."

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Having eaten a large quantity of the deli meats he'd ordered from Caputos, Ravi remained dozing, blissfully oblivious to the atmosphere in the room as well as to Amelia's verbal and facial cue for him to jump in and be charming, to say things in British and soothe the troubled waters.  The girl gave Maya a faint shrug as the gorgeous, exotic-looking man on the couch failed to move or speak, and Kestrel snorted with a suppressed laugh as she came over and leaned on the back of the couch.

"Almost a shame to disturb him."  she grinned, taking a moment to admire the brush of Ravi's lashes against his cheeks and the faint dark stubble on his jawline.  "He's cute when he's sleeping.  Ah, well."  She leaned down and gently smacked his face with one hand.

"Wsgtthefk?"  Ravi's hands came up and he batted at the air over his face, eyes opening and looking up at Kestrel leaning over him.  "Hmm?"  he said by way of inquiry, then yawned, showing a pink tongue and white teeth, before smacking his lips sleepily.  

"Maya's home, handsome."  The werewolf girl told him.  "Beauty sleep's over."

"Oh?"  He blinked, raising his head and re-focusing his gaze on the woman who'd just arrived and was looking as though she were several ticks from exploding.  With a sinuous movement he was on his feet, stepping forward with hand outstretched, his bright, warm eyes on her face and his lips wearing a charmingly apologetic smile.  He'd doffed his jacket when he'd settled down to rest, and the emerald green shirt threw sparks of green in the reflective gold of his eyes.

"Ms Flynn, a genuine pleasure."  he said as he took her hand and gave it a gentle clasp, his voice a smooth almost-purr.  "Ravi FitzCoventry - call me Ravi.  I hope you don't mind how you found me: your couch really was comfortable and I'm still sleeping off a gunshot wound."  He glanced around at the containers, gesturing.  "Apologies for this, too.  A presumption on my part - as we are imposing a little on you, it didn't really sit right not to bring something for your table - to ease the burden of your day, so to speak.  Discussion over good food can make the most difficult of subjects easier - and the wine is a gift for you."  He let her hand slide from his fingers and stepped back, still smiling.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Okay, yeah," Kestrel sucked her teeth and pointed to Maya with her smartphone.  "That one's on me.  I'm sorry, I've grown accustomed to supernatural weirdness and we tend to just congregate sometimes.  Werewolves especially, like one big happy family.  It slipped my mind that all this is new to you."

She pushed off the countertop with a thrust of her hips and walked over to Maya.  "I didn't mean to make this awkward for you, honest.  It's just, I had to reach out for a bit of help.  We're all in over head on this one, and Mel here managed to find a guy who might be able shed some light on all of this and help us out, so I invited everyone here to wait until you got home."

"No harm no foul?" She offered Maya apologetic pouty lips as she grinned mischievously.  "I'm not against bribing myself back into your good graces with burgers later."

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  • 3 months later...

"Might." The Grim Creeper emphasized, eyes flickering up from the book he'd been reading. "And that frankly," Mel went on with upfront brute honesty, "is a stretch at best. I only asked him because he happened to show up at the pier, and I didn't have any better ideas." All right, perhaps he wasn't quite as skeptical as he made it sound about the 'Theurge', but the ex-soldier wasn't ready to go all in on oracles either.

Maya sighed, and went for the wine bottle. It had to make hearing this better, right? "Okay. Who is this guy?"

"Deacon Knight," Mel answered. "My neighbor. Kid who goes all in on video games, has that kind of weekly game with dice, wizards, and whatnot. Agreed when I told him he'd be meeting college girls. He's that sort."

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