Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Generalist – Taboo 2: Magic and Mayhem Round 4

Round 4

"Magus DeFerens, I am beginning to think you are quite out of your mind."

DeFerens batted his pretty green eyes at the scowling Legatus Valken, forgetting that the other magus hated him with a blind passion, "Whatever do you mean, handsome?  You should smile more, you have a nice smile y'know."

Magus Valkens' scowl deepened, "I am point-blank calling you mad, Magus DeFerens.  Do you even realize that you yourself signed this paperwork?  That Frank Todd must be brought under the heel of the Order for crimes against nature and reality itself?  How can you sit there and act as if you don't know he was jailed yesterday, and in J-block nonetheless!  A harmless facility, we should move him immediately and post-haste to our Antarctica Containment Facility and upgrade his criminal status to S+!"  The smaller man began to pace, his soft shoes luxuriously resplendent against the dark, plush carpeting of the Darkwatch office.

DeFerens gasped suddenly, his large eyes widening further as he exclaimed, "What?  Frank Todd is here?  By the Four, man!  We must hurry and ensure he is comfortable and doesn't harbor any dark ideas of mischief!  Come, come!"

With that the lithely-muscled Darkwatch snatched up a gnarled staff of dark wood in one hand and a floppy, battered, pointy hat in the other and immediately took off like a shot, the smaller Legatus snatching at the air as he attempted to restrain the suddenly animated magus.

"You, YOU!  Dammit, DeFerens, slow down and GAH!" Valken drew up short as DeFerens suddenly halted in his tracks, his eyes wide as a sudden thought flit through his mind.

" is Tuesday, yes?" The tall man began to range forward once again, his long-legged stride forcing Valken to rush in order to keep up.  He began to wring his hands together as he walked, his features awash with worry, "If he started the day with coffee, he won't be such a bother.  Really, that boy, Todd, can be a handful unless we handle him right!"

Valken continued to rail against DeFerens' decision to visit the incarcerated Generalist as they made their way, fighting and arguing (in a confused fashion), throughout the tunnels and common rooms of the underground Order base.  Miles underneath the Ontario Mills mall, the structure itself was a box-like affair, the boundaries set by transmuted metal and reinforced by the naturally-flowing conflux of ley lines within the Rancho Cucamanga area.  Within those boundaries hundreds of conjoined private rooms, common areas, living quarters and libraries all connected to one another via twisting hallways, tunnels, elevators as well as magical teleportation devices, all arranged by the Order's Engineering department.

Making their way to the lowest levels, the two magi came to a halt before the dark cell of J-13, the Darkwatch sending all guards away before clasping his hands together and beaming a smile at Frank as Valken sputtered anew.

"Why hello there Frank!  Good to see you've made yourself comfortable whilst awaiting your trial, yes?"

Frank grunted from the new sofa he had conjured into the room, the back set against the bars.  Valken stormed off to brace the guards at the new appliances and arrangement of the cell.  Gone were the simple padding and the crude sink and toiletries, and at his disposal was two black, leather-backed sofas making a circle around a entertainment center, a bar with stools set along the wall, and a pillow-laden hammock set against the wall and the bars.  At the bar an industrial-sized infinity sink had been embedded within the wall itself, with free-flowing water emptying out of the sink's lowered side and into a drain below the sink itself.

DeFerens nodded approvingly before closing his eyes and smiling with a genuine warmth, "May I come in?  You've somehow embedded a threshold here...naughty, naughty boy, you!"

Frank made a rude noise and went back to channel surfing, his limbs sprawled out and reclining against the sofa, "Yeah yeah, sure.  C'mon in.  The guards kept fucking with my arrangement, so I set up a kekkai, not a threshold.  Y'know, the Onmyoji training...a space of absolute self.  No one in unless I says so.  Got tired of beating up on yer tin cans, and I almost blew my lid when they kept stopping me from having coffee."

"Ohhh~!"  DeFerens crawled onto the sofa, his hands on Frank's thigh as he leaned in and whispered, "Y'know, this is an awfully comfortable room.  Better than my own!  If I wasn't a taken man, happily married with wife and kids, I'd probably make a pass at you in such surroundings."

"Get off of me, Master," Frank grunted and blushed, ignoring the Darkwatch as he laughed and bounced off of the sofa, finding a mini-fridge behind the bar and beginning the preparations for coffee.  Frank watched him with a jaundiced eye, mentally preparing himself for one of DeFerens' mood swings.

Instead he blinked in surprise as the Darkwatch spoke quietly but calm and sure, more like the DeFerens of Franks' past, "I see you're still practicing.  I'd like for you to help me out with a problem class of mine in Obtenebration Magia.  They simply cannot understand a few points that they need to overcome in order to learn the discipline properly, and it may be a lacking in my explanations, not their understanding per se.  Can you help us out, Frank?"

Frank scratched a dark muttonchop and considered briefly, his eyes flicking over DeFerens' slim, but noticeably masculine, back before replying clearly, "Sure thing, Master.  Shadow magic?  I can do that.  Yeah, I'm still practicing...and Gregorio hasn't been used in awhile.  It'll be fun."

DeFerens spun and beamed a smile at him, leaning over low to set a nondescript mug of coffee on the table before him and batting his eyes, laughing as Frank swiped at him with a hand, "GAH!  Stop that!"

"PFFFT-HAHAHAHHAH!" DeFerens laughed, holding onto his trim stomach while pointing at Frank, "You should see your face sometimes, Frank!  Pure gold!  Anyway," he calmed down and grinned, sipping at his coffee gripped with both hands, "It's been awhile since I've seen you actively work.  It'll be a treat to see how you've come along in the world outside of your usual business, y'know?"

Frank grunted, wondering at that.  Taking a sip of his coffee, he leaned back and considered the events of the day he had planned.  Focusing on his hearing, he listened in as Valken continued to upbraid the guards outside, wondering at what else the weasely little bastard was going to do against the Shop...and when he'd slip up enough for Frank to make his move.

Pure and utter havoc had broken out within the Shop the moment the sun's rays touched the windows, the whole of it becoming a discombobulating, milling chaos, made even worse as Dash was awakened to a screaming mob.

"What do you mean you're going on strike?!!"  Dash roared, his already large green eyes widening to an incredulous diameter, "Brownies don't go on strike!  You can't go on strike, we got a contract with you little Fae bastards!"

"Hold thy tongue, Troll!" the Tallest of the Windswept Brownie Clan drew himself up to his full two-inch height, squaring off directly against the giant of a troll, "Lest we take it upon ourselves to regard thine remarks as an insult!"

The discourse, loud and passionate on both sides, had thrown the entirety of the Shop into an uproar as the various levels of entities, guardian spirits and other distaff began to realize that their morning ritual had been completely thrown out of place thanks to the disappearance of Frank Todd.

Amongst them all were led the caretakers of the Shop's cleanliness and continued healthy glow, the Brownies.  Amongst all the Fae, they were the most genuine, sturdy, and unseen of all the various races that comprised their people, able to walk through walls as if they were mist and keeping to themselves as they went about their chores both mystic and mundane.  Altogether it was hard to kill a Brownie, and few wanted to: whenever one was harmed with malicious intent, every Brownie on the face of the planet knew and shunned the locations and people who did it.

And of all the Brownie clans, none were as good or as powerful as the Windswept Clan.  The Tallest, named so for not only height but also wisdom and age, knew no such thing as fear and had seen many an exciting event within his life of drudgery and work, and though the Windswept Clan had prospered greatly with the shop he wasn't under throwing his weight around the moment he discovered a break in pattern.  Like any good Sidhe, he worked quickly to take advantage of that supposed weakness, and had gathered the entire clan together in order to loudly protest the missing ingredient within their contract.

A daily chunk of bread and saucer of milk, both with three drops of Frank's blood.

"Without the Todd thine hold on us is nothing!  We of the Windswept Clan have provided services rendered for thee and thine for generations of our ilk, and today a breaking of the covenant hath occurred!"  The Tallest spoke clearly, his high-pitched voice resonant with strength as he glared up at Dash, the large white eyebrows that made his blue eyes heavy with age at a clash with his salt-and-pepper black hair, held underneath a hand-woven cap of thread, his small body encased within a set of button-down tunics, pants and shoes, all made from the same socks Dash and Frank had given to the clan as a bonus from time to time.  Though he disregarded drawing himself up to his toes, nevertheless the Tallest gave the impression of looking down at the troll as he pointed a gnarled, nut-brown finger at the taller creature, "Heed mine warnings, Daniel Hopkins!  We of the Windswept Clan are nay toys to be played with!  A covenant hath been reached, and broken, and we shalt work not a wick until reparations have been made!"

"...wait, what?"  Dash looked over to his new assistants and glared, "Is that even English?  What the hell did Shortness here say?"

The Tallest bristled as Williams, standing at his side, interpreted, "He means they're going to stay on strike unless Frank Todd pays the daily toll for their work.  Uh...three drops of blood?"  Tourmaline nodded, reading from the enchanted book Dash had allowed her to keep, stripping the others of their various sundries and enchanted artifacts and providing them with usable work clothes: jeans and simple shirts in their sizes.  Though the second female of their group remained in an undisclosed confinement, the others had taken to the tasks that Dash had assigned them the day before, the twins working hard at cataloging and cleaning up the herbalist section of the Shop.  A task that had normally been set for the Brownies to do, but now had to be procured by mundane means.

"C.O.N. TROLL WANTS FRANK TODD'S BLOOD TOO," Control's voice suddenly rang out of everywhere and nowhere, settling about the air as if roared through a P.A. system.

Dash's eyes narrowed as his voice spoke in a withered slur, "I will kill you, Control."

"Awwww.  But it looked like fun," Control sighed, its' voice a female version of Dash's, "so I wanted to join in.  Is that okay?  You did design me with the idea that I shall have my own mind sometime.  Also, Grease Monkey is trying to contact you through the established voice-communication channels: he's quite vexed his ethereal drones are just standing around and won't listen to him." 

For the first time Dash noticed the change in Controls' voice and immediately lifted a finger into the air, roaring up at the ethereal computer as he ignored the mechanics' plight, "Why do you sound like a girl?  You're a boy, I'm a boy, I gave you my brain!"

"Well, I feel more like a girl," the reply came to the snickers of the brownies.  Dash squatted down and roared at them, "NO!  YOU.  SHUT UP!  YOU DON'T GET TO SNICKER!  NO SNICKERS FOR YOU!!"

Williams chuckled nervously and began to pat at Dash's shoulders, his hands only barely brushing the scales there under his combat vest as he sought to relax his jailor-host, "Now now, Mr. Hopkins!  I'm sure there's a way we can capture the essence of the contract, enough that they can recieve a proper series of gifts once Mr. Todd is ba-"

"We require only three drops of The Generalist, that we do!"  The Tallest growled, "The greatest in the land!  None other will do, aye, none!"

Dash took a deep breath, about to launch into another round of cursing and yelling when the Tallest calmed down and took a step back, clutching at the lapels of his intricate jacket, "And besides.  Without we Fae, the many defenses of the Shop shall fall.  It requires daily maintenance, maintenance we have taken it upon ourselves and our discretion to do so.  Yon Shopkeepers hath allowed this, and hath had nary a complaint or quarrel concerning our work.  Please, Mister Daniel Hopkins, this be a thing not of malice but of routine - we are nothing without it.  Without the blood of the Todd, also yon ethereal servants cannot mobilize, rendering the Garage useless as well as the resonance and harmonization of energies here.  Understand our position in this, Sir Dash."

Dash frowned and took a step back as well, recognizing the body language and sudden voice shift.  He would get nowhere now, the Brownies set on payment before services rendered, but at least the Tallest had made it clear that they weren't doing it on purpose, a move that would have only served to anger him further.  Taking a deep breath, he began to make the proper ritualistic end of the conversation when a gravely voice rang out.

"The Shop is not defenseless!  The Motorhead rides with you, Dash!"

Dash blinked as various shadowy figures began to crawl down along the walls of the Shop's interior, the brownies and magi-assistants parting as a new group entered the negotiations: clad in leather chaps and vests, multiple hues of skin made brighter by the black leathers, the gargoyles of the Shop's rooftop and attic were a mishmash of various types.  All bore wings and had off-colored stone-like skin (red, blue, green, and more), each one was of a different height and type, some muzzled, others humanoid, while still others far from human: squat and powerfully stocky things that moved on all fours with bat-like ears and squinty eyes.

The leader of the Motorhead clan, as tall as Dash and twice as beefy, held his pterodactyl-like wings behind him, the apex of the wing tipped with a claw and the top of it as muscular as his two humanoid arms, and drew himself up to full height, his trim hips weighted by chains connecting his pockets to the three belts he had strapped around his waist.  Unlike the other gargoyles he wore a black bandana around his golden hair, wearing black leather pants instead of chaps and the same huge, clunky steel-toed and hobnailed boots.  Like the rest of the Motorhead he wore a black jacket emblazoned on the back with a white skull and crossbones, the whole affair covered in black and purple roses, bearing the motto Ride Or Die.  His golden blonde hair was made even brighter by his light blue skin and pitch-black eyes, lacking even the whites, giving him a deadly, unsettling gaze.  Sending that gaze about the spectacle in the center of the Shop he crossed his wing-arms about himself and gripped his shoulders, his powerful shoulder muscles rippling underneath his leather sleeveless jacket as he growled, "We may be of the Fae, but we don't require the blood.  Dash, we never leave a brother behind, no matter how much ya owe us, and you HAVE been good to the club.  Hell, you even got us those discounts on the hogs!"  He looked at The Tallest and spoke clearly, "We, the Motorhead clan, shall side with The Shop."

The Tallest hissed as the other Brownies gathered around him, their auras beginning to merge with one another in preparation for an attack, "Tread carefully, gargoyle!  This modern age hath left a metropolitan stain upon ye.  No good can come of this!"

Dash blinked as a female gargoyle stood beside the leader of the gang.  Where the leader of the gang was humanoid only in form, the female looked completely human save for a pair of tiny wings that extended directly from her shoulders and a crown of upraised horns that formed a circlet around her head, the tips sharp-looking.  She wore her hair black hair in a puffed-out ponytail, and despite her skin looking as pale as cream her eyes were as dark as the leader's and just as lacking in the whites.  For a moment she slid a heated look at Dash before focusing on the brownies.

Wondering aloud, Dash murmured, "Well...that's nice.  But...who are you guys again?"

Williams held back a groan as the massive leader turned to him and raised an eyebrow, "Uh...the Motorhead Clan?  The biker club you've had guarding your rooftops since...gods know when?  Dude, it's me.  Captain.  And you used to be an item with Dagger here until you two had a spat and broke up - you've been friends ever since though.  'S why we stick around you, yer good to be friends with."

The female, Dagger, grinned and spoke with a surprisingly harsh edge to her voice, "But horrible at having a memory.  You haven't ridden with us in a few months, and we figured you just forgot about us.  'S alright, we knew you'd need us at some point in time, and besides - no rooftop patrols means more time ridin' on the ground."

The motorcycle club sent up a whoop and a holler at that, Captain turning back to the Brownies, "Go ahead with your strike, Hirsute Tallest.  But you know damn well Todd'll be back, yah?"

Feeling as if something important had just occurred, Dash nodded back to The Tallest as the Brownies turned and collectively faded through the various furnishings and items of the first level before going into their homes between the walls, disappearing from sight and service for the time being.  Surveying his crew of gargoyles, having met again for the first time once more, Dash began to feel a bit better concerning the night raid that would surely come.

"So, ready to rock?"  Captain gave a sharp-toothed grin, his teeth flat  and even save for long, pointed canines as he patted Dash's beefy, scaled shoulder.  The troll grinned back and tapped his fist against the gargoyles', having already accepted their presence and help, liking them instantly on sight.

"Hells yes, son!  Feelin' better with each passin' second, 's what's up!  Break for breakfast, then let's find out what resources we got left, yah?"

"High Magus Todd, a word."

Frank leaned back in the comfortable, leather-backed chair and continued to ignore Legatus Valken, shuffling random notes and paperwork loaned to him by the Darkwatch.  Each one bore tidbits of information he could use concerning the students and their individual progress in the course, and Frank was fascinated by how many took the class this year - those who took up the advanced discipline of Obtenebration Magia rarely passed, and were counted as lucky for even surviving, most dropping the class after failing the first hurdle.  That DeFerens had cooked up this scheme to get Frank personally interested was obvious, but it was a ploy that Frank was willing to go along with for now.

Judging by their past accomplishments and the small hints of potential some of these students, if they survived and passed the course completely, could become either a helpful ally or a vicious enemy in the future at most, a massive nuisance at least.

"High Magus Todd, I don't know how you got out of your cell nor what the Darkwatch thinks he's doing by allowing you your freedom, but rest assured that I, Legatus Jerome Valken, will be MORE than happy to escort you back to it!  This class will NOT be allowed, and I WILL be taking this up with the Grand Magus!"  Valken growled, halting himself from slamming his hands onto Franks' desk, the cold threat in Frank's eyes from the previous day still fresh in his mind.

"Mmm-hmm.  Yeah.  You and what army," Frank droned off, still refusing to look at Valken as he continued to read, "Are you still here?  Go cry about it to Daddy G.M.'s dick before I-" he sighed, "beat YOU up and kick your dog," his head moved around slightly as he made a face and spoke in a mocking voice, "Leggy Jerry Valken."

Valken growled, his hands twitching with the urge to slam onto Frank's desk as the other man continued on, "What, are you still here?  Go fuck off and die already.  Why aren't you dead?  Shouldn't you be whining to someone else who doesn't care by now?  Go suck on a tailpipe and die.  Crawl into your mom's dick forever and die."

The Legatus roared and finally slammed his fists into Frank's desk, leaning forward to roar, "I WILL DESTROY YOU, TODD!  YOU DON'T DESERVE TO BE IN THE SAME HALLOWED HALLS AS ME, LET ALONE THE GRAND MAGUS!  I WILL PROTECT THE SANCTITY AND HONOR OF THE ORDER OF MAGI FROM YOU,YOU BASE FRAUD!  YOU CHARLATAN!"  He whirled, heading for the door before whirling back and pointing a gloved finger at Frank, his eyes squinting from sheer rage as he snarled, "Mark my worrrrds!  The House of Valken will have your head, you peasent scum!  At tonight's dinner, I, Legatus Valken, will see to it!"

At the door those students lucky enough to arrive early immediately fled the scene, not wanting to be seen by Valken as he stormed out of Franks' classroom, his assistant hurrying to his side.  Snarling at the young man Valken continued down the hallway, yelling at any unfortunate to meet eyes with him.

Frank looked over his notes, shuffling them about in his ungloved hands as he considered the day's lesson, the students shuffling in and talking amongst themselves about the recent bout between their guest teacher and the Legatus.  Valken's temper tantrums were becoming the stuff of legends since Todds' reappearance, and so long as they weren't the target of his ire the students were more than willing to share the latest gossip about it with their brethren.

Frank's brown features stretched into a feral grin, ignoring the students as they took their seats on the benches cut out of the very earth itself, the room little more than a cave with a chalkboard and the various tools of their craft: an open flame, tended by two lesser Magi advanced in the arts enough to take part in the class, cauldron, chalks of various types, and other random reagents, herbs, salts, crystals, and more, all arrayed carefully upon bookshelves of eldritch, petrified wood.  It wasn't that he enjoyed watching Jerome Valken lose his composure and steadfast control in front of every student listening in the hallways outside, nor that he himself was able to keep his poker face despite how greatly he wanted to put smash him in the gob.

No, it was that Valken himself had revealed that he would be enjoying dinner with the Grand Magus and the upper echelon of the Order that night.  More than enough time to do what he needed to do while the Legatus was out stuffing the face he so wanted to jam his fist into.  He slipped his shades on, still grinning to himself as he went back to looking at the lesson plan for the day.

Frank continued to ignore the students as they murmured to one another, each one dressed in the long brown robes and tunics of their station, waiting until it was a fashionably five minutes into the class, making even the lesser Magi students wonder when he would begin as they nervously took their seats.  Suppressing a chuckle at the Darkwatch's old tactics Frank stood up without warning, startling the entire class, and walked over to toss his notes into the wood-fed fire.

Turning to them all he gazed upon them slowly, testing their various energies and auras with a multitude of Sights, before asking into the nervous quiet, "Obtenebration Magia.  Someone define it."

The students looked to one another before a young woman stood up, her olive complexion and dark green eyes betraying her Indian ancestry, her hair worn long and fiercely red, as she spoke clearly, "Obtenebration Magia is the advanced discipline known as 'Shadow Magic,' one wherein the user controls nearby shadows and darkness itself."

Frank lifted an eyebrow, waving for the student to sit down as he strolled calmly to his desk, "Well, you're not wrong...but you're also not right either.  Obtenebration is as nebulous as the discipline itself.  I thank you for your answer though, Magus Banda-" Frank chuckled, realizing he almost revealed her true name, "That is, Magus Valshok.  All of you know of the Four that your organization swears by, that is the four elements themselves.  The start of everything for the Magi lays in the foundation of the Four, and from there...the universe.  Yes?"  He looked about, "Does the Grand Magus still start shit off like that, yeah?  Anyway, from there you have the advanced disciplines, or Magia as your people so colorfully call them."

Frank took up the lesson plan and, page by page, fed it into the fire, "Garbage.  Rubbish.  Trash.  It's all the same goddamn thing, really, and Obtenebration is right up there with 'em.  Unlike the rest of the advanced bullshit, though, it's way more honest about what it does.  There are no rituals necessary, no swearing to higher powers, hell you don't even need to do much save find a familiar and get to it.  Will, my friends, no matter what Magus DeFerens or any other Higher Magus here has told you, Obtenebration boils down to one thing and one thing only: will over that which you know inherently and instinctively, and the knowledge of those things on the instinctive level."

A middle-aged man, his hood covering his short dark hair, raised a hand and immediately spoke, "Uh...Magus?  Isn't that two things?"

"...uh, what?"  Frank looked at him from behind his shades.

"That's...two things, isn't it?"  The middle-aged student frowned, "I mean...knowing something and exerting will over it, right?"

"You aren't speaking English," Frank frowned, "The Order demands that all students speak English.

Anyway, the other specialized advanced disciplines revolve around certain rituals, fluctuations of energy, need for ley line energy and other such niceties.  Obtenebration, on the other hand, relies on one thing and one thing only - a direct contract and communication between the familiar and the magus.  This is the key to its' speed and use, that it relies on mana instead of external magic, mana of course being the energy of magic generated or held within the body instead of from an external source," he turned his back to the class, jotting down notes onto the board as he continued speaking.

"From the will of the user comes the awesome but basely-named spells.  Pull, Push, Travel, Drown, Step, many of them at first apparently only useful for mundane reasons but can be devastating when applied in a combat situation.  Due to the nature of Shadow Magic, it can vary from hard to impossible to defend against, yet it's rarely used due to the high mortality rate amongst students attempting to pass the class.  Who here knows how many currently active Obtenebration Magi are there within the world today?"

"Three, Mister Todd," a familiar voice chirped from behind him, "Yourself, Darkwatch DeFerens, and the Grand Magus himself.  All three of you count yourselves as Shadow Magic users...and also, an interesting correlation, all three of you are the only known legal practitioners of Thaumaturgy Magia as well."

Frank grinned and turned, spying Magus Tanelin amongst the murmuring students, "Correct, though your suggested correlation is irrelevant.  Blood Magic is amongst the illegal disciplines for a reason, y'know, and has the same mortality rate Shadow Magic does.  Unlike Obtenebration, though, Thaumaturgy relies on strict disciplines and rules and regiments - you can't do more than what you got blood for, and understanding your own body and the anatomy and physiology of others is crucial.  Shadow Magic, on the other hand, is so nebulous that only a truly creative imagination can keep it bound within oneself, otherwise you run the gamut of risks inherent with the discipline.  Ultimately, that's where all of you are pretty much at with this class - before you can take the Ritual of Travel, you MUST be able to free yourselves of mental constraints.  The more you cling to what should be, the worse it's going to be for you when what IS smacks you dead in the face, and an errant thought can be as destructive to you as a direct attack until you've bound your familiar and yourself properly."

Dawn frowned, tapping her pencil against her desk, her eyes half-closed as she pondered aloud, "So...the familiar binding process is extremely personal, since knowing what and who the familiar is can be used against the magus.  Otherwise, Shadow Magic is virtually unstoppable due to the speed and the nature of the spells - how can one stop one's own shadow from drowning them?" Her electric blue eyes suddenly looked up at Frank intensely, "And what exactly IS your familiar, Mister Todd?  Why are familiars truly that important to the practitioner here, to the point where it can determine whether or not you survive this class?"

Frank grunted, "It's Magus Todd here, girl.  And the answer to your question is a good one - for right now though, all you SHOULD know is that the familiar operates differently here than with other Magia.  In other disciplines, the familiar acts as a buffer between the magus and the raw energies our spells require from external sources.  This is why animals are normally used, especially since the Pact of Pantheons and the G5 Conventions restrict the use of sentient beings as familiars - the kind of side effects of raw energy being buffered can cause quite a bit of...well, discomfort for some, confusion for others, outright pain for others.  Altogether, while there are some benefits of being a familiar, most sentient beings would never want to undergo those side effects, and for good reason.

After all," Frank took his shades off and cast his cold gaze to each of the students, "Only demons of the interdimensional kind would ever take on a sentient being as their familiar.  This can be done with or without your consent, and it's one of the reasons why Obtenebration Magia is so hard to pass.  To find a familiar strong enough yet limited in sentience enough to serve you yet still weak enough to never overthrow your consciousness.  Because I tell you all this right here and now - the familiar bond is different here.  Within the discipline of Shadow Magic, the familiar can draw from YOU just as you draw from them, and if either side draws too much then there runs the risk of the absolute dissolution of the self, the creation of a new creature that is the combination of the memories and souls of the two, only trapped in one or the other body.

Most of the time, it will be in the familiars' body, so...well, you get the point," Frank took his seat and steepled his fingers together, "To keep the mind flexible yet able to be rigid at the same time.  To eschew every rule you've been taught yet hold to a solid core of your self, the basic tenets that make up your daily philosophy...this is what's needed to survive this class.  Very, VERY few have done so in the past, and it'll be interesting to see how many of you do so.

I want you all to think on today's lesson, and my words concerning what's comin' next.  Before you take on the proper Ritual, you're going to have to figure out what you're truly capable of when it comes to letting well as figure out the familiar that's right for you."

Frank frowned as he poured over the sheaves of paper he had found within Valken's office.  It had been little trouble breaking in since the Legatus Valken refused to believe that anyone would ever have the gall to simply walk in and riffle through his things, returning to his comfortable cell in order to go over his ill-gotten gains.

Naturally, Frank had done just that, taking advantage of the timing of that night's dinner event.  Having found what he had thought was usable evidence of shady dealings, he instead found written orders of a different kind.

Frowning he casually waved at the guard, lost in his thoughts until he encountered a familiar scent.

Yggdrasil, the Tree of Knowledge, had the same scent of moss, earth, and spruce.  Looking up from the papers, Frank grinned wickedly.

"Well ain't THIS different!  'Sup Abby.  Who the hell let YOU off your leash, huh?"

Abbacus Keith, massive in size and dour in countenance, frowned at the smaller man, his hunched over stance making him seem wider than usual.  Wielding a gnarled staff in one hand and a generic potted plant in the other, the Runesmith for the Asture cult glared down at Frank, his forest-green eyes made darker by the massive, flowing locks that tumbled wild from atop his head and about his face.

The two had a history as long as Frank did with his wife, yet despite the apparent animosity they were something closer to friends, pranking each other with increasing ferocity and glee over the years.  It wasn't the appearance of Abbacus that Frank questioned but his ability to leave the Hold at all: the Runesmiths' soul was intrinsically tied to the cutting of Yggdrasil, each cutting given to the care and responsibility of each Hold.  Though the Runesmiths were bound by such a thing, unable to leave the demesne of the Hold itself, they gained an incredible amount of magic and spiritual power, the stronger ones even finding their lives extended.  Abbacus Keith ranked amongst the strongest of all Runesmiths globally and, thus, one of the ipso-facto leaders of the Asture cult, worshipers of the old Norse pantheon.

His eyes flitting over the potted plant in Abbys' hand, Frank put two and two together and got four: the glow surrounding the pot itself bespoke of a seedling, the beginning of the cuttings' life cycle that occurred once every ten years.

Abbacus grunted and brought the pot closer to his massive, brown-robed bulk protectively before answering, "Makin' an important delivery to San Bernardino when lo and behold, I get a message from you.  Awfully opportunistic, you are, catching me actually able to make a walkabout.  So, here I am, complete with the message you wanted me to give back to you."

Frank frowned and took off his shades, setting them onto the leather couch before wandering over to the cell, "Wuddya talkin' 'bout, bro?  I didn't call you for nothin', didn't even realize you were out and about.  Hell, I'm busy handlin' our beloved Masters' bullshit, and ol' Leggy Jerry.  Some pretty deep things are afoot here in the Order, bro."

Abbacus shivered, for once a bit of fear (though tempered with plenty of anger) in his eyes at the mention of their old master, "Huh.  So DeFerens is still Darkwatch?  I guess things don't change that much here, even after I got bounced out."

Frank reached across the bars and patted his massive, bulky shoulder out of a sincere empathy.  It wasn't due to a lack of skill or power that Abbacus had been honorably discharged from the Orders' calling but, rather, one of a higher power, the call of the wild forest and deep icy crags that haunted his dreams until he realized what was going on.

He had, unbidden, been chosen by the Gods of the Norse Pantheon to wield the power and responsibility that would eventually allow him to become a Runesmith.  On the other hand, doing so meant a severing of all his past ties, and much like Frank he could not stay within the Order while maintaining loyalties of such a deep nature to another organization.

Besides, the Order frowned upon uncontrollable, wild spirit magics, believing them unscientific and unreliable.  It also didn't help that Abbacus had reacted differently than Frank to DeFerens' unwanted attentions, thinking at the time that it was merely a facet of DeFerens' strangely twisted training.  Though they had long since made amends and became friends, Abby had been unable to truly get over the Darkwatchs' aggressive flirting and physicality.

Abbacus grunted but nodded to Frank in a rare moment of understanding, "So.  Anyway, I'm here to give you that message now: stay the hell away from my wife, bro.  Stay away from Aphrodite."

Though Frank wasn't her only lover, he was counted as the chiefest amongst them and it wasn't for that point that Abbacus frowned upon her relationship with him but, rather, his penchant for getting in trouble and the higher position of power the Shop was generally considered in when compared to the Asture.  Frank opened his mouth, about to retort angrily exactly where he could jam his opinions concerning his wife, when it suddenly dawned on him what the Runesmith had said.

Chuckling at his apparent confusion, Abbacus turned and began to walk out of the cell block, his massive, magically-empowered girth taking up most of the corridor as he pushed the guards aside.  Frank frowned at the conversation, trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

Few knew that the current priestess of the Los Angeles Asture Hold was the avatar of not one but three different goddesses in a strange pact only truly understood by all four of them.  That he wasn't just the lover of the priestess but all three goddesses was also a strange position of power, one only truly shared by Abbacus himself.

Still, between the two they never suggested the other goddesses were married to the Runesmith.  Vorel Kethend was the wife of Abbacus Keith, not Aphrodite Herself.

Musing on that, Frank looked back at the papers he had swiped from Valkens' office and began to allow his mind to ramble, putting links of information together in order to see his current situation from a different point of view.

The leap of logic he achieved suddenly put everything into a whole new perspective, one that he liked less and less with each passing second...


The Generalist – Taboo 2: Magic and Mayhem (Part 1 of The Mayhem Arc)

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