Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Masa con Papas: Proxy's Memory
A Funny Thing Happened at the Pizzeria... 
[First Reading]
CW: Mild Blood and Violence, Cosmic Horror

[Image: FgMmw8S.png]

Charon: Appreciate being invited over for a couple weeks but.. is this really necessary? It doesn’t look like a cheap place...

Geezer: Course it is, you got your license and all that right?

Charon: Mm.. technically a few months ago... lot of time for a dog like me you know?

Geezer: Yeah but like, we still gotta celebrate you know? Plus you finally got a certified badge across the bigger guild system, that's a big deal. Usually you gotta do a lot more to reach outside of local regions like that.

Charon: I mean it's not that big a deal..

Geezer's single mechanical eye immediate locks onto you with a bit of a hard look.

Geezer: Don't even bullshit me with that, I saw how hard you crammed for that. 

Charon: I won't deny it was a bit of a struggle.... I'm glad I made it through in the end. Would've liked to get it earlier but...

Geezer: Ay, but nothing. You put in the work and now you got your foot in the door. 

Charon: Lot more work than it would've been in the old days, you remember right?

Geezer: What do you mean I remember? How old do you think you are? Knight work's needed official licensing for decades.

Charon: Right....

Geezer: It's true though, lots of local governments got scared knights were gonna become militias for hire and overthrow folks. Kinda put us in a spot where we gotta regulate ourselves or have them step in you know?

Charon: Mmm.... don't really care for it considering it's the reason folks like Spit's kind exist...

Geezer: Speaking of, how's cracking down on the cult gone so far?

Charon: Baby steps, it's really difficult with how widespread they are frankly. Hard to maintain funds off just that alone though, not a lot of people are dropping contracts for it so I'm having to take a lot of mundane side work or pray that all these little towns will restock my supplies for doing a good job.

Geezer: Yeah... that's kinda how it is...

Charon: I don't mind too much personally but... I dunno. I guess I'm derailing things a bit.

Geezer: Nah, you can talk all you want. Came here to get fancy pizza and chill you know?

Charon: What's the deal with this place again? Looks trendy and… a little cursed.

Geezer: I mean... I'm not gonna lie, it's a bit heavy on the wallet but it's kind of a thing that's blown up locally. Plaza's filled with all sorts of witchy folks you know.

Charon: I understand that, I don't understand why they gave me a tarot spread when I asked for a menu...

Geezer: Alright so check this out.

Charon: Checking. 

Geezer: So gist is the pizzas here are personalized using that read to get all sorts of wild flavors out of it. Result is pizza unlike anything you've ever seen.

Charon: Guessing you've been here then?

Geezer: I mean some friends in the area vouch on this place really hard and I've seen photos but...

Charon: But you wanted to save it for a good occasion?

Geezer: I mean.. yeah. No better time to celebrate than now . Got family here, got a good excuse for it...

Charon: Got your nice jacket to spill sauce on..

Geezer: I'm not gonna spill sauce on myself....

Charon: We'll see soon.

???: You'll see now!

There's an interjection from a waitress holding a plate so piping hot the room was obscured in steam.

It's placed down on the table in front of you, an ungodly typhoon of hot smoke curling in on itself before the grand reveal. 

The room is so dark, so heavy, you can feel your sins crawling in and out of every pore on your body.
[Image: G3fXNiw.png]

It's... certainly something to behold.

Charon: Ah.... um...

You can't get yourself to finish your sentence. 

It's ambrosia for the sleep paralysis demon and all the nightmares you've ever had. The aura it gives off is certainly something. You look over at Geezer. He makes a face and gives you a shrug before turning toward the waitress who's still partially obscured.

Geezer: Hey uh... no offense but what the heck is this exactly?

???: House special, a commemoration of sorts. I... wasn't sure what to make of it when they handed it to me either but it's supposed to be entirely edible! 

Her voice rings a bell that chills your spine. You can make out her silhouette. 

You keep your eyes on her as best you can.

Charon: Commemoration?

Geezer: The hell are ya'll commemorating right now?

???: Well, Darkest Night is very much upcoming and I assume you'll both be here for it? This island takes it pretty seriously and it'd be nice if you stuck around..

???: You uh... doing okay?

You feel a little relief, the concern in her voice practically confirms her identity.

???: I had some help from outside, someone who really wants to see you.... they wanted to come personally but they're busy handling things so.. 

Charon: So you showed up instead. 

???: I mean.. better when it's an old friend right?

The smoke clears up, the tension from the baked monstrosity lowers.
[Image: XwiVeSA.png]
Geezer: Opera?

Opera : Mmhmm! Been a good bit but it's really nice to see you both again. It's been a long time, hasn’t it?

Geezer: Fuck, I don't even know but-

You interrupt. 

Charon: You're our Opera, yes? No shenanigans?

Opera: None. Not like you know too many Operas, right?

You can't help but give her a little bit of a glare, getting a frown.

Opera: Sorry, couldn't help. Bit poor taste in hindsight.

Charon: No big deal, just...

Opera: Too soon?

Geezer: Never gonna stop being too soon.

Opera: Feel that a little myself. That said, you two changed a ton.

Charon: I'm about the same me as I can be after everything. Try to be.

Opera: Mm... older, a little rough but cleaner at the same time, and I can't tell if you're a prince or a scientist with that cadence you have but... you still have the same feeling in your eyes.

She looks over at Geezer.

Opera: What happened to you? I mean it’s not bad but… is that really ol’ Geez?

Geezer: ‘Bout as me as always... where it matters anyway. Things got a bit off the rails for a good bit but it worked out in the end.

Opera: It's good, keep doing that. You’re way more tall than I’d imagine..

Geezer: Can’t stay short forever, right? You got taller too.

Opera: Not as much as I’d like...

Geezer: So uh... you've been okay?

Charon: Mm, last time we saw each other things sure were... complicated. 

Opera: I mean... As good as I could. Had a lot of suffering to undo you know? Been doing everything I could to help people out and... well I guess not become like-

You stop and cut her off.
Charon: You never will be. 

Geezer: Yeah, that's not on you. What happened there was ten tiers of freak accidents and hella beyond your control you know? You didn’t do any of that.

Opera: Either way it's been a lot of work... but I'm happier overall these days. Anyway uh... before I forget...

She pulls out an envelope from her pocket and places it firmly in your hand as you reach out.

Charon: What's this?

Opera: A job, one I don't think you're going to want to miss. You know the big Gala at sea? Has all sorts of trade secrets being whispered around, a lot of big corporate witches and knights attending, and the big auction of eldritch items?

Geezer: I’m familiar. Bit of a rich tourist thing, not something I’d want to associate with if I don’t gotta.

Charon: Same, no offense. I’m on vacation and doing security work for a bunch of CEOs doesn’t appeal.
Opera:  It’s… it’s a little more dire than that. Just…

She shoves a letter in your hands.

You open up the envelope and pour the contents out. There’s a set of photos and a document describing a auction for "Series 80 Darkest Night Lost Tech Auction Item # 78: The Immortal Husk"

Opera: here's a list of details.

"Item 78 was found through standard lost tech mining via a private company owned by [Redacted]. The item is the body of an unknown humanoid feline of otherworldly origin.

Body is alive and functional. Capable of sustaining itself off energy in the area alone, as well as storing an incalculable amount of shreds. Body does not age.

Cells have tested to be heavily regenerative and could possibly be capable of regenerating completely from any injury within the hour. May contain the secret to immortality.

Body is fully void of anything resembling consciousness allowing easy experimentation. Despite this, it was found seemingly restrained.
Body seems to have gone through several nearly seamless and intensive organic body modifications. Parts of various origins yet to be fully pinned down.

Found covered in fiend’s blood but does not appear to be from the body itself.
Has been pierced by an unknown weapon. Weapon appears to contain traces of otherworld steel and imbued with untested scrap based properties.

Contains traces of heavy amounts of angel radiation but seemingly no negative effects from the intensive exposure.

Item #78 will be auctioned for a price to be revealed at the event." 

[Image: 6KhSAq9.png]
You feel your whole gut coil and turn on sight of the photo set.
You're left speechless.

Geezer: Hey so… what the actual fuck? Thought she was done in and sealed off for good measure?

Opera:  She was. Someone managed to pull her out of her tomb.

Geezer: Just the body though right? Like,  not the rest of her?

Opera: Just the body in the wrong hands is about five different apocalypses waiting to happen and killing it doesn’t work. On top of that well.. You know what this means right?

Charon: Someone managed to get a haul from the pocket.

Opera: Mmhmm. You know about lost tech mining?

Opera: Little bit, folks using witches to dig into other worlds and hopefully snipe their tech to re-create and sell it off yeah?

Charon:  Mm, more or less. It’s not uncommon for lost tech to find its way here on its own but the market and demand for it has spiked meaning there’s pushes to punch into all sorts of pocket worlds and see what you can get from them.

Geezer: Cult was doing that, yeah?

Charon: Mm… they came up with some absolutely inhumane things in there.

Opera: That’s also a worry… when they go digging for these sort of auctions, they try to haul as much as possible. Anyway thankfully I was able to get tipped off on the details by a friend who’s in some circles and well… from there I managed to get in contact with a lot of others. Honestly I didn’t want a reunion to happen this way but…

Geezer: We swore if the whole ordeal came back to haunt us we’d have each other’s backs. I remember. I’m in.

Charon: Same. What do we have to do?

Opera: A lot. Having a couple of knights means we can get our foot in the door easier though and having more than one means you have each other to fall back on. I can’t fill you in on the details here though… I think people are catching on to the fact that I don’t actually work here…

You and Geezer both nod and shuffle around for your wallets to pay off the food neither of you bothered to touch. Opera stops you and shells out the cash herself .

Opera: Don’t sweat that, we got way bigger things to worry about. Let’s get moving. 
Alright, Let's Do This One Last Time...
[Second Reading]

[Image: 6S2iAso.png]
 The three of you manage to scurry out and in record time find yourselves immediately in a session of catch up.

Despite the giant gap in time between the last time you and Geezer met Opera in person, any sort of anxiety around the situation quickly melts away.

You two ask Opera about what happened to her after the incident, and she seems a little bittersweet on the entire affair. She spent most of her free time hopping between her home and the “angel pocket”, attempting to undo as much of the pain and suffering that happened there as she possibly could.

Geezer assures her it’s not her fault but she still seems to feel some blame.

You bring up that she was 14 at the time and all of you were dragged into that hell. She still can’t help but feel like she’s responsible for some of it.

A lot happened back then honestly. You still have heavy amounts of lingering nightmares about the entire situation. A bunch of people are dragged off by an “angel” into a composite world made from the fragments of other realities.

The friends you made on the way.

[Image: g5PI34q.png]

The people you lost.

The parts of yourself you don’t know if you ever will get back.

Though the entire experience of being spirited away by a cosmic horror was very defining for you in the later years and you can’t imagine the timeline where it never happened...  it absolutely is something you hope never has to be experienced again by anyone.

Ever, really.

Nonetheless, reconnecting with someone from that time makes you feel at ease even if it’s under less than ideal circumstances.

Geezer: So you just went back there?

Opera: I mean…. Yeah. Family never did all that much for me, most of my best friends were older by a year or two, so they all kinda graduated and we started having less time to meet and go on adventures and eventually they just outright had to leave town you know? There wasn’t all that much for me to return to. It seemed like the natural choice.

Geezer: That’s rough…

Opera: What can you do? Honestly, it was also why it was kinda hard to keep in contact. Being a whole reality apart doesn’t make it easy.

Charon: You spent the whole time in the angel pocket?

Opera: I snuck out every once in a while, managed to make it here and a few other places. You and your family are super hard to track down, you know? I tried to find Erica and Arabis since they’re both from this world but no dice… found Geezer easy though, and you happened to be in the same room so that’s nice.

Geezer: Happens, we try not to be easy to find, you know? Keeps weirdos from showing up at our place.

Opera: I was surprised all four of you exist at the same time like that, I figured you were all super time displaced by centuries or something.

Charon: It’s… complicated. Erica was our caretaker growing up so….

Opera: Wait, is she your mom?!

Geezer: Grandma, but I guess kinda? Main adult presence in our lives either way.

Charon: I didn’t say anything because she told me not to. We were all kinda ripped through there from various points in space and time so we couldn’t potentially cause a paradox.

Geezer: Yeah. Either way, no idea if you’ll be able to get her to come right now, she’s currently got plans of her own. We’ll be enough though, I think.

Opera: I mean, you two are a couple of knights huh?

Geezer: Yup. Protectors of the people and destroyers of evil. Just add a bit of water.

Opera: Are you two good at it?

Geezer: I’m okay I guess, things’ve been good career-wise.

Charon: I just got my license recently to work internationally, but I haven't had a lot of big jobs yet. Guess now’s not a bad chance to put my name on the radar, yeah? Crashing auctions for products of cults would do that really fast.. albeit in a way that’d probably put me on a few blacklists.

Geezer: Anyone who’d blacklist you for work after that honestly wasn’t worth taking up jobs with anyway.

Charon: I know, a little curation more than anything really. I’d rather not collaborate with salesmen and war criminals.

Opera: About that…

Geezer: Wait, what? Who?

Opera: Someone we’re gonna have to interview with later today. I tried to mostly pick up folks we could trust on this but… we kinda need a professional Saboteur to help us coordinate something like this and they want to know a bit about everyone involved.

Geezer: A pro Saboteur? You feel safe doing something like that?

Opera: I got her contact through Hick and Fenton so I figure they’re trustworthy enough. Those two are in on all of this, by the way, though they’re not going to meet up with us just yet.

Geezer: Are they still together after all these years? Goals.

Charon: Really though, wish I could get into something that serious.

Opera: Mmhmm! Carved a bit of a nice little life in the pocket- we talk pretty regularly. Oh! We’ll meet up with Mercury too today, she was pretty quick to sign up honestly. Your third muscle at the party though uh… we’re gonna have to smuggle her in a little.

Charon: Not the first time, anyone else?

Opera: Well… I was hoping one of you might have some last minute contacts you know?

Charon: I’ll check but I can’t promise anyone would be willing to bite this suddenly.

Geezer: I know someone in the area, just praying I’m not crashing any plans like this though…

Opera: Don’t press them too hard, we have a good amount to work with already.

Geezer: They might already have an in honestly. Best to beat them to the punch right?

Charon: We’re on a timer, if you can’t convince them quickly don’t.

Geezer: I know.

Charon: Ideally whoever you’re bringing in knows what they’re in for here, I don’t want to bring anyone unprepared. If things end up worse than we’ve anticipated…

Geezer: Yeah.

Charon: It could genuinely do a number on someone and you can’t take that back. You can’t unsee it, you have to just keep walking.

Geezer: I mean… you’re right on that you know?

Opera: I don’t think it’ll be the same but… I get you.

Charon: It’s a lot. Still fucks me up to this day honestly. I’m not letting you two put anyone out there who’s not ready for it.

Opera: I know.

Charon: I’m 100% for taking this up but…

Opera: I absolutely get it, trust me. I’ve had this talk a few times by now with Hickory. To be honest, after what you two went through especially I was pretty reluctant to chime in about it.

Charon: Don’t be, I’m glad you brought it up. You need muscle, I’ll be muscle.

Geezer: Yeah, we’d be a little peeved if you didn’t let us in on this. It’s our mess to clean up too you know? I’ll be fine.

Opera:  Promise me you’ll tell me if it’s too much? I know it’s urgent, but..

Geezer: We got each other’s backs right? We’re older, smarter, a little bit braver. It’ll be a cakewalk.

Charon: Hopefully.

Opera looks directly at you, you try to avoid her stare.

Opera: You especially, last time, well…

Opera: Last time it got really scary. I don’t want to see you do that to yourself again you know?

Geezer: Yeah… honestly that part might’ve done me the worst. No offense intended but..

Charon: I entirely get you there. To be frank I don’t want a repeat of that myself personally.

Geezer: We all thought we lost you, like…

Geezer: Fighting for our lives, struggling for every meal… the killing… I mean that’s all super hard you know? But…

Opera: You just weren’t you I guess. And I felt like we were all on our way too. So please stay safe okay? Please stay you.

Charon: I… don’t think I am entirely me after that honestly. Hard to say if I ever will be. Don’t know how much of my mind and soul is my own..

Charon: I’m not even sure if I’m real, or alive, or if I ever actually got out of that but..

Charon:  ...every last bit that’s still there is precious to me, especially all of you. It’s going to be nice to see everyone again after so long. I just don’t want it to be the last time.

Charon: So promise me you’ll do everything you can to stay safe.

Geezer: Fuck dude, you’re always so serious....

Geezer: Not planning on croaking anytime soon though, who’s gonna take care of you and the folks back home during holiday dinner? You can’t cook ham like that.

Charon: I’m working on it, I’ve gotten better..

Opera: I got too much on my plate back home so don’t think I can afford to die… plus I kinda wanna go out for pizza or something after with everyone. It’s been a long time… not the place we were just at though, that pie looked demonic.

Geezer: Yeah… wasn’t that bad last time but uh…

Charon: Absolutely disgusting, cheese was about to put someone in a sarcophagus.

Geezer: Kinda wish I got one bite in at least…

Opera: Please don’t… We’ll have food when we get to our meetup spot. We still got a lot to cover really fast and a few things to revisit…

[Image: Go8EYSB.png]

CORAZONES: Masa con Papas+

The Saboteur
[Third Reading]

[Image: tEYLuFz.png]

After a long walk and you and your cousin’s rumbling stomachs playing back track the entire time, you’re led to a cozy little spot right where the hazy streets were about to turn into the bigger city at the center of the island. It was one of those local shops that seemed to also be a residence past the entrance room.

Opera: A few of our crew should be here right now on the second floor. Got a courtesy done here by our saboteur in question, she’s a local… she’s nice once she gets used to you but she might take some time.

Geezer: I can get that.

Charon:  You mentioned you met her through Fenton and Hickory?

Opera: Mm! They said she was the legitimate deal and they’ve worked with her before on their own endeavors.. Not sure what but you know how those two are, they’re always fighting for something.

Geezer: Rebels to the end…

Opera: Rebels to the end. Anyway, let me just unlock and...

As Opera opens the door, it’s yanked closed from within, causing her to stumble. Geezer manages to swoop in and catch her. You walk over and investigate the door yourself.

Geezer: You alright there?

Opera: Yeah…

Charon: Who was that in there? Are we compromised?

Opera: No, that’s uh…

???: That’s the pro who’s going to save your little heist. Now let me fill you in quick, I was told the sweet moomin looking one would show up later today to join our little quest and… yeah, he seems as good boy as the descriptions so congrats.

???: The dog with the spooky eyes though? Wasn’t given any mention and frankly that worries me. There’s a nasty aura around him and I don’t know if I can trust any of you right now.

No mention?

???: I wanna talk to him one on one before I let any of you in, I don’t like surprise guests.

Charon: I can respect that, though I’d like the formality of exchanging names first.

???: A really fancy one, either another good boy or the boldest con man. I’ll bite.

The door creaked open enough to expose the unnatural darkness of the room ahead.

???: Once you step in here, there’s no going back though. You fuck up, you give me any sign that you’ll compromise the job and well… can’t ensure your safety. If you’ve got nothing to hide, walk right in.

You approach without a remote hint of being phased, the darkness enveloping the entrance and isolating the two of you from the rest of the world.

It’s quite a pocket but a temporary crack between realities, and the surrounding aura has a certain genuine curiosity and menace attached to it.

???: Gonna take initiative here. Name?

Charon: Charon Judgment, professional knight and alright at what I do.

???: Rosario, local saboteur and jack of all trades. Gotta say for the type of prose you use that’s surprisingly a modest description. You got that air of confidence though. You’ve seen some serious shit haven’t you?

Charon: What do you mean?

Rosario: You came in here without even the tiniest stagger, can’t smell an inch of fear in you. Can’t tell if you’re stupid or the real deal frankly.

Charon: Might be a little of both, they’re not mutually exclusive.

Rosario: A jokester, cute honestly.

She approached, her face in full view.

Rosario: Though a pretty face and a wisecrack aren’t really helping your case here.

Charon: Not even a little?

Rosario: God no, that’s the first sign of a devil in disguise.

Charon: Mm.. that’s not entirely off the mark, can’t say for sure what I am these days.

Rosario: Same boat really, bit of a chimera myself.

Charon: Feel that, can’t walk through the streets without everyone’s pets screaming at me.

Rosario: You’re just bad with animals. Happens to me sometimes too though, they know something’s up.

Charon: Mm.. couldn’t keep any pets growing up because of that. Most animals are instantly aggro’d on sight. Shame too, grandmother used to have a familiar she used to ride in and out of town and eventually just had to give it away..

Rosario: Dang... used to be a cute little critter that followed me home from school. Then one day mom got a little stir crazy and cursed me for life. Wouldn’t even show up at the school after that.

Charon: Ah….

Rosario: Called herself a witch, ironically got burned alive after her work leaked. Dad was never really around so I got no sentimentality toward him.

Charon: Never really knew my parents at all personally, but they sure left me with tons to worry about.

Rosario: Oh, passed away?

Charon: Don’t know for sure, but I’ve done some sleuthing and they’re probably alive. Maybe...

Rosario: Ah.

Charon: In hindsight it’s pretty obvious though the exact details are unclear. Between the small number of possibilities, fiend biology being a nightmare, and potential partners well… I can’t say I like it.

Rosario: Really? How bad could it be?

You shake your head.

Rosario: That bad? Now you have to tell me.

Charon: Do I really? Feels like we’re already pretty off topic..

Rosario: You wanna pass the screening? My rules.

You lean into her ear and whisper. Her eyes widen.

Rosario: You’re kidding… that’s ridiculous. Too weird, maybe even too many?

Charon: I told you.

Rosario: , you gotta ask that doctor to check again. Like no offense but…

Charon: Trust me, I know.

Rosario: You sure someone didn’t mix samples by accident? Like..

Charon: It’s a very real possibility.

Rosario: Well shit… what a nightmare.

Charon: Mm… granted it’s still mostly speculation and by the nature of things well...

Rosario: Ugh.. I’m sorry.

Rosario: I was going to do this whole routine but I think I’d just dive into a rabbit hole.

Charon: You’re not going to keep going? I’m a little disappointed.

Rosario: Think it’d be bullying at that point.

Charon: Your point?

Rosario: You’re a weird ass dog… creature.

You can’t help but smirk at her.

Rosario: No wonder your aura is so off. Fuck…

The realm of shadow and static around you rapidly retreated into her body.

Rosario: Congrats, you’ve passed in the most fucked up way. How’s that make you feel?

Charon: I can’t really say. Better is almost correct but good is absolutely wrong.

Rosario: No kidding. Gonna be interesting having you around, always appreciate working with a fun wild card.

Charon: What do you mean by that?

Rosario: Don’t know what to expect from you at this point, there was someone of similar description in an earlier draft of the recruitment plan but the name Charon was never there and your vibe doesn’t match at all..

She looks over your shoulder at Opera. You turn around and follow suit. She tilts her head with genuine confusion.

Rosario: Gotta wonder really… you should go check up on them. Looking forward to talking more at tonight’s meeting though, you seem cool.

She gives you a pat on the back before walking through the black door.

You can’t help but feel a little nervous at her comments. Despite this you make your way over to check on your friend and cousin.

Geezer: You took a good bit in there, you alright?

Charon: Mm… was a bit tense for my liking to be honest.

Geezer: No kidding, shit was spooky.

Charon: You two alright?

Opera: Mmhmm! Got me super scared at first though, last time she got that serious, there was a bit of a fight…

Charon: With who?

Opera: Mercury.

Geezer: Yeah that checks out…

Opera: Everyone ended up being mostly okay in the end though. Glad you weren’t hurt at all...

Charon: Mmm…

You get lost in thought for a moment.

Opera: Are you sure everything’s alright?

Charon: Honestly? I got something to talk about privately. Matter of something she said.

Opera: I can talk to her if she went too far…

Charon: Nothing like that... She said my name was never given to her period. You know anything about this?

Opera: I’d assume it’s because we couldn’t track you down too well, got lucky that we found you in town.. Never got sent out for Erica or Arabis for the same reasons… I’m not the one who handled the actual list she got though.

Charon: I suppose that makes sense..

Opera: Did suggest you for this but… you’re really hard to find actually. Geezer’s the only one in your family we could pin down without trouble. Is that everything?

Charon: For now I suppose… just had me a little concerned.

Opera: You’re here though, that’s what matters right?

Charon: Guess so. It’ll be nice to meet up with everyone again-

Geezer interrupts the two of you.

Geezer: Hey, just realized I’m in town to talk to a friend of mine who might be handy to bring in. Gonna try to see them before it gets too late. Hate to do this last second but…

Opera: We need all the help we can get honestly, just be back quick please…

Geezer: I’ll do what I can. If I take too long, start without me and fill me in later. Save a bit of something for me too, I’m starving. Might stop for a burger on the way back too...

Opera: Mm!

Charon: Of course, don’t be too long out there.

Geezer gives you a confident little wave as he adjusts his jacket and starts walking.

You return it with a little gesture.

He keeps it going until he’s just a dot at the end of the sidewalk.

What a dork.

Reverse Rebirth
[First Reverse]
CW: Discussion of Existential Topics.

[Image: SfHcIE0.png]

Platino: Mornin’.

Manzana: Really wish it wasn’t. Couldn’t sleep the best.

Platino: Night terrors?

Manzana: Mm, happens. I’m surprised you’re still out and active though, something wrong?

Platino: Nah, just staying up a bit longer. Made you something to help you out.

Manzana: That so?

He scoots a plate and a glass your way. You nearly fumble the entire thing.

Manzana: Give me a sec, still waking up… gotta say this is new though. Hot breakfast… there a catch?

Platino: Nah, just know you’ve been having a lot of trouble with work lately and wanted to do something nice. Plus I know you got something special coming up later tonight…

You manage to get a closer look.

Manzana: Huevos divorciados…

Platino: Divorced eggs.

Manzana: Managed to get each sauce nicely spread.  It’s pretty.

Platino: I remember you being big on these. Not the best job but I did what I could.

Manzana: Really appreciate it, don’t know how it’ll help for later though…

Platino: It’s a lot of beans and eggs, high protein breakfast to start the day right and all. Don’t want you low on energy.

Manzana: It’s not that big a deal…

Platino: It is, you’re going on your first real date in a long time.

Manzana: First I got to arrange for myself...

Platino: Don’t think about past stuff right now, focus on what’s up ahead. 

Manzana: Maybe.

Platino: It’ll be nice, they seem awful sweet from what I’ve seen.

Manzana: That’s what worries me most. I’m… not.

Platino: Being a little reserved doesn’t mean you can’t be nice.

Manzana: A little is a bit of an understatement.

Platino: I think once you get a feel for things you’ll loosen up fine. Plus you can always call me if you need help. Always just a word away.

Manzana: Might take you up on that… I do want to try and get through this mostly on my own though so I’d appreciate it if you weren’t too direct with helping me here. No confrontation or taking the wheel-

Platino: Unless you have a panic attack or you feel like you’re in danger. Easy enough.

Manzana: Mmhmm.

Platino: Gotta say, kinda curious about something though.

Manzana: Oh?

Platino: You’re a pretty cautious person, can’t say I pictured you going straight for asking the actual angel spawn out. Like don’t get me wrong, they’re cute but…

Manzana: But?

Platino: I dunno, never imagined you going for the tall and monstrous type you know?

Manzana: It’s practical and comforting.

Platino: Yeah?

Manzana: Having someone tall and strong around makes me feel safer, I guess.

Platino: Against what? You could drop anyone.

Manzana: I mean I know, it’s silly but… it sounds bad when I think about it.

Platino: Say it, I’m not a cop.

Manzana: Being able to lean on someone every once in a while is nice… you do a ton, granted, but I don’t want to put that all on one person.

Platino: It’s no bother.

Manzana: I mean it is a little, you only can sustain that body for so many hours a day before you knock out. You’re pushing it as is.

Platino: I napped some last night just in case, don’t worry about it.

Manzana: Hmm…

Platino: Mean it, I’ll be fine later. Been better at this lately, making sure you actually eat isn’t a big deal.

Manzana: If you say so, don’t think I’ll ever get why you’re still around. Your contract is fulfilled after all.

Platino: Where else am I going to go? Plus, I don’t really know what’s up either, so you’re stuck with me anyway.

Manzana: You don’t miss wherever you came from? Thought you had a lot back home to finish.

Platino: Did I say that?

Manzana: You did.

Platino: Drawing blanks, must’ve been a long time ago. Probably wasn’t all that important.

Manzana: So strange.

Platino: Either way I don’t think I can leave so I’m making the best out of it.

Manzana: We got a bit of a unique situation, don’t we? 

Platino: I got theories on it. Might be a bit heavy for morning though.

Manzana: It’d be just as heavy later, lay them on me.

Platino: Theory one, we’ve been connected for so long we partially merged and now we got a common soul. Explains why I can’t keep a separate body all day.

Manzana: Interesting, rare for pact phenomenon but it happens.

Platino: Doesn’t explain everything, but does explain a lot.

Manzana: I’m assuming by everything you mean…

Platino: Memory issues. Don’t know how much I have left from before we met.

Manzana: Mm… I think I’ve had some of your memories though. A merge of souls could have jumbled us up...

Platino: Theory number two, I’m just a proxy all along based on whatever entity you signed with. Never living the past you supposedly had is a pretty good reason for not remembering.

Manzana: But… I’ve been able to summon it without you around?

Platino: Your proxy is a gun without a gunner. It’s pretty oddball.

Manzana: Weapon proxies exist.

Platino: I mean yeah I guess… still doesn’t line up all that much though.

Manzana: Mm…

Platino: Plus I can remember a little bit back to before we met so… that’s a bit weird.

Manzana: Except I can too…

Platino: Right. There’s also the third possibility that I’m Manzana and you’re whatever proxy or entity which.. Checks out.

Manzana: I… don’t like where this is going but continue.

Platino: Fact that we both got equal control over the rabbit body, you can remember more about me than me sometimes, honestly the old contract depending on how you interpret it lines up too.

Manzana: It was fulfilled on my end.

Platino: Maybe, could’ve monkey paw’d. You remember what you asked for?

Manzana: Freedom. Freedom from the life I was trapped in at the time…

Platino: Vague as hell isn’t it? Didn’t specify how.

Manzana: I don’t think I’m understanding.

Platino: Never specified how. Being replaced by someone else would absolutely count since you’re no longer-

Manzana: Stop. I… don’t think I was ready for this, actually and I rather not.

Platino: Yeah… yeah trust me I get you. Too heavy for morning in the end?

Manzana: Too heavy in general…. You been thinking about this a lot?

Platino: Yeah, honestly. Much as I try not to, it freaks me out.

Manzana: If… if any of these were true, what would you want?

Platino: Hard to say? Honestly most of these are pretty out there and there’s still a ton that wouldn’t make the most sense. Still a bit of nasty thought loop. Proxy theory seems pretty viable lately.

Manzana: Either of us a proxy would be pretty bad for your long term plans, no? I thought you wanted more freedom to go off and do your own thing.

Platino: It’s still possible, eventually.

Manzana: Hmm...  Really difficult to safely separate us completely if you wanted to go separate ways. Detaching proxies from sources is a hard process and takes a ton of recovery when it does work.

Platino: I’ll figure it out, don’t mind sticking around with you either way.

Manzana: Thought you wanted to be immortal too? Best you’re getting out of me is a century if you’re incredibly lucky. Kind of short by comparison.

Platino: Eh, it’s mostly for flex. If we get 100 years, we get 100 years.

You go silent for a bit as you finish up your breakfast. You make sure to wipe your face thoroughly of any sauce and yolk. You keep your eye on Platino as he seems to fixate on what little lighting is in the room right now.

Manzana: Thank you for this, you really helped me start my day right.

Platino: It’s no big deal. You got work today?

Manzana: Only for a brief meeting, then I have to get home and prepare to meet up with March.

Platino: Nervous?

Manzana: Very… never been on a date I actually want before.

Platino: Have fun with it. I’ll be up and have my phone with me the whole time. Plus I can peek if something is goes wrong

Manzana: I’ll text if anything happens. Don’t do anything without asking.

Platino: You know I wouldn’t do you dirty like that.

You stand up from your spot and walk toward the sink to drop your plate off. He stops you and takes it for you.

Platino: I got it covered, you shower and dress. Gotta make hustle if you want to get through your day smooth.

Manzana: Thank you again-

Platino: Don’t worry about it. Now scram yeah? Need some sleep myself… 
[Fourth Reading]


CW: Mild Blood and Violence, Cosmic Horror

[Image: 0DMsrKm.png]
 You make your way to the back room with both excitement to see so many of your old friends again and a bit of nervous hesitation.

You should've listened to the latter feeling.

The moment you step into the room you feel the air around you twist as you’re nearly slammed by the biggest sword you’ve ever seen.

You manage to dodge but fumble it and find yourself on the floor. You are now on the bad side of this actual hell knife.

On the other end is a rabbit-y looking sea slug who you personally know is ready to thrash you on the spot.

Opera: What are you doing?!

Mercury: Making sure you didn’t pick up unwanted company.

Opera: You know him, it’s Charon!

Mercury: That’s for him to prove.

She looks straight at you.

Mercury: Look on your face doesn’t sit right with me. Something’s up-

The space around you fragments.

You cut her off quickly with a counter attack, manifesting a weapon in each hand pulled directly from the shattering and distortion around you.

She’s able to side step you with ease and swing at you repeatedly.

You manage to guard each hit with middling success. Lances and swords repeatedly shatter and form in your hands as the giant blade continuously pushes you toward the wall. Your body starts to crumble under the weight of the hundred pound blade’s repeated blows. Your back truly is to the wall now. 

Mercury: You’re all quiet this time but you’re not putting on much of a show. You really taking it that seriously-

Taking advantage of the briefest window, you manage to counter attack with a thrust of a lance.

Mercury: Shit dude, let me finish talking.

She manages to jump over it with a finesse you can’t replicate.

The moment you baited her into leaping she was committed to that move.

You intercept her attack with the club in your free hand to pin her arm down to the wall.

She tries to retaliate by grabbing you with her other hand.

It’s all in vain.

The lance in your hand is twisted in space as it’s molded into a blade. With only a slightest moment to react you manage to slice her arm.

Opera: Hey, stop?! What the fuck are you two doing?!

You’re interrupted by your feline friend who by the look on her face is having trouble processing this..

Charon: It’s a bit of a thing we do-

Opera: What?! No you have to actually explain that!

Mercury: I’m checking if he’s kept up with his homework, taught this kid how to throw hands myself. Gotta say you went a little harder than you needed to there…

Charon: Apologies.

Mercury: Kind of the right call though. If you didn’t I would’ve dropped you there and then.

You release your opponent and step back.

Mercury: Surprised you didn’t summon your proxy there, would’ve shortened the fight.

Charon: You were holding back by a lot, didn’t have reason to…

Mercury: You could tell?

Charon: You wouldn’t give me the opportunity to get back up that easy if you wanted to really push me.

Mercury: Yeah? I’m still surprised you were willing to land a big hit like that. Thought you’d be too timid frankly. You want your report card?

Charon: If you could.

Mercury: Your defense isn’t half bad, you took the opportunity when it came, and you kept the fight as short as you needed. Last one’s always the most important.

Charon: I try to..

Mercury: Longer a fight lasts, the more things that can go wrong. Honestly though I’m a little disappointed you never pulled out the other guy.

Charon: I wanted you to see how much I’ve improved on the physical front… I felt a proxy would undermine that.

Mercury: I can respect that. First time I gave you a lesson, you summoned it and then ducked behind it most of the time. You really grew some guts trying to hold your own there.

Charon: So what’s your excuse for holding back?

Mercury: I didn’t want to hurt you.. Plus when you’re a proxy yourself, going too hard this close to darkest night’s a bit risky. Imagining you’re worried about that too?

Charon: Mm. Extreme Revelation is a bit unhinged lately. No idea what summoning it right now would entitle.

Opera: Paige has been more rowdy lately but she hasn’t done anything too wild…

Mercury: That’s because you’re probably not asking her to do anything too intensive. I gotta limit myself or well… I don’t want to think about it. Most I can really do safely is manifest the sword and get some fresh air but anything more? Kinda iffy…

Charon: Speaking of… how’s the situation?

Mercury: Hmm?

Charon: You know…

Mercury: Ah… yeah well. The other part of me’s been doing better but she’s still in bad health to be the one taking control of the body too much. Mostly been limited to visits with family and friends but you know…

Charon: Mm… I’m sorry.

Mercury: Don’t be, it’s slow improvement but it’s so much better than before you know?

Charon: Mm..

Mercury: On a side note, what’s that thing you got there?

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: That thing.

She points to the electric club.
[Image: UlTh2tg.png]
Mercury: Looks like a custom job. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that anywhere before…

Charon: Mm….

Mercury: Not once in my life.
[Image: u2RPxTH.png]
Your lack of a proper answer tells her everything. She gives you a smirk.

Mercury: That’s adorable! You missed us.

Charon: Mmhmm…

Mercury: Kinda flattered honestly. Maybe not as cool as the original but absolutely in the top 3. Got a lot of its own style. What’s it do?

Charon: You’ll see if it comes up…

Mercury: Nice. God it’s so weird seeing you two so much older.

Charon: It’s weird seeing you.. Not that different.

Mercury: I mean it hasn’t been that long. 4 Years right?

Charon:... It’s been 10.

Opera: 12 for me. When we beat the angel, everyone who went back to their proper times well… went back to their proper times. Erica was your age when you met her but in the current day she’s pretty old.

Charon: Mm.. I guess that makes sense. I’m assuming Hickory and Fenton are in the same boat as you then?

Opera: They did stay behind with me to help people in the pocket world so yeah.

Charon: Huh…

Opera: You okay?

Charon: Throws me off a bit to think about that… Makes me wonder about some of the folks I met.

Opera: Mm… sad to say that there’s probably a number of folks who probably aren’t around in our equivalents of modern day so..

Charon: Ah…

Opera: You going to be okay?

Charon: I’ll try to be… speaking of okay…

You turn toward Mercury.

Charon: We should really treat your wounds right now.

Mercury: I told you, it grows back. I’ll be fine by tomorrow afternoon.

Opera: It’s faster if we reattach it…

Mercury: Nah, ya’ll should keep it, It’ll be *handy* I’m sure.

Opera: Stop….

Charon: I’m sure with a few *pointers* I can think of something.

Opera: That’s really bad….

Mercury: Worst case scenario, just keep it in the fridge in case you need some finger foods.

Opera: No, no more. I’m gonna go wait for Geezer with Rosario, you two can bond over shit jokes anywhere else.

Opera returned to the room up front.

Mercury: Damn, scared her off. Gives us a good chance to meet everyone else just before we plan though yeah?

Charon: Mm… how many?

Mercury: In the building? Two, maybe three if he’s still around. Either way, I figure you’d want to catch up with everyone a little before it becomes all work for awhile.

Charon: Mm… I’d appreciate that. 
A Moment of Quiet
[Reading 4.5]


CW: None

[Image: demGKGY.png]

Mercury: Before we continue, think we gotta address something?

Charon: Oh?

Mercury: Something I noticed during our little spar. You’ve been able to cast and summon all those blades without directly summoning your proxy?

Charon: Mm…

Mercury: It’s pretty impressive… casting quietly on reaction and that consistently takes a lot of work. Proud of you there.

Charon: I try to put in the work where I can… hasn’t been the easiest but…

Mercury: I mean that’s good, means you’ve grown up a ton. That said wel.. I can tell you haven’t kept up with all your studies.

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: You’ll see in a sec. Summon it.

Charon: Now?

Mercury: Now.

On whim, a towering floral entity manages to manifest itself out of seemingly nothing. Despite it’s faceless nature, you can feel it’s gaze on the two of you.

Mercury reaches out toward it.

Mercury: That your proxy?

Charon: Mmhmm.

Mercury: Mind if I look closer?

Charon: Go ahead.

She pulls it’s head a little closer and examines it very carefully for a good while.

Charon: Is there something wrong?

Mercury: On the outside? Not at all. It’s growing strong and healthy. A tad softer but in a way that’s probably good for both of you.

Charon: That’s a relief-

Mercury: Keyword is both of you.

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: I mean it’s disconnected from you… it’s not entirely you right now.. It’s not exactly its own person either. You aren’t still under contract, are you?

Charon: Absolutely not, terminated it years ago.

Mercury: That’s odd…

Charon: What are you looking for?

She ignored him and grabbed its hand.

Charon: Well? What’s wrong?

Mercury: You’re bottling. I can’t detect a thing looking at you but your proxy is the manifestation of everything that makes you up. Poor thing can protect you from any attacker but it sure can’t lie.

You grow silent.

Mercury: You can’t use your proxy to the fullest anymore because you got all sorts of feelings you refuse to address. You’re desynced.

Charon: Mm..

Mercury: You may be harder and stronger on the outside but you’re really hurting yourself where it matters.

Charon: I’m sorry…

Mercury:  Don’t apologize to me, this is your problem.

She let go of the Proxy and gave it a pat on the back.

Mercury: That said, you made a point of getting involved in everyone’s problems including mine so I don’t mind returning the favor there. Talk to me.

Charon: I’d rather not dump like this-

Mercury: I don’t want to hear that. People bottle up all the time and say shit like that as an excuse to keep doing it.

Charon: It really is a lot.

Mercury: Then we’ll do this little at a time.. If you’re willing. I can’t exactly force you to suddenly open up to someone you haven’t seen in a decade like that but… you know.

Charon: …

Mercury: Promise you though that you’ll be safe talking. May not be practicing officially yet but I gotta make sure you feel comfortable if you do.

Charon: You… have a license?

Mercury: Had to do something over the last few years right? Decided to go back to school, maybe take some classes that’d help me figure myself out… and then I guess I just figured I wanted to help people. Go figure.

Charon: I never imagined you as a shrink but… it’s a welcome surprise.

Mercury: I may be a slug but I found something new in life pretty quick.

Charon: Certainly shows your salt in life.

Mercury: Really have the backbone to make a gag like that?

Charon: Can’t be helped.

Mercury: You smiled so I can forgive you this one time. So-

Charon: So you’re willing to help me out? I don’t want to impose.

Mercury: I mean the way I see it, it helps you and it helps me. If we’re doing this job I want you to be able to use your proxy to the fullest.

You look over to your ghostly friend.

Mercury:  We can schedule something while we still have time, maybe overcome a few pits and figure it all out?

Charon: Mm… I’ve never really had a psych before so it’s something I’d like…

Mercury: I mean I know you personally outside of a professional context, so I can’t exactly BE your doctor but I can still hear you out and help you brainstorm it.

Charon: You can tell me if it’s ever too much.

Mercury: I don’t think it will be. Might get hard at times and I may ask for a break here and there but… as long as you’re willing, I won’t abandon you.

Charon: Mm…

Mercury: Got a few things to get done right now so I can’t do something proper just yet but if you wanna talk after the meeting? I’m down.

Charon: Absolutely.

Mercury: With that said, you’re surrounded by friends right now, a few of which we gotta catch you up with.

Charon: Geezer too.

Mercury: Yeaaaah, he was supposed to be here today. We should catch him up too, can’t imagine what he’s like these days.

Charon: You might be shocked honestly.

Mercury: Really now?

Charon: Pretty confident in it, hoping he makes it back soon so you can see for yourself.

Mercury: Any sort of hints? Is he tall? Grew a mustache? Bet he went full cowboy…

Charon: Soon.

Mercury: You can’t leave me hanging on that.

Charon: You got one of those right.

Mercury: Knew it. He’s going to walk in and give the whole crew a big howdy.

Charon: I hope not…

[Fifth Reading]


CW: None

[Image: 1pK2qG0.png]
The two of you make your way upstairs and find hallways of living spaces. Mercury leads you to a door simple labeled with "Please Knock First..."

You can't help but feel a little nervous suddenly.

Mercury: This is Esperanto’s room. You’re going to want to go into this one alone.

Charon: What do you mean?

Mercury: I mean this one’s gonna get intense but also they insist on meeting everyone before the meeting so… you know.

Charon: Any reason?

Mercury: They’re the type who likes to screen people, you know how it is. We didn’t know we’d be picking you up today so they'd especially want that.

Charon: Mm.. I suppose I can understand. Doesn’t explain why you can’t come with me however.

Mercury: You want someone who can call for help if things get screwy.

Charon: I really don’t like that phrasing.

Mercury: Yeah well… good luck.

Charon: Ugh…

You knocked on the door. From the other side you can hear a voice.

“W-Who is this?”

“A new recruit, I was told to introduce myself.”

There was a long pause.

“Do come in… but don’t let the light follow you.”

You creek open the door enough to manage a peek inside. You get a very tiny glance before you’re dragged all the way through. The door shuts behind you.

The room is pitch black.

“Tell me your name.”


“Tell me your real name.”


“You walk in here carrying a title that suggests knighthood, yes?”

“Certainly, I wear it with the pride of my entire family.”

“Interesting… in that case I will accept it for now.”

The light flickers on with an uncanny and unnatural hue.

In front of you is a faceless figure, rather tall and despite the lack of eyes very clearly getting a good look at you.

“Esperanto. Curious…”

They walk up to you, fixating on every detail of your attire before zooming in on your off eye. You give them the cold stare.

Charon: Is everything alright?

Esperanto: You’re marked…are your intentions honest?

Charon: Pardon?

Esperanto: What’s your motivation for the job?

Charon: Tying a number of loose ends, some of which have plagued my family for years. Cults, witchcraft, rivalries, and curses.

Esperanto: A noble type?

Charon: I don’t know if I could say that.

Esperanto: Mm.. your eyes show decades but your face reeks of inexperience. The mocking presence, a cadence that can’t seem to decide whether it wants to laugh or cry. Pity.

Charon: What are you exactly going at here?

Esperanto: You reek of death and you have the reaper’s touch ingrained… yet somehow despite that, there’s a gentle nature you’re covering up. I can’t tell if you’re afraid or unqualified and that terrifies me.

Charon: We just met and yet your words attempt to tear at me with surgical prose. Who are you exactly to cast this level of judgment on me?

Esperanto: I’m simply testing your resolve. Right now I suggest you turn back and enjoy the rest of your life, you’re not cut out to be a killer. A little saint like you shouldn’t be imbued with a power like this or a burden so heavy. Why do you carry it?

Charon: If I don’t, someone else will have to. I have the power to do good for others and I’d be a fool not to use it.

Esperanto: You’re not entitled to.

Charon: If I stand by and let others suffer, it’s my responsibility.

Esperanto: I ponder you.

Charon: Go ahead.

Esperanto: Tell me Mr. Reaper, could you prove your own worth right now?

Charon: Define further.

Esperanto: I can see that little proxy of yours. Your heart and soul yet forever borrowed, you put in the work and yet it feels somewhat unearned. You sacrificed so much of yourself to gain it. Your health, your sanity, your childhood sense of innocence. 

Charon: It was what needed to be done and I’ll use it til there’s nothing left.

Esperanto: It carries a certain love to it, though it doesn’t belong to yourself exclusively. It remembers the taste of blood between its teeth and trials so cold that its bone remains frozen in time. Where are you truly?

Charon: My body stands before you, my mind scattered across time and space. One eye in the moment while the other can’t forget.

Esperanto: You are not whole but there’s just enough threads keeping you whole. It certainly concerns me if you’ll last through future trials to come, Mr. Reaper.

Charon: Though I do not know who I am individually, one’s person consists of everyone in their life. Everyone who loved them, everyone who they care for. Each moment of suffering and the ever healing wounds and scars that create the fabric of who I am. I cannot do everything but I can make the lives of others better.

A looming darkness creeps in suddenly, you feel your feet being pulled off the ground. You suspect it’s illusionary in nature but the intensity of it is too much to break out of.

Esperanto: I’d like to see what that truly means.

Charon: What are you doing?

Esperanto: I can tell so much of your history looking at you, but something throws me entirely off… I’m going to dig inside that skull of yours and find out who you really are.

The world around you rips and tears, your body is struggling to keep itself together.

Esperanto: A clash of the physical does nothing but tell me you’re a fool with talent. I’m going to challenge you on a front where you cannot run or hide. Do you have the strength to overcome such a trial or will you perish like the dog that you are?

Charon: You don’t scare me.

Esperanto: Do you wish to take my challenge?

Charon: You already know the answer.

Esperanto: Certainly a choice, cursed boy. I’m going to truly take you back to the beginning. You will suffer through great pain your body still hasn’t forgotten. If you succeed? You will be rewarded greatly. If you fail? I don’t wish to see your face in another guild ever again.

Charon: After everything? Backing down would be the move that proves me unworthy.

Esperanto: And you accept all the consequences that will come of this?

Charon: I do.

Esperanto: Excellent… do take care Mr. Reaper… I wish for your success in the end.

You feel yourself dragged into a slumber…

You feel everything shrinking...

The smell of your family home...

That very fateful day.
Back to the Past.
(Fifth Reading)

CW: Violence, Injury, Gore, Mention of Death, Emotional Abuse.


[Image: mIAwhlo.png]

You feel yourself being sucked into a familiar abyss. 

The air is cold, the sea breeze envelops your senses.

It’s the armory, your little slice in time and space but…

It’s not yours alone. 

Someone else is with you.

You hear the voice echo.

“Took that like a trooper. You pull off the blue look rather nicely.”

It… it couldn’t be.


“The one and only.”

You’re ripped back to that time and place where every word and action suddenly had the weight of an anvil for the first time. You may have been 14 but you were expected to work like a adult and punished just as hard in this world. 

You made friends…

“You lost plenty too.”

Burned down a cult.

“With every town on the way…”

You don’t know why he’s here. 

“Just because you killed me doesn’t mean I’m gone.”

Shut up.

“My body is lost and my soul’s been put through the paper shredder but you know what? That’s fine. The way you remember me keeps me alive in a way that matters just as much.”

Get out of here right now.

“You’re in a rush to make me leave? A pity. I’ll tell you though, no hard feelings for what you had to do.”

You made it that hard.

“I did…. Tell you what though, you’re forgetting something important.”

Something important….

You ponder…

Are you actually here? The war? Have you somehow been dragged back in time?

You feel your body dangling upside down.

You’re reminded of bruises and aches you haven’t had in over a decade.

Your stomach rumbles… it's been a bit since you’ve had a real meal

You miss your grandmother’s cooking…

"Then go back already. You don't need to be fighting out here."

If I don't who will?

"Plenty of others can carry that weight for you, go home and take care of your dear family..."

This isn't real. The angel pocket, the war, the mistakes.

You're seeing them all flash in front of you.

(Arcana 12)

CW: Violence, Injury.
[Image: S2rWJNZ.png]
Styx: Gathered yourself?

Charon: ....

Styx: What's wrong? Took more punishment than you thought you could?

Charon: I want to go home…

Styx: If you want to go back you need to keep your end of the contract. My kingdom for someone who can break me out. Now do you remember what you’re supposed to be doing right now?

Charon:  I… I was in the middle of a fight. I think I managed to find this place by accident but I kinda passed out after.

Styx: Mm… you’re awfully dehydrated and you’ve taken quite the beatdown, you deserve a rest.

Charon: I can’t, I need to go back right now. I just hope they’re all okay..

Styx: They’re more than fine, time doesn’t work the same between worlds. You taking a nap to rest off your injuries here is about a solid minute over there. Of course in most fights that feels like a millennia.

Charon: So in that case….

Styx: Mm. Rules work differently in this place. The armory, a little piece my host spent quite some time working on hoping some little heroic soul might one day find use for its utilities and knowledge. Impressive, right?

Charon: I guess.. I can pop in here anytime?

Styx: Mm… it’s quite large though and you do have to worry about bumping into others who took this same power up. Maybe you’ll meet him here…

Charon: Meet who?

Styx: Hard to say, I’m hoping you recognize him if the time comes and you make the right choices but we have yet to see. Also do be careful of the janitor, he’s quite friendly but he gets a little intense when he’s doing his maintenance routine. Don't want to be stuffed in a soul jar.

Charon: Why do we even have those?

Styx: In due time.

Charon: Noted…  

Styx: So tell me kid, what do you need right now? Tools? Archives? Perhaps a nice place to rest?

Charon: I need you to send me back to the fight right now.

Styx: You certain? Don’t you want to sit down for a bite and maybe renegotiate our contract? I don’t think your current one is going to give you enough to make it through this…. Or save your friends for that matter. 

Charon: What are you offering?

Styx: Something you absolutely need right now, the power to kill a god. If you’re strong enough you can keep everyone safe and make it back home, and if you're bright you'll keep yourself alive too. 

You are reluctantly considering it. 

Charon:  What’s the catch?

Styx: Nothing you can’t afford.. at least I think you should be fine.

Charon: I don’t like that wording. Don't bullshit me.

Styx: I just want a little more. You promised to get me out of this realm but I need more than a construct shell made of vendor’s trash or a refurbished corpse. You witchy types are pretty good at managing to get your hands on both and calling it a day. 

Charon: Alright… so you want guarantee of quality.

Styx: Mmhmm. That cult’s been stockpiling fiend bodies for their elites. They choose to indulge in the blessing of potential immortality that folks like you and I naturally are offered… one you should seriously consider more exploration of. 

Charon: I’m not stealing blood.

Styx: You don’t have to with the right friends and money- but fair enough. Not all of us can make the decision to ascend the mortal plane. My point is simple, though.

Charon: Grab you a body?

Styx: The strongest you can find. You’re not the only one I have a contract with in this world and I can tell you for certain that there’s some really powerful things they’ve been working on in there.

Charon: How do I know you’re not going to pull anything the moment we do?

Styx: Because you and your friends have enough firepower to check me easily right now, couldn’t if I wanted to. But… you need to have friends left. You aren’t strong enough right now to save them with how underdeveloped your proxy is but… if you want to speed up its growth I can certainly help you get there. 

Charon: Something like that could kill me right now….

Styx: It’s what you have and need the most. You’re weaker than all your friends, you don’t need them to see you as a burden. 

Charon: I’m not a burden…

Styx: They certainly think about the fact that they have to work extra to keep you safe. You can see it on their faces when they have to dive in and save you regularly. Erica especially, she’s been putting herself on the line the entire time hasn’t she? Doesn’t even know you’re her grandkid from the future but already has plenty of practice.

You fall silent.

Styx: You want to be helpful don’t you? You want to do everyone a big old favor and keep them safe? Then you know what you have to do.

He offers you a hand.

Charon: I want to make sure all of us make it out safely. I don’t want any sudden doublecrossing or wavering. 

Styx: I don’t care what any of you do after all this. The moment I get that body we’re parting our separate ways and never looking back.

You return the handshake.

Charon: I can live with that.

Styx: Now tell me Mr. Hero, are you ready to go back and make up for all your mistakes?

Charon: I’ll do whatever it takes, just let me save everyone.

Styx: Absolutely. I love it when we both get what we want out of a contract.

As you feel the power seep in, you’re yanked about a week forward. 

You’ve been planning this raid for months. You’ve torn through the block to get in admin after admin and now you’re finally in the moment confronting the center of it all.
(Arcana 16)
CW: Violence, Injury, Mention of Death, Emotional Abuse.

[Image: Cc0zOZS.png]

The cat looks down on you from her line of bangs with empty eyes and a croc smile. The presence around her is drowningly oppressive to the point that the air is almost suffocating. 

You look over to your friend to remind yourself that you’re not alone but..

Opera is just as scared as you if not worse.

Charon: Are you okay?

Opera: No.. you?

Charon: I'm trying to be.

You hear a intrusive voice echo in your head.

Styx: Time to pay up I do think. Don't disappoint.

What does that mean?

Styx: That's it, the biggest prize of all. Cash in.

This is it.
[Image: 33yz3xI.png]

(CWs: Violence, Injury, Fear, Gore, Mention of Death, Emotional Abuse)

You put up your guard immediately. You spoke big, yelled for weeks about how when the time comes you’ll be the one to dethrone the wretched leader of this cult and burn it all down with her…

And now that you’re here it’s taking your all just not to shake in front of her. 

You want to cry.

She looks directly at you. 

Rook: Why are you hesitating? 

Rook: You’ve caused me quite a bit of trouble these past couple of months. Bunch of misfits and mutts stirring up a mess just as we were on the verge of creating a utopic world. 

Rook: Pity you didn’t take the offer when it was given to you. Would’ve been a damn good addition. I’d give you one last chance but right now I think I’d like you better as fertilizer. 

She smirks.

Rook: Don’t have any words? All this talk of revolution and heroics and the moment you have the chance to make a difference you’re silent? Your friend there I can understand, but you? I expected more.

She approaches you slowly, every step with a mocking swagger before pressing her chest up directly against your weapon. 

Rook: Make this easy, show me you have the guts to do it. If you have any resolve you won’t hesita-

Before she finishes her monologue your proxy dives in immediately and blasts the upper part of her into chunks with a full powered slug. 

Opera can’t help make a scream out of shock. 

The rest of her stumbles back, struggling only for a moment to maintain its balance before managing to recollect itself. 

Her body rapidly reforms at rate so fast and grotesque you can’t help but wince. 

In one swift motion she cracks her neck before regaining her posture as if nothing had happened.

Rook: Didn’t even need me to finish talking to take orders, like a little soldier. 

Charon: So the rumors really are true…

Rook: Mmhmm. Can’t die no matter what you try to pull. Have to give praise where it’s needed though, you have the bite to back up your bark. 

She turns over to Opera.

Rook: That other one there did for awhile too but she gave up. I’m a little disappointed, got a lot of entertainment from all those attempts. Better for me though, a broken soul is easier to harvest. 

Opera: You’re awful, you and everyone around you!

Rook: You’re the reason all this suffering is happening in the first place. In another time and place you were dragged in here by the angel and took every desperate measure to make your way out until there was nothing left. 

Rook: Contracts with devils, breaking holes in reality, creating crimes against humanity. Nothing you wouldn’t do to get out of here… and when you did? Life changed, everyone moved on and you’d been gone so long there was nothing for you left. Miserable little thing became an unrecognizable shell and for no reward… 

Rook: When I came to collect you didn’t hesitate. You made yourself the perfect immortal host with the assets to bring down a small nation. Really are a gem of a person. Unfortunately at that point your soul didn’t hold up very long for someone like me and well… I needed something from you. Fortunately there’s plenty of realities to dig another you up from. 

Rook: Could you imagine finding out how much potential for tragedy you can create for yourself? You’ve already been gone from home so long too.. If you were to return now there’d be very little left. You parents never cared, your friends already gave up. 

Opera: You’re a lying piece of shit! 

Rook: Really? Then why am I here? Why are you looking down those sights pointing that barrel at me? Because you gave up, you have the potential for so much ruin and you didn’t even know-

Opera opens fire and tears a big hole through Rook’s chest. 

It takes a moment for her to regenerate, shock in her eyes this time.

Opera: I’m not you! I’m not you or anyone other than me right now! What you did, all your mistakes are yours to live with and nobody else’s!

Opera: You’re a leech, nothing you own was ever yours to begin with! The people under you, your crown, and the body you’re dragging around are all because you don’t have anything! You’re a pathetic excuse of a creature.

Rook: Touche. I’ll give you both credit, a lot more fire than the previous little heroes who managed to make it this far.

Charon: With any luck it’ll be the last. Right now you should be thinking about what god you want to meet at the end of this. 

You feel yourself fizzling out, recollecting things so vividly is taking a lot out of you. 

[Image: Y3pY57p.png]

(Arcana 11)
CW: None

Your bird friend has been spending the past 20 minutes examining your ghostly buddy thoroughly, not a thorn nor petal unchecked.

Hickory: Your proxy sure changed a lot after that last fight. 

Charon: Yeah.. is that normal?

Hickory: Absolutely. You’ve been through a lot these past couple of weeks here, you and your cousin aren’t going to stay green forever. Gotta say though, seeing it up close it’s pretty impressive. No idea how you managed to end up with something so strong this fast.

Charon: Yeah well… I guess there must be something special.

Hickory: Don’t get cocky… but yeah honestly, there might be. Maybe you always had something in you. Little bit of fire under your ass can bring it out.

Charon: Not something I really chose honestly…

Hickory: Don’t worry about it. 

Charon: So what’s happening then? Is it that much stronger?

Hickory: Proxies don’t necessarily get stronger when they change, sometimes it’s just different and you gotta adjust for it but… 

Hickory: Honestly? Probably stronger, yeah. I have to show Fenton, think he’d have some interesting thoughts on this.

Charon: Where is he anyway?

Hickory: Visiting the bodega, he likes taking care of the owner’s pets. 

Charon: I mean that cat is pretty good.

Hickory: …Charon.

Charon: Mm?

Hickory: The cat is the owner.

Charon: W-what?!

Hickory: Yeah. Call them gremlins. Bunch of weird little things that phase through and eat metal. Pretty wild stuff.

Charon: They eat… metal?!

Hickory: Yep. Easy to sustain in a place like this though with all the junk and debris the angel brings in. Speaking of, you wanna go check on him? He’s been gone for a bit…

Charon: Yeah, I’d be down-

You’re ripped out of the memory once again.

You were happy if only for a moment…

Esperanto: This is all wrong, there’s something deeper in here that’s haunting you. 

Esperanto: Something that’s changed your very physical being. I need to look to the furthest I can.

Charon: You don’t want that.

Esperanto: If I can’t figure it out I don’t want you on this job. If we’re compromised it could mean so much unneeded suffering.

Charon:I really would rather you not-

Your pleas are ignored.

You’re… here again.

Cw: Suffering, Fear, Violence. 
[Image: EB1weCA.png]

What is in front of you is something you can barely comprehend with your eyes alone but…

You can feel every pulse, every vibration of its emotions.

Its heart bleeds a tower of emotions into you.

Dread of reality…

Missing a long lost love…

An eternity of loneliness. 

Despite no need, the angel has taken a form that’s a puzzle of its original self. 


It speaks out.

JUDGEMENT: You’ve really come a long way haven’t you..

JUDGEMENT: I’m impressed.

JUDGEMENT: I can see a bit of him in you.

JUDGEMENT: Even though we’re meeting for the first time, it feels like meeting an old friend.

Charon: It’s weird but… yeah.

JUDGEMENT: Unfortunately we both know what has to be done.

Charon: Yeah… 

JUDGEMENT: You’ve gone through so much hardship, poor child.

Charon: It’s what I had to do. I know you’ve been through a lot too.

JUDGEMENT: I couldn’t describe it but… you can feel it, no?

Charon: Mm.

JUDGEMENT: You could’ve escaped with your friends. Why didn’t you?

Charon: Because I’ve got loose ends. You’re the biggest one of them all. 

JUDGEMENT: Fair enough. You know you can’t win though, right?

Charon: Don’t know that.

JUDGEMENT: There’s no reason for you to do this the hard way.

Charon: Wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t so…

Charon: Right now you’re SOL. 

JUDGEMENT: A fool. A brave one.

Charon: As always. 

JUDGEMENT: I’d like a little more time to enjoy the moment before we begin… it’s been a long time since I’ve met someone who understands.

Charon: I’m in no rush. 

JUDGEMENT: Miss him, really do but… I’m glad he has people. It means a lot to know he’s not alone.

Charon: He misses you too you know?

JUDGEMENT: That hurts to think about honestly… He deserves better.

Charon: Don’t think there is.

Charon: You’re the best there ever was.

Charon: The original Judgment. 
Rollback... Part 1 
[Intermission Chapter]
CW: None

SleightRemorse: Hey, hope you don’t mind DMs. I recently read your thread on Troubler’s Archive talking about your experiences with a pact gone sour. It really hit close to home and I guess I really appreciate seeing someone else talk about similar experiences. Are you up to talk about it some? I know it’s late so you don’t have to now.

SleightRemorse: Are you up to talk about it some? I know it’s late over there so you don’t have to now.

EternalPlatinumWinter: No it’s fine, I was up anyway. Tend to be most active late with the way my schedule is.

SleightRemorse: Oh good! So first off, any touchy subjects?

PlatinumWinter: Honestly, it’s hard talking about our mom sometimes so don’t expect me to answer every question about her. And I guess don’t make it too existential if you can? I know that’s kind of unavoidable with the topic but… you know.

SleightRemorse: After that, you have no idea how much of you is the real you.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Exactly, you get it.

SleightRemorse: On a side note, I really love that icon. Something about the expression feels comfortably smug. 

EternalPlatinumWinter: Good! 

SleightRemorse: Is it from anything?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Not in particular, just a character I drew a lot back in the day. Here.

[Image: Hhxpoxv.png]

SleightRemorse: Ah, a OC?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Feels weird calling it that but yeah

SleightRemorse: Yeh.

SleightRemorse: Can I hear more about them?

EternalPlatinumWinter: You wouldn’t want to hear about an old thing like that….

SleightRemorse: I mean, I used to have something similar as a kid. 

SleightRemorse: Hold on…

[Image: j6QeyIE.png]

EternalPlatinumWinter: That’s cute…

EternalPlatinumWinter: Any Name?

SleightRemorse: Call him Solly. He was a character I had back in the day as kind of my mascot. I still use him as a placeholder on a lot of my diagrams for witch tech.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Glad you found use for him still. 

SleightRemorse: So what about yours?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Mine? 

SleightRemorse: Lore drop, do it.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Fuck okay

EternalPlatinumWinter: So her name is Platino. She’s a duelist and bounty hunter who takes big money jobs and fights to help out kids living on the streets. She didn’t have an orphanage growing up so she wanted to be able to take care of kids without folks to take care of them.

EternalPlatinumWinter: I made her a lot of things that I wished I was as a kid. Brave, strong, confident in anything from fighting to romance. I guess it made it easy to imagine a life where I felt like I did what I wanted.

EternalPlatinumWinter: She became really personal to me so she’s still my Icon to this day.

EternalPlatinumWinter: I wanted to be that cool. Anyway sorry to vent like that, just didn't expect to be talking about her today.

SleightRemorse: You always still can be.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Maybe? I don’t know. These days I’m living away from my mom and I have a roommate with me but our scheduling is tricky.

SleightRemorse: Work?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Sort of. I only really post here late because my roommate needs the computer during the day and we both have work. We’re pretty busy people.

SleightRemorse: Ah, you don’t sleep in?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Nope. She hates it when I stay up too much because she’s not getting sleep either. Hopefully that’ll change soon, we made a bit of an investment. Something that’ll give us our space more.

SleightRemorse: Any details?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Not yet. We’re still looking through options but maybe I’ll show people when we figure it out.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Anyway, hopefully it’s not too late where you’re at.

SleightRemorse: It’s almost morning here so..

EternalPlatinumWinter: Oh god I’m sorry

SleightRemorse. I’m all good. I got some stuff to do in town soon though.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Ah. 

SleightRemorse: I wanna talk more though whenever we can. Would you be okay with that?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Yeah! 

SleightRemorse: What do you want me to call you by the way? You user name is a bit of a mouthful. Winter?

EternalPlatinumWinter: Winter is good. You?

SleightRemorse: Sleight is fine

SleightRemorse: We never really talked about the thread so I guess I’ll pester you later about it? I actually should go now.

EternalPlatinumWinter: You do good out there.

SleightRemorse: Of course. You too, get some sleep. Your roommate would probably appreciate that.

EternalPlatinumWinter: Will Do! 

SleightRemorse has Logged Off

EternalPlatinumWinter has Logged Off
Cw: Exploration of Trauma

[Image: unknown.png]
 JUDGEMENT: That’s a ton to assume… though I don’t know if you’re entirely wrong.

Charon: who else could you be?

JUDGEMENT: Just a eye on this world latched to a remnant looking for something beloved. I don’t know what fascinates you however…

JUDGEMENT: You’re not so different yourself. Maybe your humanity was fully intact when you entered but… something changed.

JUDGEMENT: And yet despite all that, you’re still you deep down.

JUDGEMENT: You have the admiration of the thousands who dwell here and the scorn of the kingdom you tore down.

Charon: I did what I had to, nothing more complicated than that.

JUDGEMENT: Mm. I can see him in you….

JUDGEMENT: You have that same heart… I’m sure your family is proud.

Charon: I don’t know honestly.

Charon: I got my Grandma and Geezer. And I guess all the folks I met here now too.

Charon: I’ll be honest, spent so much time being a burden. I wasn’t a knight or a hero or anything before I got here.

Charon: Don’t think I can call myself that honestly after the way things went.

JUDGEMENT: You did the people a favor didn’t you?

Charon: But I couldn’t save everyone…

JUDGEMENT: Nobody can, but you saved many regardless. You know, you were offered quite the deal.

JUDGEMENT: A crown that’d remain unchallenged, a shell of immortal flesh, and power to surpass all those who rule. Most would fall to that temptation.

JUDGEMENT: So why didn’t you take it up? I mean… I know why but.

Charon: You want to hear it from me.


Charon: Really I guess  I just… miss my home, my family, my bed…

Charon: Being a god and all sounds great but…

Charon: After everything?I just want to play some games, curl up a hot drink, and wait for my grandma to get home from work.

Charon: You miss that so much right now.

The angel stares off quietly for a bit, seemingly lost in thought.

Charon: Is everything okay?


JUDGEMENT: As much as you might feel disconnected from your previous sense of self, I think it’s very much still there.

JUDGEMENT: I want you to protect that with your life. Cherish it. You may not find the fame you seek…

JUDGEMENT: But you’re already further into figuring it out.

JUDGEMENT: Life isn’t about winning on a broad scale, or becoming wealthy and powerful. That’s something you more than understand.

Charon: It’s about that personal fulfillment. Feeling like those little interactions matter.

JUDGEMENT: Mm… I will say, when you return there will be a hardship you will carry on your back.

JUDGEMENT: The burden of knowledge. When you return, you’ll have seen so much and been through even more that you might have trouble connecting to that world.

JUDGEMENT: You’re just as much a resident of this place as you are where you came now.

JUDGEMENT: You’re a eldritch beast in the shape of man, everything from your thoughts to the fibers of your body are betrayed by your appearance.

Charon: I know.

JUDGEMENT: But… that doesn’t mean you stop being you. You may not always feel that way but.. It’s true.

Charon: Mm..

Charon: You’re like that too.

JUDGEMENT: To a bigger extreme.

Charon: Why don’t you come home with me? I know there’s someone there who misses you.

JUDGEMENT: Mm… the temptation is there but…

JUDGEMENT: I don’t know if I want him to see me like this. My existence would endanger him greatly.

Charon: We can fix you.

JUDGEMENT: No… though part of me wants to return, the angel that I’m merged with is a liability.

JUDGEMENT: I’d be endangering him and everyone else in this form. That’s why I exiled myself to the pocket.

Charon: That doesn’t feel right.

JUDGEMENT: Mm… Your only option is to free me at this point. Then maybe… part of me can be with him…

JUDGEMENT: Raise your sword.

Charon: I don’t want to fight you.

JUDGEMENT: You wish to go home? Show me your resolve. As a reaper, as a Judgment, as the best of all of us.

JUDGEMENT: You carry a common soul with anyone who’s worn the family crest. You’re just as good as any of them. You’re not making it home until you get past me, don’t give me less than your fullest.

Your feelings tenderize in the turmoil of being taken back to so many of these moments. Whether you like it or not, all of this was formative.

The bonds you made, the things you lost, the scars you carry. Every moment of it is what makes you who you are.

You feel the illusion around you ease some. A voice starts to echo in.

Esperanto: You’ve… been through so much.

Charon: What happened, happened.

Esperanto: At such a young age too… you poor child.

Charon: Don’t think it would’ve been any easier now if I’m honest but…

Charon: I’ll endure. I made it home, I have my family, and now I’ve caught up with folks from back then.

Charon: I won’t be alone, no matter how hard the future might get.

You hear them make a murmur.  You can make up a single torn utterance“ I’m sorry”

You weren’t sure if what you heard was real or not. Its tone bathes in a sense of genuine concern that gives you a conflicted sense of warmth.

Esperanto: I apologize for tearing in. I truly was worried something was left lingering to compromise things.

Charon: Personally I’m peeved after that but.. I suppose I understand.

Charon: I wouldn’t trust me either on a glance I-

The illusionary haze seems to spike back up.

Charon: I thought you were done!

Esperanto: I am, there’s something in there trying to manifest.

Esperanto: Some repressed elements I cannot contain.

Charon: Turn it off!

Esperanto:  I can’t!

Esperanto: Whatever happens next, don’t let it take you!

Esperanto: I’ll grab assistance! Stay there! I-
Before they finish, you find yourself dragged into a endless tidepool.

You’re taken back again….

???: That certainly was something.

???: I’m surprised enough of me was left in here to gather consciousness.

???: I do hope you remember me, our bargain isn’t quite done yet. 

???: Though I have to say, this reunion makes me… bittersweet.

[Image: unknown.png]

Charon: …Styx?

Styx: None other. Now let’s talk about cashing in, shall we?
A Morning Talk
[Intermission Chapter 2]
CW: Abusive Dynamics, Injury, Discussions of Death
[Image: unknown.png]

You find yourself stirring, waking up just before the crack of down and having a difficult time going back to sleep. 

You pace around, mess with your own personal writings, and try counting sheep. 

Nothing really works for you. 

You decide to go through your morning routine since your insomnia isn’t playing nice today. Ali went out to handle some work and she’ll more than likely be back soon. You choose to wait for her, perhaps getting the chance at a nice morning conversation…

As if anyone could have a nice conversation with Ali. 

You make yourself situated and comfortable, falling asleep on the couch to the white noise of the television.

Your dreams haven’t been the same ever since you made a contract with an otherworldly devil. They haunt you, feeling more like bad memories than anything.

 You see yourself as someone else, see yourself as a hero, and witness the end of the world in rapid fire.

 You wake up with a jolt even more tired than before somehow. As you try to shake things off you find yourself hearing a knock

Manzana: Who is it?

There’s a familiar grumble before the entrance door unlocks to the couch.

Stepping through is Ali, your tall hellhound of a mother.

Manzana: Ali?

Ali: It’s early, go back to sleep. 

Her cadence is weaker. You can see bandages and blood stains all over her outfit. You can identify bullet and knife wounds.

Manzana:You’re hurt.

Ali: Don’t you worry about me. Just gotta sleep it off. 

Manzana: Please let me help,They look really bad.. maybe I could jus-

Ali: Don’t even think about it. 

She looked worse for wear than you’ve ever seen her. You’re amazed she was able to walk herself through the door in that condition. 

Manzana: What even happened..?

Ali: Had to settle the score with someone in town. Thought age would’ve caught up with her but she had a lot more bite than usual today. 

Manzana: The other dog?

Ali: Mm. Big shame on me for getting hit. Got her just as good… still a net loss in the end. 

The other dog was a gunslinger, your adoptive mother’s sister who she regularly got into scuffles with but… by the look at Ali’s wounds…

It was certainly more dire than last time. 

Manzana: A net loss?

Ali: If I give her a limp she can still pop off her little annoying gun the next time. If I get a limp I’m going to struggle more next time. Don’t think it’ll be that bad..

Her face was flushed and her clothes were stained dark. She’d bled quite a bit.

Manzana: You need a doctor.

Ali: I’ll sleep it off. You catch some yourself while you still have the chance. I’m not going to be able to give you your lesson today at full capacity so take an extra hour today. 

Manzana: You shouldn’t be teaching at all!

Ali: Quitter’s talk. If I can’t teach by example I can’t prepare you for the world. Right now you’re witnessing a perfect example of the type of things you’ll have to be willing to tough through to pick up the mantle as knight. 

Manzana: Is this really the best way?

Ali: It’s the only way. Shit’s brutal. You can’t accept that? Don’t bother. 

Manzana: You should at least let me take a look at your wounds, if there’s bullets still inside-

Ali: I’ll get them out myself. 

Manzana: Ali…

Ali: Tell me, did you take your meds last night?

Manzana: Of course.

Ali: You check your card in the morning?

Manzana: Star reversed.

Ali: Don’t like that. Meditate on it, figure out a way to avoid pitfalls today. 

She gives you a little brief look before turning away.

Ali: Your eyes weren’t blue before. That pact of yours is taking a toll. Resolve it or execute. Choice is what you want it to be. That proxy of yours is strong but if it’s going to eat you up, you’re best off settling for good enough. 

Manzana: I don’t know if I can do that. It’s been hitting pretty hard. 

Ali: Yeah? You’re an adult, fix it. While you’re at it, get a trim too. Looks like a broom right now.

Manzana: A trim? 

Ali: Your hair’s growing pretty long.You want to either keep it short or tuck it away. Don’t need extra ways for people to grab you during a fight. Least you didn’t leave it hanging down.

Manzana: I like it..

Ali: Figures. I guess it’s important though right? 

You give her a hesitant nod.

Ali: It’s manageable enough I suppose.  Suggest a hat or something personally. They’re not my cup of tea but it’ll tuck it all away easy without having to gel it all back. You like dressing up in that costume stuff so I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

Manzana: Mm… 

She lets out a big yawn, her tough posture no longer quite as maintained.

Ali: Maybe I will call off today actually. I don’t want to take you out to the field until you have that resolved so I’m giving you the next couple of days to find a solution. If you don’t come up with something I’ll shave it all down myself. 

Manzana: Please don’t.

Ali: Then make things happen.

Ali starts slumping toward her room. 

Ali: Go handle your contract, meditate, figure out the solution to that hair. I’m going to go and take a break to rest off these wounds.

Manzana: Please let me help you, you’re going to bleed out..

Ali: Don’t stress over me, not planning to croak like this.Set an alarm for a couple hours from now, get your rest. 

Manzana: Mm…. I’m sorry.

Ali: My mistakes are mine to make, don’t apologize.

You hesitate to leave her on her own. You two have a bit of a strained relationship but.. You’ve never seen her like this.  Maybe you should pester…

Ali: Why aren’t you moving? Go.

Manzana: I… have a question.

Ali: Make it quick.

Manzana: You and the other dog, you both fight like this all the time right?

Ali: Pick your next words wisely.

Manzana: What happens when you eventually win?

Ali:  Her kids would hunt me down after that. They’re soft, but they’ve got a lot of talent. Wasted on them really.

Manzana: And you’ll fight them too? 

Ali: Absolutely. Until someone strong enough to break our curse appears I can’t rest. I can’t go down til the cream rises to the top, and if that ends up being me in the end so be it. 

Manzana: What happens if you can’t keep fighting?

Ali: You think I’ll die?

Manzana: No but-

Ali: That’s always a real chance. If she manages to gun me down by surprise I got a few backup plans.

Manzana: A few?

Ali: Always need more than one. Had a couple others just in case but… one I don’t see being viable and the other? We’ll see. That's all you got to ask?

Manzana: Mm… 

Ali: Good. 

Manzana: Don’t push yourself too hard today-

Ali: Go to bed. I’ll see you in a bit. 
A Reaper's Dilemma 
[Sixth Reading]
CW: Death, Existential Horror, Manipulation 

[Image: fading_memory.png]

You Jab him with Zero Hesitation. 
 Charon: What do you want?

Styx: Didn't even wait... A second chance I’m not going to get. Worked my ass off and gave you everything you needed to survive. When the time came to pay up? You burned that contract and didn’t pay a dime’s worth of what you promised.

Charon: You know what you wanted wasn’t fair.

Styx: You took the deal anyway.

Charon: I was a kid.

Styx: Then you should’ve stayed home and played your little games instead of summoning demons, hmm? Not that it matters now. Doubt there’s enough of me to qualify as my own person anymore. A fragment.

Charon: A pretty talkative one.

Styx: Maybe… one who’s keeping you together however. Even now my work’s still being used without compensation. You’d be a damn good executive.

Charon: I don’t think I understand.

Styx: Your mind should’ve shattered and your body crumbled underneath the pressure of forbidden knowledge.

[Image: final_starmen.png]

Styx: You’re a dead man walking and you haven’t noticed all this time. At least you pretend not to.

Styx: The truth is that you’re a toy knight held together by glue and string. The name you wear is a pile of lies and the real you was left behind back in that other world.

Styx: Charon Judgment died and what you are now is an amalgamation of the suffering you couldn’t prevent.

Styx: You ever feel so dissociated from yourself that you can’t tell what’s real anymore? Because you aren’t. What’s left of that child is truly dead. Those eyes tell that story to anyone who’s witnessed one suffer that fate.

Charon: Why should I believe you? Why should I believe anything you say?

Styx: Because I’ve never lied to you once, simply told the truth in a way that was most convenient for both of us.
Charon: You took advantage of me! Advantage of everyone you’ve met!

Styx: I put you in the right place at the right time! Everyone got to make it out of there except for me. You abandoned me, left me to die in the hot sun.

Charon: Geezer lost his body. He doesn’t talk about it, but I know it bothers him.

Styx: And who’s fault is that? You knew the risks that came with your little dabbling in the dark arts and dragged him along. That’s on you just as much as it’s on me.

Charon: I know, and I can never forgive myself for that, but-

Styx: You’re lucky you ended up coming into contact with me, if it was anyone else you’d both be emptied out and turned into envoys for something much worse. That kid who got left behind? He had potential. You? You’re a loser and until you accept that, you won’t get better.

Styx: And the funniest part is? Even if you did? I think you’d still run your life into the ground. All I see in your future is suffering and a fight you can’t win.

Styx: That’s the curse of your family, anyone who takes the mantle will die painfully and alone against a foe they cannot beat.. You’re not special. The angel? The Cult? That’s just a prelude to the wickedness ahead.

Styx: And the best part is? It’s all misery you’ve inflicted on yourself.

Charon: I know the risks ahead. My mistakes are my own, and my future is a responsibility I accept.

Charon: And no matter how much it hurts, no matter how hard it gets? I can’t allow people like you to roam around freely.

Charon: I’ve seen the worst of people and I’m tired of it, all I want to do is leave behind the best I can make.

Styx: A pact just like yours and mine limits the time you have. Your predecessors did what they had to and were more than willing to sell out their future kin. 

Charon: Eye for an eye, a debt paid in blood. For every darkness quelled, a light must be snuffed out. All things stay balanced.

Styx: You’ll perish in the process like everyone else.

[Image: recesspuffs.png]

Charon: So be it, but if I’m honest? I don’t think I will.

Styx: You seem really sure of that.

Charon: If the light gets snuffed, then the answer is to be anything but.

Charon: I chose to be the devil of a lesser evil.

Styx: Painfully optimistic… and incredibly garish.

Charon: I don’t apologize for it.

Styx: Worthless words.

Styx: I wasn’t planning to be here today if I’m frank. Bastard dug through here and managed to wake me up.. Whatever’s left anyway.

Charon: Just a fragment, a pile of memories held together by blood.

Styx: And a shadow of a knight kept intact by string.

Charon: You know, I missed you early on. You’re bad for me but… there were times I wanted to believe you were looking out for me.

Styx: To some degree I was, even if the reasons were selfish.

Charon: A fallen king without people.

Styx: And yet a single knight managed to find his way into my court. How curious.

Styx: What power I have left is dwindled… and this exchange may have finished the rest.

Styx: Despite being a fragment of a person, I don’t want to die. I will keep you alive by giving you my last blessing.

Charon: And what would that be?

Styx: Your true self, you’ll witness it. It’ll be a hard road ahead but… if you can figure out that much, you’ll be able to make it through the storm.

Styx starts to fizzle.

Styx: The people in your life will take good care of you if you do the same.

Styx: I just hope wherever I return… they’ll be willing to forgive me.

Styx: I hope he’ll accept me even with all the wrong I’ve done.

[Image: end_is_near.png]

Styx: I want to be happy, I think.

You awake abruptly, Esperanto looking over you.

Esperanto: I’ve purged you of what was compromising you.

Esperanto: You carried a nasty mark on you, one that should’ve done a number years ago.

Esperanto: I do sense something different…

Charon: Mm… a lot happened…

Esperanto: Certainly did.. Your friend seems to be having a bit of trouble right now but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Charon: My friend?

Esperanto: Your proxy.

[Image: well_be_okay_I_think.png]

You look over. Your proxy rests, leaning against the wall. Its form having shifted dramatically. Its new face seems tired in a way you’ve never seen from it. A weight has been taken off its shoulders.

Esperanto: It’s form was maintained by whatever burden you carried previously…

Charon: Will it be okay?

Esperanto: Mm… this sort of thing is bound to happen when someone has a proxy for as long as you have. It develops multiple faces.

Charon: I’ve read about this, but never was sure what it meant.

Esperanto: Just like you have various phases emotionally, it will too. It hasn’t discarded its old shape, simply made it one of many it’ll develop. Perhaps it’ll find its old form again but as it is now?

Charon: It’s more honest to who I am at the moment.

Esperanto: Exactly.

There was a knock on the door.

Esperanto: I’ll handle that, just figure you’re being checked on. Go comfort it, I think it needs it.

You make your way over to check on it. You grab its hand, now skeletal and with claws rather than its usual smooth porcelain-like finish.
It doesn’t look at you but seems to acknowledge you by squeezing your fingers.

[Image: Im_gonna_be_okay.png]

Charon: You’ve been faking it for so long, huh? Me too. We’ll work on ourselves together.

Charon: This is going to be the start of some help we’ve both needed. It might be hard but….

Charon: We’ll have plenty of good folks with us the whole way.
A Seraph's Discovery
[Seventh Reading]
CW: Death, Existential Horror, Manipulation 
Perspective: Manzana Judgment.

[Image: unknown.png]

 You’ve been working hard today to make up for the time you’ll be out taking a break.

So hard you’ve conked out in the middle of a job. You’re Manzana, a witch researching arcane artifacts ranging from weapons to tools to old construct bodies. Today’s study is a scythe who may be bringing a surprise turn of events soon..

You hear a voice disrupt your much needed slumber.

???: Morning.. You dozed off at your station.

Manzana: What are you doing in here? How’d you get in?

???: I was always here… well, both me and the body you see right now. Shorter than I’d like but I wasn’t all that tall to begin with.

Manzana: The manufactured rig…

???: The what?

Manzana: One of many made, it’s one of the otherworldly items I was asked to examine.

???: Ah… this didn’t belong to anyone did it? Don’t mean to be a thief if I can avoid it.

Manzana: Not that I know of, no. If there was someone they’re long gone.

???: Huh..

Manzana: Now explain yourself, who are you exactly?

???: Someone who promised to be there in times of need. I’m not the most thrilled to be here but I do what I have to. I know you’ve been at work studying this here scythe. Mentor of yours sure was insistent on it.

Manzana: It’s her bloodright from what I understand but she can’t seem to operate it. She.. noticed I was having better luck.

???: That’s because you need it more. Her name’s Ali right?

Manzana: Mm, that’s my mother.

???: Disgraceful, my scythe will never do for a soul that bitter and tainted. Course… from what I understand it’s your job to change that.

Manzana: Unfortunately… It seemed to actively go against her time after time.

???: I just don’t like her vibe.

Manzana: Implying that the scythe is… you?

???: Not really, just a soul inside waiting for the right time. Been a good decade since I’ve been able to talk to anyone directly.

Manzana: Ali mentioned something like that… which means you’re…

???: Just an old knight who’s still got business to attend to.

Manzana: And what’s that?

???: Hard to say, you’re going to have a visitor bring you important news soon though. An offer you really don’t want to miss.

Manzana: Who?

???: I can’t say for sure? Believe like I know this one but I can’t say for sure.Can see someone for sure though, a friend?

Manzana: What do you mean by see? The future? As in-

???: Clairvoyance, mmhmm. Somewhat anyway. Not the most helpful but the fact that I’m here is a sign of something I do think… speaking of I never gave you a name. Zinnia Judgment, at least half of what’s left.

Manzana: Like… the old fairy tale? That Zinnia Judgment?

Zinnia: Mm, guess so. You’ve heard then?

Manzana: Mm… it’s pretty well known in some parts. Story of Taverneian origin.

Zinnia: Ah.. implying we’re not there?

Manzana: Mm, we’re in Plaza.

Zinnia: Not familiar…

Their ears flopped down.

Manzana: Are you alright?

Zinnia: Not really… I was hoping I’d be able to see a few people while I’m here. For the best though, wouldn’t be able to look the most dignified like this.

Manzana: What do you mean?

Zinnia: Short.

Manzana: I’m not exactly much taller.

Zinnia: You’re tall proportioned though, makes you look bigger in photos with the right trick or too. I’m just… short.

Manzana: You’ll get used to it.

Zinnia: I suppose… anyway you’re Manzana if I recall correct.

Manzana: I am.

Zinnia: You live with someone else yeah? What was their name uh.. Platino?

Manzana: …Yes?

Zinnia: Mm. Only have gauged so much from being around the corner but he seems nice enough. Lucky to have a good friend like that.

Manzana:... Yeah. I really am.

Zinnia: Sometimes a family can be a ghost and a rabbit you know.

Manzana: You know from experience?

Zinnia: I mean I’ve had ghosts and rabbits around plenty of times… I guess now I’m a ghost too. Anyway for now I guess I’m here to help you in whatever way you need.

Manzana: What can you offer exactly?

Zinnia: A familiar, you’re a witch aren’t you?

Manzana: I am.

Zinnia: Then you should have one frankly. Good to have a hand around with work.

Manzana: Unfortunately I’m wrapping up today so you came at a odd time.

Zinnia: Ah… Maybe I could help at home for now? Least til I can gauge our situation better.

Manzana: Not for now I don’t think…have a few plans. But if you headed back home and give Platino a hand that’d be nice.

Zinnia: Can do, remember the way surprisingly enough and the two of you got the same aura. Makes it easy to track down. Whatcha busy with anyway?

Manzana:... Date night.

Zinnia: Oh! Wonderful! You should have fun, you’ve earned that.

Manzana: What makes you say that?

Zinnia: I can tell you work hard and barely get time to enjoy yourself. Now’s a good day.

Manzana: Mm. I’ll be heading out soon to go home and get changed. I can probably take you with me actually.

Zinnia: Easy.

Manzana: Let me just pack it up…

Zinnia: Take your time, you don’t get this sort of opportunity every day after all… makes me happy seeing others discover love like that.

Manzana: I mean we just started dating…

Zinnia: Mm maybe. But can’t help but want the best for others.

Manzana:... You have someone right? The spider?

Zinnia: Mm… he’s still around I’m sure. Miss him a lot.

Manzana:.. Do you want me to take you to him when this is over? I know where he lives.

Zinnia: If you could.. Can only hope I’ll last that long.

Manzana: I’ll see what can be done.

You finish closing up shop and gather your belongings.

Zinnia: All good?

Manzana: Mm, we’re going to get you settled.
The Fallen Witch
[Eighth Reading]
CW: None
Perspective: Manzana Judgment.
[Image: unknown.png]
You scramble home.

On the way back you talk to Zinnia..

They have a lot to say about their old home, their family…

Their partner comes up quite a bit.

As you make your way back you bring up your roommate. You don’t have time to order dinner yourself for him..

Zinnia offers to go grab something for him and vanishes off quickly.

You have no idea if they know their way around but you give them the address to your home just to be sure.

When you return, Platino is fast asleep. They seem comfortable.

It makes you happy knowing he’s getting rest honestly, he has a tendency to stay up all night.

You make your way over to your room to get ready. You clean up, try to look your best..

You take a look in the mirror time and time again….

Until your reflection betrays you.

The person you see bares a resemblance, but at the end of the day it isn’t you.

You initiate despite your better judgment telling you to ignore it.

Manzana: Seems like I have a guest.

???: Mm, hope you don’t mind me getting a few words in. They might save your life.

Manzana: You’re here to warn me?

???: You could say that. See you dressing to go out, is it that little partner of yours?

Manzana: It’s our first date but…

???: Ah! The strange monster rabbit?

Manzana: Please don’t call them that..

???: Perhaps you’re right, they’re quite the sweetheart.

???: To a fault frankly, accepted us despite everything. Lot more to ignore when it comes to me than you though. It’s a bit of a mystery to me….. You deserve a little fun after all the work you put in… think I learned that the hard way.

???: Anyway, you have something I’ve put all my person into getting my hands on, something that got me killed. You met them today, yes? The original.

Manzana: Zinnia?

???: Mm. Can’t believe you beat me to the punch in a fraction of the time. Proof I’m a failure really.

You feel your the bumps on your skin rattle…

Manzana: How’d you get here?

???: Secret magic you were working on where I came from. You bear a curse, forbidden knowledge nobody should have to carry.

???: You chose to look into other worlds for escape, a happy ending… but more than often you see something you don’t like.

Manzana: No kidding.

???: Harsh…

Manzana: If you’re who I think you are then-

???: I’m not.. And neither are you for that matter but that’s something you have to address. I took the form I thought I needed and.. Merged into something miserable. What’s left is neither of the components, only the hollowness of both. There is no Manzana nor an Ali left where I come from, I’m all that remains.

Manzana: What did you do?!

???: The same thing you did, tap into magic nobody should be allowed to have. Discarded my own dying flesh to get more years, to take what you robbed me of. That polearm, Zinnia’s soul… they seemed like birthright.

Manzana: You wanted your hands on it so bad you took over my life…?

???: Mm.. a warning should your Ali ever come to you seeking medical attention. Don’t turn your back and have a plan to kill her yourself if things are looking sour.

Manzana: Is she planning something like that now?!

???: Hard to say, I’d be careful. Though frankly you’re not quite Manzana right now either. You’re missing something even if a lot of the key components seem to be there. I detect the rest in this dwelling.

???: You made a contract that went sour, I can see it in your eyes.

Manzana: It worked out right?

???: Maybe, there’s a chance it will. You’re better off than others who’ve made the same mistake and you have more of your person left than me. You must’ve done something right. Where’s the rest of you? The other half who you share a soul with.

Manzana: Platino? He’s asleep…

???: Can you trust him?

Manzana: Yes? Why?

???: Tomorrow I’ll visit you again, inform him. In the next couple of weeks I feel something huge coming… I want to make sure you’re ready.

Manzana: That’s what Zinnia said, but they don’t seem to know much either…

???: I don’t feel it coming quite yet, you should be good for your date night…. They’re wonderful, I hope you commit to it even with dire things coming up. Happiness is something of high value and scarcity in the lives of those I used to be..

You can’t help but wince at those words…

Really is hard to be happy. There’s little moments and those who stuck by you mean a lot but…

You shake it off as best you can but it lingers.

???: Sorry. For now all you need to know is you’re going to have a meeting very soon that’ll change your life forever. I can’t say too much more or it might not happen. Just enjoy your night and well…

She stares off for a bit… lost in a sentimentality you don’t understand.

???: Don’t repeat the mistakes of either of us… I have a few others like you to warn.

Manzana: Will I see you in the mirror again?

???: Maybe. Maybe not… could be a completely different person entirely. Your fate is something both yours and yet far from truly in your control. The next Manzana you encounter could be an ally or deceiver. You’ll need to know the difference as soon as possible.

???: You have good people though, and you’ll have many more soon.

???: Just… trust them when you find them.

The reflection fizzles out.

What’s left in the mirror standing is you.

You feel a delayed quake through your blood, everything pulsing hard.

What have you signed up for here?
[Ninth Reading]
CW: None
Perspective: Manzana Judgment.

[Image: unknown.png]

You feel the rush of your life right now.

You finally made that date.

Dinner, a movie, and some time at a karaoke bar…

And it’s actually going well.

You can’t believe it….

Your date is gushing, you feel proud…

Budgie: Oh my god, I never knew you could sing like that!

Manzana: I mean it’s just karaoke…

Budgie: Yeah and? It’s good!

Manzana: I mean the correction on the machine helped…

Budgie: Come oooon, give yourself some credit here! Never been on a date with someone who’s got chops like that..

Manzana: I used to practice back in the day but that was a long time ago..  Wouldn’t have gone for it honestly without you prompting.

Budgie: Oh? I didn’t push you into anything did I…?

Manzana: You’re fine! I just didn’t want to leave you hanging. Can’t have my date do a duet on their own.

Budgie: Joke’s on you, I would’ve gone for it.

Manzana: I… how would that work?

Budgie: I’d figure it out. You know I’ve never seen you smile as much as today?

Manzana: I’m not much of one to be honest.

Budgie: It’s cute on you, makes me happy I could be part of that you know?

Manzana: You’re going to make me cry with something like that..

Budgie: Wait, really or-

Manzana: Hard to say. I really needed tonight though. Work’s been a lot of stress and lately life’s been weird and hectic and, you know.

Budgie: Yeah? Well, you know… glad to.

Manzana: And it’s nice having someone walk me back to my street too..

Budgie: You usually on your own?

Manzana: Mm.. I get a bit nervous at night so it’s nice. I can keep myself safe if I need to but…

Budgie: Yeah I can tell! You managed to sweep me off my feet while dancing..

Manzana: I train regularly.

Budgie: I mean I like someone with a little muscle personally. Makes me feel safe….

Manzana: You’re more toned than me!

Budgie: Yeah? Your point? I’m not a fighter!

Manzana: I’m not all that much of one either, I just have to sometimes. Occupational hazard.

Budgie: With the witch thing? I thought it was more of an engineering job?

Manzana: I have a license for knighting too. If something goes wrong I have to do double shifts. Right now it’s just been a lot of tinkering… but I like that honestly.

Manzana: Don’t really like having to talk to suits or handle contracts but poking around with it well…

Manzana: Honestly rather spend my time at a workbench than making impressions.

Budgie: You’re more of a hands-on type?

Manzana: Absolutely. I’m in it for the craft, not everything else.. But you have to get funding somewhere.

Budgie: Ah.. the old compromise with the devil.

Manzana: I do what I have to..

Budgie: If you could get away from that, would you?

Manzana: Absolutely but.. Now’s not the time.

Manzana: I don’t want to kill the mood though…

Budgie: You’re fine! I wanna hear more about you.

Manzana: Not used to that.

Budgie: Get used to it then! You deserve that much…

Manzana: Maybe…

Budgie: No maybes! You do and I want to hear more.

Manzana: I’d bore you..

Budgie: Course not, anytime I talk to you I learn something new.

Manzana: People usually get annoyed by that. Gets annoying for most and they never really know how to reply so they just tune out.

Budgie: I don’t think that’s true at all.

Manzana: Maybe not for you but…

Manzana: Don’t need people like that anyway. If you don’t mind being an ear for a bit I’d love to…

Budgie: Learning how to punch a ghost from a cute witch? Sounds like a dream..

Manzana: I’m *not* cute…

Budgie: Could fool me. You got that hair…

Manzana: It’s so messy…

Budgie: Exactly. Those eyes too…

Manzana: You like them?

Budgie: The little hearts are adorable…

Manzana: I could tell you liked those… I left my shades at home so you could see them better.
Budgie: Don’t you need those?

Manzana: Yes… I can’t see past 5 feet right now actually.

Budgie: Oh no…

Manzana: I have you to walk with me so I don’t mind…

Budgie: You didn’t have to do that..

Manzana: I wanted to look good for you so…

Budgie: You always do… 

You manage to reach your block. You’re reluctant to end the date just yet…

Manzana: You… have work tomorrow?

Budgie: No? Why?

Manzana: Thinking.. Maybe let's spend a bit more time together. Don’t think I’m ready to go home just yet.

The mimic’s ears perk up in excitement.

Budgie: Sure! Just name where you want to go next.

Manzana: I’ll come up with it in a moment, let me just check in on my roommate quick yeah? I’ll be back in a sec…

Budgie: Mm, take your time! Get your glasses while you’re there!

You let go of their hand hesitantly and walk on ahead.

Manzana:  I will! I’ll be quick about it!

You won’t be. As you walk down to find your apartment you bump into a familiar rival.

[Image: haunting.png]

He has his knight coat on. You’re going to be dragged into a fight and there’s no way to stop it…

Geezer: Yo.

Geezer: We got something important to talk about.

So you have to finish it as fast as possible

With a single spell you can end a potential scrap with him before he can start.

[Image: Manzana_Fies.png]
The words wrap around your lips as you murmur.

You take the shot before he has time to react.

CW: Injury.

[Image: unknown.png]

As you comfort your proxy there’s one last echo.

“You remind me of some friends of mine… don’t let things be in vain.”

You shake it off. Whatever remnants of that devil remain are not going to pester you.

Esperanto walks back to you after a brief conversation with Mercury.

Esperanto: We got a report.… Geezer’s returned with someone else. Rosario managed to capture them without incident..  Your cousin’s been wounded but vouches for this person who supposedly shot him by accident. Opera is handling interrogation. Let’s go downstairs yes?

They offer you a hand and lift you up.

Charon: Any details on this other person?

Esperanto: Dopple, seems to be a local witch based on what we can gauge of her. While we doubt there was foul play on her part it’s good to make sure. Magic can be used for very controlling and manipulative purposes

Charon: You think there’s brainwashing involved?

Esperanto: No… but something about her worries me.

Charon: Let's make haste, I want to make sure Geezer’s okay.

Esperanto: Mm… after if things are in order we’ll have our meeting. Once again I apologize for making things difficult but… I do need you to return. We have a lot of healing to work on.

You give them a nod.

The two of you make downstairs at once toward the main room. You spot Opera pacing around a very stressed looking white haired rabbit. Geezer is on the side being treated by Mercury and a friend you haven’t seen in a good while. Rosario leans against the wall watching quietly.

Your immediate instinct is to check on your cousin, the interrogation can wait.

Charon: Geezer? Fenton?

[Image: Sining.png]

Fenton: Give me a moment, handling things... good to see you though. Geezer just stay still yeah?

Geezer: I’m fine! Just got uh… roughed up a little you know?

Fenton: No you’re not! It doesn’t look lethal but your frame’s looking a bit shaky.

Charon: What happened?

Geezer: A misstep, went to visit an associate in the knight business of mind. Her name’s Manzana, we got a bit of a mixed history but felt like she might be able to help us out.

Charon: Looks like she got you good instead.

Geezer: Don’t worry about it, I’m managing fine... I got these two keeping an eye on me.

His shirt has been burned through, something struck him with a lot of force.

Mercury: It looks like whatever hit you wasn’t the cleanest shot, we should get you to a bed.

Geezer: Nah, easy repair, I can handle it later..

Fenton: Don’t you dare downplay this, you’re going to die early like that.

Mercury: Yeah no, I appreciate you trying to keep things calm but..

Geezer: Is it lethal?

Mercury: No… it's pretty deep though.
[Image: MOSHED-2022-3-15-12-43-5.jpg]
Charon: What happened to you?

Geezer: Just a bit of a mishap, did it to myself really.

Fenton: Did she shoot you?

Geezer: Accident but… Kinda approached her late at night. Wasn’t exactly a smart move on my part.

Charon: Do you know her?

Geezer: Yeah, friendly rival of mine. Figured she’d be good for this job you know? Sure has the aim for it.

Charon: Why was she carrying a gun?!

Geezer: Magic, pretty sure it’s a proxy thing.

You look over at the rabbit, you see Opera going a little hard on the interrogation.

Fenton: I don’t remember her being that much of a hardass.. Guess years will do that.

Mercury: Always had it in her honestly…

Charon: Think I might pop in, you two sure you got Geezer?

Fenton: Course I do. Helped you rig his body, helped you fix your arm plenty of times. We don’t talk in a decade and it’s like you’ve forgotten! Shame!

Charon: Guess I shouldn’t worry too bad.

Mercury: The two of us will have him patched up. Promise you kid.

Geezer: Yeah, honestly you and your witch stuff’s got a better shot at this.

He gives you the finger guns through the pain.

Geezer: You got this.
You give him one last nod, a little hesitant to leave him alone but immediately making your way toward the interrogation. The rabbit is on the verge of dissociating.

Opera has her hand in her vest.

Opera: So you shot him.

Manzana: By accident…

Opera: What had you so spooked?

Manzana: A tall person waiting for you around the corner at night would make anyone jump, no?

Opera: I suppose that’s fair… so you didn’t recognize him?

Manzana: I mean… I did a little.

Opera: A little…?

Manzana: We have a history of fighting..

Opera: Sparring or…

Manzana: Legitimate duels, though he’s not one to provoke them…

Opera: Why? 
Manzana: It’s… a little personal. I’d rather not go into it with someone who has a weapon at ready.

Opera: So you noticed?

Manzana: It’s clear as day, among other things. I can see a lot looking at you and I’m… honestly sorry you had to go through as much as you did.

Opera:... What did you see?

Manzana: Enough…. I didn’t do this intentionally and he vouched for me…

Opera: Geezer’s too nice to take his word sometimes, no offense.
[Image: unknown.png]
You get a good look at the rabbit’s eyes.

They’re like yours…

You immediately step in.

Charon: Opera, you mind if I get a few words in? Certainly you can use the break.

Opera: You got something in mind?

Charon: Perhaps…

You gesture to Opera, she steps aside. The rabbit looks at you, very tired and a little puzzled.

Charon: You’ve made a pact, a hard one at that.

Her ears tilt in response. She makes direct eye contact.

Manzana: Can see you have too, with a pretty nasty entity at that. That all you’ve come to talk about?

Charon: No. I can tell from a glance that you don’t have any ill intent aimed at us.

Manzana: Don’t know any of you so… hard to really. Can’t say you’ve made a good impression though. Questioned at gunpoint…

Charon: Opera’s just protective, you’d understand if you knew her better. Why’d you bring Geezer back?

Manzana: I wanted to get him treatment ASAP and he said this would be the best place to. You’re his friend?

Charon: Cousin.

Manzana: That’s weird… you don’t look all that related but I can see it just fine. You two are too nice for your own good.

Charon: What do you mean?

Manzana: You’re giving me this soft tone when I could easily turn you into a frog or pickle your soul for the black market.

Charon: I can tell, there’s a powerful aura coming out of you.

Manzana: Yours reeks of bad omen, I think I’d rather take my chances with the cat but… despite my better judgment I’ll keep talking. You and that family of yours, can’t understand them I don’t think.

Charon: You’re familiar with them?

Manzana: Unfortunately. Mother dragged me into her feud with the old gunslinger, god knows how many times.

Charon: Erica?

Manzana: Mm..

Charon: She’s my grandmother… and I suppose that means.. Your mother is Ali?

Manzana: Mm. Much to my dismay but… she’s done a lot to secure my future in the career so I owe her. This makes us enemies, no? The two sides of the family forced to feud?

Charon: Erica never gave me proper training so, as much as she means to me I’m not tied to it.

Manzana: A freedom I wish I had…

Manzana seems to look off for a moment, gaze a tad lost.

Charon: Are you okay?

Manzana: Quick question, do you go anywhere online by the name Sleight?

Your eyes widen in surprise.

Charon: Why are you asking this?

Manzana: Mm, that confirms it I think. There’s… someone here for you actually. Someone who wants to talk to you specifically.

You’re reluctant. You know what they say about inviting vampires in and the same principles are involved here.

Charon: Why me?

Manzana: Because you haven’t logged in for months. They’re pretty excited so I’m going to pass it over to them. Don’t have to say yes but… think they’d appreciate it.

Opera shakes her head at you with a worried look.
You take the risk anyway. Whatever this is, you’ve got it under handle.

Charon: Let them in.

The look her eyes shifts, there’s a sudden genuine excitement that’s struggling to be held back.

???: Oh my god, small world! Didn’t know you were in town or I’d have asked if you wanted to meet up! Always thought you’d be taller honestly..

Charon: I get that plenty..

???: Ah! Sorry about that, just didn’t think I’d see you today… wish it was under more relaxed circumstances. Come here!

They offer out their arms for a hug. You stare at them with a bit of confusion.

It finally clicks.

Charon:... Winter?

Platino: You can call me Plat, hyped as hell right now. Anyway uh, if you don’t wanna-

You go in for the hug.

Opera: Charon? Are you uh…do you know them?

Charon: Yes and I’m going to need everyone to back up, I’m having a lot of moments today.

Opera: Are you going to cry..?

Charon: Pen pals are different…

Opera: Ah… you didn’t give me a hug…neither of you did..

Charon: ….Did you want one?

Opera: The moment’s passed…

Charon: I’m sorry…

Opera shakes her head

Opera: I was joking! Though next time I’d appreciate it, I really do miss everyone even if we only knew each other for a little bit..

Charon: Formative times.

Opera: Mm…

Platino: So uh… you’re not going to pummel us or anything yeah? We’ll do anything we gotta to patch up your friend just…

Opera: Charon? You know this person a little right? What do you think…

Charon: I think we should let them in… with eyes kept of course but… I know they're good person. Well.. people it seems…

Platino: Yeah, guess I never mentioned that huh? I mean I got my own body a lot of the time but I wasn’t gonna get here fast enough by foot so… you know.

Charon: I get it. Just behave while you’re here, we probably want to catch up on a few blanks here that are complicating this situation.

Platino: Course. I’ll let Manzana back in a sec. Legit though, really nice meeting you in person. We should hang out a bit while you’re in town yeah? You can bring your friends along.

Charon: Absolutely.


CW: None

[Image: two_sad_witches_2.png]

After a moment, Platino’s smile fades back to the tired face from earlier.

Charon: Welcome back.

Manzana: Mm… if you don’t mind I’d like to scoot outside for a little air, you mind?

Opera: Charon?

Charon: That’s fine. Outside?

Manzana: Outside. Have a lot of thoughts and a plenty to discuss.. and a good amount of apologizing while I’m at it.

Charon: Mm… Geezer didn’t seem mad.

Manzana: That… makes me a little annoyed I’ll be honest? But that’s something to talk about with him.

Manzana starts toward the entrance, you follow behind.

She walks out of the hidden nook your building’s in and toward the railing at the edge of the boardwalk. She fixates on the moon for a long moment before letting out a big sigh. You join her.

Manzana: You know, I didn’t think I’d get caught up in something like this today but I had an omen appear earlier.

Charon: An omen?

Mananza: A messenger showed up and warned me something was coming. I’m guessing you know what that something is?

Charon: I do… mostly anyway.

Manzana: So spill the details, why should I care? Pitch it to me,

Charon: We’re about to attempt a heist on a cult relic that found itself in the hands of an auction, a relic that can potentially compromise the lives of everyone.

Manzana: And that is?

Charon: Immortal flesh, a body that contains the secret to living forever and a powerful one at that.

Manzana: Like a philosopher’s stone?

Charon: Mm…

Manzana: What makes you so sure this is real?

Charon: Witnessed it in action myself, thing is a nightmare in the hands of anyone. It’s laced with massive amounts of fiendish materials which…

Manzana: Which allows it to inherit the traits, right.

Charon: You familiar with the concept?

Manzana: There’s been studies before and I’ve been able to get my hands on logs but it’s not exactly easy to find enough pieces of a fiend, let alone an entire one willing to give up their body to science.

Charon: This one had access to hundreds.

Manzana gives you the side eye.

Manzana: That’s really unlikely, the resources needed to track fiends down at all with how rare they can be? You’d need funding from a god.

Charon: They had access to something worse. Angels.

Manzana:... I really don't want to believe something like this but go on.

Charon: Angels tend to abduct things from everywhere across time and space, they’re envoys of reality. This angel was hyper fixated on certain things and one of which happened to be fiends.

Manzana: Like an eldritch horror collecting vampires…

Charon: Essentially, yes. The cult managed to gather fiends and recruit or collect them for their bodies. The cult operated under giving fiend based augmentations or entire bodies to those in its highest positions and offering pseudo immortality… but the leader wanted more and grafted many onto one form.

Manzana: Huh…

Charon: It’s a ton to follow but everyone in that room fought to prevent operations from going full scale and is willing to fight one last time to prevent a revival of such.

Manzana: And that body is truly immortal?

Charon: We killed it in every way we possibly could and it’d heal up consistently. Only way to stop it is to rip out the soul of the pilot and destroy it so that nothing is left inside.

Manzana: So what’d you do with it?

Charon: Bury it in the abyss with most of the cult’s relics we deemed too dangerous but… someone managed to find a way in and dig it up… and if they dug up the body? They probably found other things just as awful in there. We need to confirm what they have and destroy every piece.

Manzana: You just left it in the hole?

Charon: In fairness it was a pretty obscure spot.. More than likely was rediscovered by accident. The whole place was in a private realm of sorts.

Manzana: Angel pockets.

Charon: Mm, you familiar?

Manzana: Of course I am, angels have a tendency to create little pockets in between existence where they just store things they find interesting and keep them for later. They then tend to spit those people and places back out wherever they happen to be but… it doesn’t sound like the angel ever did.

Charon: Because the angel is dead.

Manzana: Did the cult kill it?

Charon: No, I did..

She gives you a smirk.

Charon: Why are you looking at me like that?

Manzana: Because there’s no way, you’re green as hell and it shows.

Charon: Green…?

Manzana: Your gear and your posture. You’re wearing old lost tech that wouldn’t stand a chance against modern knight gear and your stance is way too casual. You should have your guard up, you don’t know me.

Manzana: Tell me, what kind of rigging does that arm have?

Charon: It’s a alloy designed to minimize how much impact I take when guarding and-

Manzana: That’s where I have to stop you, right now modern metal work for knighting gear is based around parry tech. If you can’t put someone in disadvantage for slamming into you, it’s not worth it. With something like that most attackers can stick in your face pretty easily.

Charon: Maybe that’s what I want.

Manzana: Then you’re a fool, nobody wants to be fighting at point blank. Everyone’s got claws or massive strength or acid or something that makes CQC miserable. It’s good for sporting sure but you need to be the scariest person around to justify that. You practically need a acual death touch to justify it.

Charon: I have my reasons for it. I have a discharge to parry with anyway.

Manzana: Discharge?

Charon: Circular Discharging.

You hold out your arm to her, she takes a closer look.

Charon: Cast a spark and then suck the shreds out of a living creature on impact. It’s a low energy cost for high reward.

Manzana: But the range is pretty low, no?

Charon: It is.

Manzana: Then how do you plan to confirm anything off that?

Charon: I carry a scythe on the field, one that I can keep hidden on my person quite easily.

Manzana: And you have it on you?

Charon: Of course I do.
[Image: coolworld.png]
You pull our your weapon and hand it over.

Manzana: That’s cute actually…. I like it.

Charon: Cute?

Manzana: The retro aesthetic but with a sleekness to it the railing guard, the sturdy parry friendly shell….  There is a problem however….

Manzana: A scythe feature would be a tad flimsy since it’d have to unfold, no? Unless it’s motorized which has its own issues but would at least get field work done fast enough..

Charon: Motorized…

Manzana: You’ve never done that?

Charon: Not on something this compact.
[Image: unknown.png]
She looks at you smugly. You can’t help but wince.

Manzana: Tell you what, I’ll take up the job and show you what a real rig looks like.

Charon: A real rig…

Manzana: Like no offense, your work looks clean and you’ve got a pretty good sense of aesthetic but I’m gonna show you how to really get the job done.

Charon: You that good?

Manzana: Mmhmm. I’ll bring my stuff in tomorrow. I wanna talk to Geezer first and make sure everyone’s in the clear but… consider it done. You’re my apprentice now.

Manzana: Besides, Platino would be happy to get the chance to hang out more I think.

Charon: Thank you…?

Manzana: Don’t, I’m gonna make you work til you cough blood.

Manzana: I'm in.

You didn’t ask for this. 
The Promise
[Twelfth Reading]
CW: None
[Image: unknown.png]

You and Manzana gather back with folks inside. There’s a brief meeting to fill in everyone on the nature of this operation.

The organizer is someone you are familiar with but wishes to remain anonymous for the safety of themselves and those supplying them for this heist.

They assure you they are an ally you already are familiar with though.

Your mind assumes it’s Hickory, after all Fenton is here but…

When you ask him about it it’s denied.

Still it’s really nice to see everyone get together again. Old friends and a few potential new ones mingle.

You and Geezer do your own fair share. You can’t help get overly sentimental at least once but your cousin manages to ground you.

A few folks get a bit flirty, good for them.

You should really enjoy what time you have ahead of you but… you can’t help but feel nervous about the whole thing.

Last time there were plenty of losses.

This time you’re many less.

You may not be fighting a war with a cult but…

You don’t want to lose anyone else.

In the midst of it all, Opera pulls you aside for a moment.

[Image: unknown.png]

Charon: Is everything okay?

Opera: Mostly just… lot on the mind. Can kinda tell you’re in the same boat.

Charon: Really?

Opera: Maybe? Honestly it’s hard to tell a lot when it comes to you,

Charon: I get that a lot…

Opera: Used to be a lot more open about your feelings and now… you’re just so quiet. Geezer  is hella different too, lot more calm and mature than I’d ever think from the kid I met back then.

Charon: It’s been a long time no? Over a decade for both of us.

Opera: I know but… bleh. Bugs me more than it should. That’s no really the point right now though but-

Charon: You can talk about it a bit if you need to you know. We’re all friends here.

Opera: I guess… feels like meeting strangers for the first time with some though, been a minute.

Charon: I understand completely there..

Opera: Used to be taller than Geez and Fenton but now they’ve got me beat!

Charon: I think Geezer has everyone beat frankly.

Opera: Everyone’s got jobs now and… I guess my life still revolves around that incident. I’m still in the pocket mending things and chasing out remaining members of that cult you know?

Charon: I’m not much better myself, still investigating it some to this day.

Opera: Really?

Charon: Where I come from there’s a bit of a cult problem too… quite the bad one actually. A few escaped folks found themselves slipping from one to another as a result and are looking to repeat the same troubles.

Opera: Ugh… I’m still sorry about everything.

Charon: What happened wasn’t your fault.

Opera: There was another me that lead the entire thing.

Charon: Not entirely willingly…

Opera: She gave up her body to some weird horrible eldritch thing and let it run wild until there wasn’t anything left of her… that’s horrifying you know?

Opera: Scary to think that you can fuck up that bad…

Opera: To give up on life like that…

Opera: Become a tool of one of the worst things you’ll ever see.
Opera: Got guilt to this day.

Charon: You don’t blame me for the things that happened back then did you?

Opera: You were like 12 and being manipulated like hell by some nasty folks.

Charon: 14 actually… you were only a year older.

Opera: Oh! Well you know what I mean…

Charon: Still made things harder for people than it needed to be.

Opera: I mean… at the end of the day you always made the good choice you know?

Opera: You never chose power over other people.

Charon: I was a devil in my own right, and I certainly still am.

Opera: The devil? You call yourself that?

Charon: What do you mean?

Opera: You’re too sweet for that really. More misunderstood than anything. Like…

Opera: Well, like a monster under a bed.

Charon: I don’t think I follow.

Opera: Monsters hiding in a room scare people right?

Charon: Right..

Opera: But why are they hiding to begin with? Maybe they’re just as scared.Or maybe they’re shy and just wanna be friends.

Charon: Except when the monster finally comes out we call it a sleep paralysis demon.

Opera: Yeah well.. My point stands. You’re not really the devil at all. Maybe A devil but I can’t see you being deceitful you know?

Opera: You’re too honest.

Charon: Promise me you’ll follow your own advice too then. You didn’t do anything wrong.

Opera: You know that’s hard…

You drop the formality. Your voice turns soft with a tinge of the countryside.

Charon: Then at least do your best. You’re a good person, always have been and always will…

Charon: And you’re a good friend. Nothing’s gonna change that…

Opera goes quiet for a bit.

Charon: Are you okay?

Opera: Shit dude…

Opera: You’re going to make me get all tear-eyed like that you know? I mean I knew I’d cry at least once tonight but..

Charon: Oh my god, I’m sorry…

Opera: You’re fine! I guess just… I appreciate it you know?

Opera: I wanna talk to a few people, plan to catch up with Geezer next but..

Opera: I’m glad for sure we talked tonight and..

Opera: I’ll do my best if you do yours. Can we promise that?

Charon: Mm…

Opera: On your pinky, I wanna know it’s legit.

Charon: Really?

Opera: Never too grown up for a pinky promise. Just hold it out

You follow along.

Opera: We’re gonna make it through this, and when we’re done we’re gonna celebrate like this again.

Charon: Of course.

Opera: Thank you..

[Image: unknown.png]
One Last Time, From the Beginning..
(The Thirteenth Reading)
CW: None

[Image: small_sad.png]
After the party dwindles down you realize how exhausted you are.

A long emotional day.

Nerves about the future.

Having your past pried into pretty intensively.

Unfortunately for you, those aren’t things you can avoid on this job and are not over yet.

You find yourself standing in the middle of the ocean.

You’re dreaming you think but…

But you hear a voice, and in your head it’s way too clear.

Styx: That bastard really dug me out of my grave. Can’t say I’m happy frankly.

Charon: You’re still here?

Styx: Unfortunately. Not sure if I’m the real thing or just an imprint though frankly.

Styx: Have to say you remind me of some reluctant allies I made back in the day though.

Charon: Is that so?

Styx: Only a little. Though I think the guy I contracted back then had a better grip on the proxy than you by your age. You’re just a fledgling really after all these years.

Styx: I think we’ll change that though.

Styx: You have a lot that’s unresolved I think. Weirdo with mind powers absolutely was right on that and I think opened a gateway or two for you.

Charon: Don’t know if I want to meddle with something like that right now..

Styx: Your Proxy is pretty weak as is. As skilled as you think you are, being able to manifest that kind of power would be a massive boon.

Charon: I’m aware, I just don’t know if I want to take the fast track to power considering what you did to me last time.

Styx: This one has no bargain attached, I exist here as nothing more than a way to fulfill a subconscious need.

Styx: Now the question is… are you ready?

Charon: Not really but I don’t think you’ll let me skip on this.

Styx: It’ll be good for you.

Charon: But will it be good for everyone else?

Charon: As much as it’s tempting, power as a concept is not something I desire.

Charon: What I desire is the knowledge that whatever I take will be something that helps me protect others.

Charon: I’ve been offered so much “power” and “true potential” in my life that I’m tired.

Charon: I don’t need to hear it.

Charon: So unless what you offer is the ability to ensure we’ll be safe, to keep the people I love and value alive, I don’t need it.

Styx: If that’s what you want, I’ll give it to you.

Styx: Your wish is my command. I just hope that’s truly what you need right now.

[Image: The_True_Magician.png]

Your memories swim in toward you. Meeting your cousin for the first time, building that horrible mess of a ritual because you wanted to seek the truth.

You told him what you wanted to see is your full potential manifested.

A proxy that will lead you toward the forbidden path of knighthood your grandmother was afraid you’d take up.

You are Charon Judgment, the runt of the litter of the legendary Judgment family.

The newest a lineage of heroes who protect the people. One who through the power of bonds will knock down evil rule and save the meek.

And though you’ve never known your parents, you know from whispered conversation that the best way to meet them would be through taking up the mantle yourself.

As selfish as it is, the choice of knighthood would be one that’d eventually result in meeting, even if it’s the path of most suffering in the end.
You tinker away all day, creating the devices that’ll manifest your new friend from the void. Can’t be helped.

You make a mess but you’ll clean up before your grandma can see it.

You hope it all goes well.

Your cousin who’d been in his room getting acquainted with his new home strolls in.

Despite first impressions, the two of you hit it off well.

[Image: fsfsfs.png]

You both love games, he’s surprisingly bookish himself, and he doesn’t seem to mind your dorky ramblings about witchcraft and otherworldly presences.

He gets situated with a bowl of chips and a baseball bat in one hand as you start the ritual.

The room changes tinges, flickering between a bath of red and blues.

You assure him this is normal…

Unfortunately that’s not a good thing.

[Image: The_Fool_Finished_small.png]
CW: None

Geezer: Christ, what is that?

Charon: It’s fine.

Geezer: Thing is hiding its eyes, can’t trust anyone hard to gauge like that.

???: Now that’s just rude, I’m here to grant the two of you wishes and you’re already counting me out?

???: He’s actually right though! You shouldn’t trust a face you can’t see lies in! Gotta say though, your tribute is weak. Amazing you managed to manifest me at all. A potato with a bit of cheese and blood? Not even that of a noble, though I suppose fiend is almost as good as little as it is.

Charon: Name?

???: Irrelevant, I’m the homunculi you summoned.. And a starved one at that.

Geezer: Get the vibe we really shouldn’t.

He stands up and raises his bat.

Charon: It’ll be fine Geez, just-

Geezer: Stay back, I don’t want you shaking hands til I hear more.

???: I’m just the messenger.

Geezer: Look like a con artist to me.

???: Spell never said you’d like what you see.

???: I do got a message from someone though. Someone who might be in your interest?

It looks directly at you.

???: Someone in the family who needs help right now.

Charon: ... Help?

???: They’re desperate really, could get bad. Can’t let you go unequipped though. Pick a card….

???: Who do you want to be today?

Three cards are laid out in front of you.

The Fool, a card of fresh beginnings.

Judgment, a card of rebirth and resolutions.

And the nameless card, Death itself. A card of drastic changes.

You find the design of the latter quite elegant in its own way.

Something about it makes you a little envious really, it’s calm nature and tall stature are something you find yourself… frankly lacking as an edgy kid.

It makes you feel safe despite its surreal nature.

Charon: That one.

???: You’re sure going big there, think you can handle real power like that? You got the energy of an Executioner, a real destroyer of worlds vibe in your future but…

Charon: If they’re waiting for me? Yeah, I need it.

???: Then it’s final. Good luck Mr. Reaper, let your trip be pleasant. No Regrets.

You’re pulled into the void instantly. 

No Regrets.
CW: None

[Image: unknown.png]
Faster than you can process, you find yourself in a train station standing in front of a stranger with eyes as red as yours. She has a look of surprise but only in the slightest.

Something about her is incredibly familiar.

???: Another kid from nowhere huh?

???: You’re the second one I’ve seen this week. Usually folks show up through one of the gateways. That’s how my grandpa and I did anyway.

???: You might be someone we need right now anyway.

???: Anyway, say something yeah? What’s up?

Her tone is familiar, she couldn’t be…

???: I’m willing to help you out kid, talk to me.

Charon: Kid?

???: You’re a kid ain’t you? Until I get a name I’m gonna keep calling you that.

Charon: Charon, Charon Judgment.

???: Seriously? I guess you did look kind of familiar actually…

Charon: Oh god, are you saying…

???: I’ll let you finish.

Charon: Is your name Erica..?

???: Bingo, hit the nail on the head.

Erica: Erica Judgment. I can’t say I was ready to meet a future boy like that… Guessing you know me at some point?

Charon: Absolutely, you’re… wait can I-

Erica: Don’t say anything about the future, I don’t wanna know too much and then watch you disintegrate out of reality you know? Gotta say though I can absolutely see the resemblance.

Erica: Also gotta say you’re absolutely green if you just have your proxy out like that.

Charon: My proxy?

Erica: That ghost behind you, you know what that is right?

[Image: unknown.png]

You look over. A tall mesh of rose and metal hovers behind you with a watchful aura. It parrots your little movements with a nonchalant look about it.

Erica: That is yours right?

Charon: I.. I guess so. Didn’t have one before I don’t think though….

Erica: Could be this world, it does weird things like that to folks. It’s got a pretty look going on so that’s promising.

Charon: You think so?

Erica: Yep. These things are supposed to be manifestations of inner self and potential and all and yours looks warm as a light.  If you just got it like this that means you’re hella off to a good start.

Charon: I guess so.

Erica: You should probably give it a name. Something that sounds strong you know? Giving your proxy a name is good luck they say.

Charon: Oh god I got no clue… Um….

Erica: Just go with your gut.

Something strong…

Something cool…

Extreme is a pretty cool word.

But… you want to also give a sense of endurance and wit.

You have no idea how long you’re going to be here so…..

Charon: Extreme Retention.

Erica: Going hard off the bat huh?

Charon: Is… is that too much?

Erica:  Nah, that’s perfect. Knew a kid who discovered his and went pretty hard. Called it Sixth Ranger. Uh…

Erica: Actually, you might be who he was looking for. Weird rabbit boy with long hair? Said he was with his cousin at home and suddenly woke up here. Called his hair pretty and he got offended.

Charon: Geezer?!

Erica: Yeah! He stuck around in town, decided to relax at the library while me and my grandpa quested out here. You know how it is?

Charon: He’s safe then?

Erica: Yeah, should be. He’s in a part of town where the church’s stranglehold isn’t too bad.

Charon: The church?

Erica: Yeah, we got a lot to fill you out on. We should probably find my grandpa first though.

Charon: Mm! I’ll help you out. What’s he look like?

Erica: Tall, big hair, has a couple of horns on one side of his head? I mean they’re technically mandibles but…

Charon: I can help out with that.

Erica: Nice. Walk with me and I’ll catch you up on stuff. There’s a lot you gotta learn if you wanna survive in this world. 
(CW: Mention of Cults)

[Image: Meeting_Your_Ancestors.png]

Erica: So, things to catch you up on.

Erica: This isn’t the world you started off in, some kind of weird mish mash pocket world made of pieces of others.

Charon: So sort of a chimera of parts from different places?

Erica: Kinda, yeah. You know what an angel is, kid?

Charon: Bit of a contested thing, supposedly they’re big entities that jump between time and space right? They abduct and replace things quietly without people noticing a lot of the time.

Erica: Mm. This place has one and is widely agreed to be the origin of it. One with a bit of weird behavior frankly.

Charon: What makes it so weird?

Erica: It’s a hoarder. Hoarding angels aren’t exactly a thing that’s been documented before but this one is just stockpiling things in a pocket world and playing ant farm. It just pops in and out to drop stuff up, stir around, and goes back out.

Charon: Is that how you got here?

Erica: Yep, me and my grandpa were out in the woods when something started making our radio go screwy. Grandpa had a bad vibe right away so we tried to duck in the basement but before we could it just.. warped us here.

Erica: Now we’ve been stuck here for a couple of weeks trying to make the most of what we can.

Erica: Place is hell cursed though, ain’t a fan of the folks who’ve taken charge.

Charon: What’s up with them.

Erica: A lot honest. They claim to be a church for the sake of giving others hope but it’s really just a scheme to line pockets and get free labor in hopes of “ascending”.

Charon: Ascending?

Erica: That’s what they call it. It’s honestly kind of some body horror though. You’ll see what I mean when we get to town.

Charon: Noted.

Erica: Anyway we found a few groups who are free of their control but it’s getting harder for them. Cult actively punishes anyone who wants to live outside of their law or wants out of the pocket.

Charon: How exactly do you power grab in a place like this?

Erica: Control multiple vital resources and own plenty of muscle really, same way it usually works with these folks.

Erica: Tell you what though, whoever goes in all the way comes out super different.

Erica: Can’t blame a lot of folks for taking their offers, when you’re desperate enough you do what it takes to survive but…

Erica: I dunno, it all rubs me wrong.

Charon: I get you. We got a bit of a cult problem back in my home… I’m guessing since we’re related though it’s the same bunch.

Erica: Spit?

Charon: Spit.

Erica: Yeah… can’t say I’m a fan of her either but at least I can avoid her fine and if one of them shows up on my lawn a shotgun will fix things pretty fast you know?

Charon: Mm.

Erica: Course I get the feeling you’ve never had to do that yourself.

Charon: No, not really.

Erica: For the best….

After a long walk down the seemingly endless train station, you find a tall insect-like man standing at it’s end.

You recognize him, it couldn’t be…he reminds you of a monster from a family fairy tale you read..

He has a very gentle look to him.

Erica: Grandpa!

The spidery figure turns toward the two of you, a little smile at Erica and a look of confusion at you. You approach.

???: Who’s this? Did you find another lost one?

Erica: Sure did, he spawned directly in front of me!

???: Did he come through an angel hole?

Erica: Nope! Just kind of showed up?

He focuses his attention directly on you.

???: The resemblance… are you a child of Judgment?

You give him a nod.

Charon: I am. And I guess you’re…

???: Arabis.

Charon: The original Judgment… just like the fairy tales. You’re here?

Arabis: I never left! I’m surprised you’ve never seen me before… and I feel reluctant claiming that title, there’s others who could’ve taken it up just as well..

Charon:  No… never mentioned once that you were alive so long.

Arabis: Mm, well here I am! Tell me your name child?

Charon: Charon, Charon Judgment.

Arabis: Charon. Do you have anyone with you/

Charon: No, but I’m looking for my cousin…

Erica: The rabbit who we left back in town, the two of them seem to have been both sucked here together but landed at different points.

Arabis: Ahh… I can take you there, I’m already on the way to town.

Erica: We left him a communicator actually. We’re a little out of radius but once we’re on the train we’ll be close enough to tell him to meet up with us.

Charon: You left him alone?

Arabis: It was in a safe area, he’ll be fine so long as he doesn’t stray out.

Erica: A nerd like him? You know he wouldn’t

Arabis: That’s uncalled for…

Charon: He always read more jock to me.

Arabis: He’s quite bookish from what I’ve seen. Anyway, we can cover your fare and take you back to him.

Charon: Really? That’s not too much?

Erica: You’re family right? Gotta stick together.

Arabis: It should be arriving soon, the train. What do you say?

You give a nod.

Charon: I’m down.
The Magician: Reversed
CW: None
[Image: unknown.png]

Styx: Must’ve been quite exciting, meeting so much family so suddenly. 

Styx: If I recall, the day before this it was practically just you and your Grandmother, yes?

Charon: Mm… I have to say I didn’t anticipate you to be interrupting my memories like this.

Charon: But I really should’ve.

Styx: I’m surprised I’m still here. To be frank with you though, I myself may just be a memory as well. 

Charon: I’ll be honest, I’m getting really tired of the ambiguity.

Styx: I’ll phase out soon enough. I’ve sensed something of interest.

Charon: What would that be?

Styx: There’s a visitor probing you for info, looking for something more. 

Charon: Esperanto?

Styx: Likely, if that’s even their true name. Whatever method it’s using, I can detect others. 

Styx: They may not trust anyone.

Charon: Mm… 

Styx: We can’t converse too long or it’ll notice something’s off but… well…

Styx: Just keep dreaming as planned and you’ll likely make it through just fine. 

Charon: Planning to do some sleuthing?

Styx: Perhaps, I can’t afford to get caught however. 

Styx: If it knows I’m still here, it’ll erase me on the spot. 

Styx: So if things get messy, I will have to throw it your way. 

Charon: Mm… as always you ask someone else to fight for you.

Styx: In this case it’s your battle too… 

[Image: unknown.png]

Styx: They’re dipping into the memories of everyone else as well. They're looking for something more than just me or you…

Styx: Your friends are caught in this as well.

Charon: I’ll do what needs to be done if what you say is true.

Charon: This truce is temporary though, I want you out when we’re done here. 

Styx: Mm… perhaps. 

Charon: I’m evicting you.

[Image: unknown.png]

Styx: You’d toss a face like this into the street?

Charon: A face you stole. Nasty snake creature.

Styx: I’d say borrowed more than anything. 

Charon: When are you returning it? 

Styx: Hard to say, nobody to give it back to as far as I know. 

Styx: It’s been a long time. 

Charon: You have an answer for everything. 

Styx: And you always want the last word in.

Charon: With someone like you? I have to. 

Styx: Mm… you’re not wrong there. 

Styx: Also do have to state, never commented on it but.

Styx: I’m curious where you’ve got that accent. 

Styx: Do me a favor bruv, say aluminum. 

Charon: …. 

Styx: Silent suddenly? A shrink would have a field day with you I think. Didn’t think our time together would be so…

Styx: Formative? Is that the word?

Styx: I digress. Certainly not the youth from the woods I remember. 

Charon: If it works, it works. 

Styx: It’s a bit of a leap. 

Charon: Harder to get work when you’ve got a tinge of the country in your voice. Learned that the hard way… 

Styx: Unfair isn’t it? One too many soft consonants and your opportunities dwindle. 

Charon: Can’t say I like it. 

Styx: Mm… well that’s left me satisfied I think.

Styx: We’re pushing our luck, I’ll go and investigate. You just continue what you were doing for now.

Styx: When the time comes, I’ll call you over. 

Charon: I don’t like where this is going if I’m honest. 

Styx: You won’t! But you have little choice in the matter.

Styx: Anyway, good luck to you. Hopefully we’ll both make it out of here intact.

Charon: Can’t say I feel the same. 

Styx: Harsh but understandable…

Styx: See you soon.

Charon: Mm… 

CW: None
[Image: FCtDO3o.png]

You’re back.

Where were you again?
[Image: unknown.png]

You’re riding in the train with your time displaced family.

It’s as fresh as it was yesterday.

Erica: So you ‘re obviously some kind of future kid right?

Charon: I guess so.

Erica: And I get the sense you know how I am down the line. That means we’ll make it out of this alive for sure.

Arabis: Perhaps.. Though a few things to consider here.

Erica: What’s that?

Arabis: For starters, it is difficult to say if it’s our future or another’s. He could very much be more of a what if than a what will come.

Erica: Yeah but like… look at us.

Charon: I guess the resemblance is there….

Arabis: Even then, he might be related to another you rather than the specific you here.

Arabis: Regardless, we shouldn’t meddle too much in each other’s lives outside of here.

Arabis: There’s a good chance we’ll have to purge our own memories of him after we’re out of here should too much future animation make its way through.

Charon: I mean if I messed up I’d be unpersoned by now, right?

Arabis: That's also why I find it more likely you’re a what if rather than our future descendant. Which means your version of us is possibly doing the same thing with another you…

Charon: Well… we’ll take care of each other no matter what.

Erica: I mean yeah, family is family.

Arabis: And lucky you’ve got your new friend there.

You look over at the tall floral figure you’ve manifested merely moments ago.

Erica: Yeah, fancy that you and your… brother?

Charon: Cousin.

Erica: Right. Lucky that your proxies kinda just showed up as soon as you got here. Being is a angel scorched hellscape awakens all sorts of stuff but it usually takes some time.

Arabis: It’s quite solid for one your age too. Proxies attached to children like yourself are usually less defined and more… wispy?

Erica: I’d say more of a blob of colors but yeah.

Arabis: How long have you been meddling in witchcraft?

Charon: I mean I’ve always been a fan but only really started getting into it a couple of years ago. Wasn’t allowed to go to town alone til I was 12.

Arabis: Your caretaker I’m assuming would go with you?

Charon: Yeah… even then I mostly stayed with a family friend and her kid. Bunch of birds who settled down in town. Apparently they traveled a lot before then…

Erica: The Blancs?

Charon: Mm..

Erica: Used to play games with them all the time. We’d hang out with some cola and chicken and spend all night doing long sessions. Nice to know they’re doing good… and that our families are still friends.

Arabis: Mm… you’re probably pushing what you’re allowed to ask and answer so I must insist you stop before we see a time paradox before our eyes.

Erica: Ah yeah… sorry. Anyway, that proxy. Does it do anything yet?

Charon: Um… yeah I think? How does it work…

Arabis: Imagine its arm as your arm.

Charon: Okay…

Arabis: Let yourself feel that… think of it as part of you.

You get a vein cutting chill through your body.

Erica: Let yourself feel the first motion that comes to mind, don’t worry about anything else.

Your hand feels like it’s digging through cold wet clay suddenly.

Charon: That’s weird…

Erica: Means it’s working.

Charon: What is that?

Arabis: Just keep going.

Your fingers burrow deep into the sensation until you clash with something sturdy and metal. It’s a handle..

Charon: I’ve got something….

Arabis: Open your eyes kid…

You do so. The proxy’s hand has torn open a rift in the air around you and dug its hand in deep. Glassy geometry surrounds both you and your rose new friend depicting windows into less stable realities. You’re spooked for a moment, they start to flicker and crack.

Erica: Relax kid, just keep doing what you’re doing.

Arabis: Mm. You’re almost there.

You can see the object on the other side of the rift. You grab the handle and pull it out with a hard yank.

Out of the glass panel comes a lance, small enough to carry with one hand. The proxy reaches out to pass it over.

Arabis: There you go…

Erica: It makes.. Weapons?

Charon: That’s good right?

Arabis: I’d say so personally, yes.

Erica: Feels like it should do more than that for how strong it looks…

Arabis: I’d say it’s too early to call. A Proxy’s abilities are rarely what they initially seem. Besides, an arm on your beck and call is frankly always useful in a place like this.

Erica: That’s true, folks always scrambling for ways to defend themselves.

Arabis: It’ll be good for defending yourself and Geezer. Anyway we’ll arrive at the library soon enough.

Erica: Get comfy til then. Maybe think of a name for your friend for a bit.

The High Priestess Part II
Cw: None

[Image: singing_robots.png]
 The three of you eat lunch during your ride and talk about mostly nothing. Arabis sets you up with something to wear over your PJs so you won’t stand out on the streets as much.

A bright red cloak with a good pair of witching glasses.

You’re attached to it pretty quickly, you think it’s cool…

You’ve never left your hometown, much less been on a train so while you don’t want to say it, it’s all very exciting for you.

Admittedly not the circumstances you’ve wanted to do this in but the start of an adventure for sure.

You watch the view out the window, the sights so surreal and different. A big city, hills, and a whole lot you’d never see in the small woodland covered town you’ve spent your whole life in.

Erica tells you that she’s in the same boat herself, though she’s “Already had enough of city folk” in the few weeks she’s been here.

[Image: unknown.png]

Eventually your ride ends up at the station, the patchwork of tiles and metal chunks making up the roof under the hazy red sky.

Arabis: Here’s our stop, are you children holding up alright?

Charon: I think so.

Your legs are a little wobbly standing up afterward but you manage your footing.

Erica: Craving air, got a little motion sick that time.

The tall spider offers a hand to both of you. The three of you head your way out quickly.

Arabis: Mm.. we’ll get our rest soon enough.

Erica: Yeah, could use some sleep after all that honest.. What’s the plan after this? Find an Inn? Dinner?

Arabis: I’m going to have Mercury take you two kids back to the library to see Geezer. Have a errand or two to handle myself.

Erica: You’re gonna leave us with the rabbit?

Arabis: She has a name… but yes.

Arabis: Just while I handle an errand briefly. I’d take you two but I was requested to be alone.

Charon: We just met and you’re going off already?

You give him the saddest eyes you can.

Arabis: I’m very old child, I’ve known the time before that look existed..

Arabis: I will not be moved so easily… and I assure you that you are going to be in good hands.

Arabis: Speaking of, where is she…. Did we arrive too early?

[Image: Hell_no.png]

You look over in the distance and see a white rabbit with an oversized weapon in one hand.

She carries it like a toy. You can’t help but wonder if it’s even real. There’s not a single sharp edge on it’s ladder-esque blade.

Charon: Is that who you’re talking about?

Arabis: Yes she is.

Arabis gives her a wave immediately.

She waves back with her free hand.

Mercury: Hey! Here like you asked me to be! How many refugees you manage to find?

Arabis: Only the one, this child here..

He points to you.

Mercury: Yo! Love the hood. Got a lot of style for a kid.

Her eyes are hard to make out under her mess of slimy bangs. What little glance you can get is dissonant.. There’s some other presence behind her otherwise warm smile.

Mercury offers you a hand. You awkwardly return the gesture.

Mercury: Gotta teach you how to shake properly. People get weirdly heated over that. What’s your name?

Charon: Charon Judgment.

Mercury: Ah!

She looks up at Arabis.

Mercury: More family, huh?

Arabis: Unfortunately, I don’t particularly like how frequent this is becoming.

Mercury: I’m sure it’ll work out. You want me to take him back?

Arabis: Soon, and Erica as well.

Erica: I wanna stay…

Arabis: I’ll return soon enough as I said. We’ll catch up over dinner but for now I think we’ve picked up too much heat in the eye of the local church.

Erica: Promise you’ll at least stay safe, I don’t want you coming home all hurt again.

Arabis: I won’t, I assure.

Arabis looks at you directly.

Arabis: The two of you have a job to take care of each other right now. I don’t want anyone leaving the other behind.

Arabis: Though we’ve known each other for only so little time, protecting one another is the Judgment way. I assure you that you will be in good hands for the next few hours. Besides, Geezer’s been looking for you and you can’t leave him waiting long.

Charon: Guess you’re right. Don’t get hurt out there.

Mercury: He’ll be fine, guy is a bit of a folklore hero type and has done a lot to prove it.

She squats down to whisper.

Mercury: Plus if you stick with me I’ll show you how to use a knife. Stuff’s essential around here.

Arabis: I can hear that but… yes that would be good under the current circumstances.

Charon: Wait, you’re both really okay with that?

Erica: This place is dangerous, if you’ve never been in a fight before you’re going to need to learn how.

Erica: And I can tell with just one look you’re green as a pepper.

Charon: I guess I can give it a go.

Mercury: That’s the spirit. Anything before we go our separate ways for now?

Arabis: Mm… child has a proxy, make sure he knows how to make the best of it. Make sure he keeps his hood up too. While he’s difficult to identify at first glance, he’s very much a fiend if you look too closely.

Mercury: Ah…

She gets a good look at your face.

Mercury: Glowing eyes and a couple of markings but otherwise yeah, he passes  from a distance.  We’ll be careful.

Arabis: I’ll be back just before dark. The three of you stay safe.

Erica: You too! Don’t take too long!

Mercury gives you a little pat on the shoulder.

Mercury: Come on, we got plenty to cover.
[Image: unknown.png] 

You're taken through many alleyways, avoiding the main streets as much as possible.

You've never been in a place like this, every sight and sound you make out so alien to you. Your first time away from the woods you grew up in really.

Mercury is mostly quiet, only on occasion grabbing your wrist to nudge you the right direction. You're a little distracted. 

Erica gives you an assuring look every once in a while to make sure you're okay. 

Eventually you make it to a building, one that's taller than anything you've ever seen. It doesn't look like much until you're brought inside, a maze of bookshelves and old décor. There's more people here than you've ever seen at once. 

Erica: You haven't said a word, what's up?

Charon: A lot to take in...

Erica: Feel you. Great though isn't it?

Charon: Yeah! Bit busy though.

Erica: You get used to it.

Charon: Geezer is here right?

Erica: Should be.

Mercury: He's probably in the study room, he’s been going through books like a maniac for the past week. Kid’s adapted to this like a pro honest.

Erica: He's A huge nerd. 

You got that impression.

Charon: What kind of stuff you got here? Like, books and all.

Erica: Bit of everything I think. Feel free to look through some stuff yourself too! We keep as much handy information as we can here for folks to soak in.

Mercury: Arm yourself with knowledge and all. We gotta protect ourselves however we can from the local rule and being as independent as possible is a crucial part.

You give the two a nod.

Charon: Got a lot to catch up on..

Erica: You’ll be fine, you give me the same vibe as Geezer.

Charon: What's that mean?

Erica: Bookish, type of kids who do good on a test you know? Think you're a bit more soft spoken though, not a bad thing.

Charon: Maybe...

Erica: Gonna give you both time alone I think, don't wanna distract.

Charon: Will you both be here still after?

Erica: Yeah, at least I will.

Mercury: Same probably unless something comes up.

Mercury: When you’re done, we can gather with the others and eat something alright? Hopefully your grandpa will be back before supper gets cold.

Charon: Mm. I'll be back soon.

Mercury: Of course, kid. Do what you have to do.

You take a deep breath and go through the halls toward a little section ahead where the towers of books wrap around a clearing filled with tables and stain glass walls.

It doesn’t take long to spot him. You give him a wave.

He takes a moment to process, eyes widen as he recognizes you.

Charon: Geez!

Geezer: Charon?! Holy shit, they found you?!

Charon: Guess so!

He runs up to you.

Geezer: Oh my god! Legit thought we lost you!

Charon: What do you mean?

Geezer: When that weird ass demon showed up you made some kind of deal with it and just vanished, you know? Asked it where you went and it dragged me in too but when I woke up you weren’t there!

Charon: I’ll be honest, had no idea it could do something like that…

Geezer: Like, fuck…

Charon: I’m just glad you’re okay… sounds like you’ve been here a bit though.

Geezer: I’m managing fine, been researching non-stop. Looking for a way to break out of here.

Charon: I’m not even sure how this happened.

Geezer: I got a pretty good idea myself actually.

Charon: Oh?

Geezer: You used a pact radio, yeah?

Charon: Mm! Made it myself with some guides from the local witch shop.

Geezer: Right. So turns out those transmissions are vulnerable to hijacking real easy. You just wanted to talk to a ghost but you had no idea where it’d come from.

Charon: Right.

Geezer: But now we’re here, in this other world with cults and angels and all that right?

Charon: Mm.

Geezer: So I don’t know how filled in you are on all this, but this place is hella cursed. Big ass angel is sucking stuff up from other places and dragging them in here.

Geezer: Think what happened, it jacked into our transmission and pulled us in right?

Charon: But… we talked to the ghost, no?

Geezer: Yeah but, a ghost on its own can’t really do that.

Geezer: Ghost can however muck about with the transmission.

Geezer: Odds are it knew about the angel and brought it directly to us.

Charon: Why us though?

Geezer: Who knows. Apparently there’s some algorithm to it.

Geezer: Big thing is a disproportionate number of folks dragged through are rabbits and fiends right?

Geezer: And your family’s got tons of fiends including you.

Charon: And you’re a rabbit… I think?

Geezer: Yeah.

Charon: Why would it do that to us though?

Geezer: I dunno. Get the sense that there’s some sort of scheme going on.

Geezer: Would be hella cautious if it shows up again.

Charon: Mm..

Geezer: Tell me, you got a proxy?

Charon: Yeah!

Geezer: Figured. Seems like most folks dragged in here end up with one. Apparently when you’re spirited away like that it kinda just happens.

Geezer: Bonus if you made a contract like you probably did. We’re in a heck of a mess…

Charon:  Sorry…

Geezer gives you a pat on the shoulder.

Geezer: It’s whatever, we’re gonna get out of here.

Geezer: And we’re gonna help everyone else too. There’s a big plan cooking up to get people home.

Charon: Is there?

Geezer: Yeah. That’s what Erica’s told me and looking into it? Super possible but you gotta be smart. She can fill you in on things.

Charon: Mm..

Charon:.. Have you been okay? Like..

Geezer: What do you mean?

Charon: You’ve been here for a good while..

Geezer: Yeah, I made it work.

Geezer: Community here is nice actually. Still gotta avoid the Church’s wrath but people are careful around these parts.

Charon: What’s the deal with them anyway?
[Image: unknown.png]
Geezer: Cult, really worships angel stuff hardcore. Tons of iconography and fear mongering around them. They recruit people, make them give up everything if they want to ladder up in the ranks.

Geezer: Mind, body, soul. Gotta dedicate all that but… they also control most of this place’s resources you know?

Geezer: So folks who are tired of the struggle will give in.

Geezer: They say those who prove themselves all the way though are given immortality. Scary honestly..

Charon: Yeah?

Geezer: Yeah. They made a system of wrangling everything and everyone valuable they can in mass when the angel dumps stuff into this world. Means they got the best supplyline and dug up all sorts of horrors from beyond.

Charon: Why don’t we just snipe them then? Take the stuff before they do?

Geezer: Hard to, they’ve got machinery and muscle and all that. People just gather whatever they don’t bother with.

Geezer: They shut down any competition with them too which makes it hella hard.

Geezer: Everyone hates them at this point.

Charon: Mm…

Geezer: We’re in the part of town that they haven’t been able to really lock down though, we’re safe for now.

Geezer: Glad I found you though, really was worried you were gone.. What happened?

Charon: Not sure? Guess I just got warped in after you did.

Charon: It’s my first day here…

Geezer: I can tell. You’ll get used to it.

Geezer: And like, if Erica is here then we have to find our way out eventually.

Geezer: She’s our grandma in the future so…

Charon: Yeah.

Geezer: She ever mention any of this to you?

Charon: Never. Scares me thinking about that.

Geezer: Mm. Means she knows something.

Geezer: Anyway I’m gonna put my reading down for the day, show you around and get you familiar with the people here. Sound good?

Charon: Sounds good.

Geezer: And don’t worry about what happened earlier, okay? We got this.

Charon: Really think so?

Geezer: Yeah. We’re gonna make it out just fine.

(CW: Mention of Cults)

[Image: unknown.png]

 Erica: We got a little time before Grandpa Arabis comes back so I’m gonna take you around town for a bit, hope you don’t mind walking. Nowhere specific, just get you to scope it out. Feel the life in motion. We did the same for Geezer so only fair.

You didn't get much chance to look at the area around while you were quickly walked toward the library...

It's bigger than anything you've ever seen.

You're a little intimidated, if you're quite honest.

Erica: You ready?

Charon: As much as I can be...

Charon: Usually go out with a cane but I can try my best to catch up.

Erica: A cane? Like for walking?

Charon: Mm.. Prosthetic limbs, had a birth defect growing up because of some fiend stuff I think… I can walk around but it’s hard sometimes..

Erica: Ah, yeah that happens with hybrids sometimes. We can keep it short. My dad had some troubles like that too… missing a leg.

Erica: Course our kind can slot in parts pretty easy.. with some caveats.

Charon: Blood, right?

Erica: Blood. You gotta be drinking blood regularly. Doing so will cause the uh… your body will sort of fill in the blanks? Could make parts out of random wood and rock chunks if you know what you’re doing and it’ll function like the real thing.

Charon: Mm..

Erica: Otherwise you’re SOL. Also once you’re on the stuff you tend to get more hungry and the fiend part of you becomes more active.

Charon: Heard about that, neighbors of mine told me that one of my relatives had issues with it. Was always hungry . Took forever to get back to weaning off of it.

Erica: That’s the trick, isn’t it? Really hard to get your hands on it without tons of money or willing donors, a bit tricky to store and maintain a fresh quality for it, you know how it is.

Erica: My sister back home says you could probably find a town willing to pay you in blood in exchange for protection. Honestly not a bad idea..

Charon: Your sister?

Erica: Yep,the younger sibling

Charon: What’s her name?

Erica: Ali. She’s like you a bit I think, soft but with gutsy eyes.

Charon: What’s that mean?

Erica: Like… you look bookish but I feel like if it came down to it you could get in a real scrap. She’s like that a bit. Maybe a bit more the latter but not really something she wanted.

Erica: Both of us are aiming to keep the family business running and all you know?

Erica: Don’t think she’s super fond of it but the idea that she wouldn’t because she can’t hurts her more.

Charon: I can kinda understand that I guess…

Erica: Yeah. She’s really hard on herself over it but I know she can do whatever she really decides she wants.

Charon: Mm…

Erica: And I’m sure you can too.  Looking at you though, you’re probably a bit indoorsy.

Erica: But I think you could pick it up. You in this too?

Charon: Mmhmm… Maybe. I guess I’m in that same boat too you know? Like… I think I do kinda wanna but..

Charon: Don’t want to not do it because I can’t. I want it to be my choice I guess…

Erica: Mm..

Erica: How much training have you gotten?

Charon: My gr-

Charon: Pardon um…

Charon: My caretaker’s never really pushed me but I dunno..

Charon: I feel like it might be good for me.

Erica: Yeah: How’s that?

Charon: See the world, meet people…

Charon: I guess I just want to know some things really.

Erica: Like?

Charon: Hmm… I mean I can’t say too much.

Charon: Time paradoxes and that…

Erica: Yeah, fair enough.

Charon: But… maybe being a knight helps?

Charon: If I can go anywhere, I can find out what I want to know.

Charon: THat’s how it should work at least…

Erica: Yeah, in theory I guess.

Erica: Hope I figure out the answers for myself…

Erica: Studying for the job honestly feels like a curse sometimes…

Charon: Mm…

Erica: According to my folks, it literally is.

Charon: The family curse…

Erica: Anyone who takes the mantle’s destined to fight something beyond what they can understand…

Erica: Crapshot whether you win or not.

Charon: I’d be in danger too?

Erica: Mm.. Maybe. Maybe it’s all phony.

Erica: Wouldn’t sweat it yet though. Maybe this is the worst of it for both of us.

Charon: Would be nice if we just got back safely..

Erica: We plan to! At the very least we want to take you and Geezer back first. Still got stuff to do here ourselves…

Charon: You have a plan?

Erica: Yeah. There’s wells to help you get in and out. They’re a little hard to get to and the local church is constantly there when they’re busiest. They’re how this place gets a lot of its resources..

Charon: Do they just snag it up?

Erica: Yeah… they try to keep a grip on everything. This part of town is probably the safest from them just because there’s nothing they think is worth harvesting.

Charon: Really?

Erica: Yeah. We’re far away from any rifts and wells, there’s not really any major industrial nonsense here, and well… to be frank people don’t like them much around these parts.

Erica: Still set up all sorts of propaganda though.

You see signs and monitors above, all sorts of strange iconography on posters around.

Charon: If it’s so far out, how does it run?

Erica: Answer is poorly.

Erica:  A lot of folks have to go deeper into town to get work.

Erica: And we got scavenger teams gathering whatever the cults manage to ignore.

Erica: Luckily we got a train system… no idea how it happened though.

Erica: Place is put together like a bunch of toy blocks slotting in and accidentally making some words…

Charon: I mean… maybe we got lucky?

Erica: No such thing as true luck, but we’ll take what we can get.

Erica: Anyway, whatcha think?

Charon: I mean it’s big.. Maybe a bit too big. Some of these places are so huge…

Erica: Yeah, felt the same way at first.

Charon: Can’t even imagine what a real skyscraper is like…

Erica: We’ll get to see something like that at some point maybe, if you stick here long enough.

Erica: Not that we want any of us to be gone too long..

Charon: Mm….

Erica: Anyway I know a shortcut, we’ll head back. Sounds good?

Charon: Yeah!

You follow along as best you can, surprisingly able to catch up just fine...
Though she keeps an eye on you the entire time... You appreciate it in a way.

You're not sure how she manages to tell anything apart. Even with this world being a patchwork of various other places, every arrow alleyway feels exactly the same to you...

At least until you see something really odd..

Erica: Hey, watch your step there.

[Image: unknown.png]

She stops you abruptly. You take a moment to glance ahead.

It's a lot of glass panels floating about, transparent little oddities like a tv screen. They're much like your own, the kind you'll eventually get more than used to...

Charon: What’s going on there?

Erica: My guess? Bit of weird magic.

Erica: Can’t tell what kind. Looks like a rift but… too controlled for that.

You get a glance of someone injured on the opposite side.

Charon: See someone there…

Erica: Careful, you got no idea who or what's hiding there.

Charon: I know but... I think we should help them out.

A closer look lets you make out a silhouette, someone cat-like in appearance but not particularly tall. Someone around your own age perhaps? They seem like they’re having it rough. Various floating shapes and transparent fragments float about. They warp the world around them like a funhouse mirror.

You take a step toward it.

Erica: What are you planning to do?

Charon: Can’t just leave them there…

Erica: Wait til whatever they’re doing clears out first…

Charon: Really? I mean I guess but...

Erica: Kid please..

Charon: I’ll be fine just…

You reach a hand through.

Erica: Charon!

[Image: unknown.png]

The world slides around like a abstract puzzle. The floor becomes a looking glass to someone else’s reality and the walls and sky meld until you can't tell them apart. The cat looks at you with surprise, eyes unsure what to make of you.

Erica watches from the other side, a nervous wreck.

You give her a gesture assuring you're okay.

She gives you a sigh.

You face what's ahead of you.

Charon: Hey… Are you lost?

???:  Not really…

Charon: That’s.. Good.

???: You stepped through…

Charon: I guess…?

???: Did it hurt?

Charon: Not really…

???: Usually it does… this place keeps intruders out…

Charon: Oh…

???: How’d you manage to make it through?

Charon: I just… stepped inside.

Charon: Those little tears, reminded me of the ones I can make.

Charon: I mean.. I’ve made them a couple of times. Don’t really understand…

???: Your power’s like mine..

Charon: Maybe…

Charon: You don’t look like you’re doing good…

???: I’m not…

???:  You?

Charon: Not too bad all things considered? Just got here today.. Like… in this world.

???: Mm…

???: What’s your name?

Charon: Charon…

???: Last name?

Charon: Judgment…

Charon: You?

???: Opera.

Opera: Heard that last name a few times around here… guessing you or someone related to you’s a bit of a troublemaker.

[Image: unknown.png]

Opera: Hopefully that’s not you though.

Opera: Cause if it is, you’re in a lot of danger. 
 [Image: unknown.png]

Charon: What do you mean?

Opera: A number of folks with that name seem to be causing a bit of a stir around here.

Opera: Don’t look like a trouble maker though. I mean, I respect it! But..

Opera: I’d lay low.

Charon: Wish it was me but… just got here today.

Charon: Still trying to get used to this really. Not for too long though.

Opera: Planning to get out?

Charon: Soon as I can, me and my family.

Opera:  Can’t blame you, place sucks;.

Opera: Honestly looking at you though, and don’t take this as a bad thing but…

Opera: I can’t see you being a troublemaker. Not enough to cause problems with the church at least. Familiar with them?

Charon: Yeah, got it explained actually. Really that bad?

Opera makes a face at you.

Charon: What do they do?

Opera: Everything. They’ve got access to so much supplies that people are stuck depending on them…

Opera: Plus… they’re able to keep the angel in check. People think they've got some holy magic and jump onboard.

Opera: Anything they get their hands on is property, including people. You join, and anything from limbs to blood to actual souls are treated as stock.

Charon: Scary…

Opera: People are trying to do their best to sort of break it up though…

Charon: You?

Opera: I wish… I’m just trying to get some heat off me.

Opera: Been targeting me for a good bit…

Opera: How’d you get here anyway?

Charon: Uh… summoned a ghost? Told me that someone needed my help so I went for it and well…

Charon: …next thing I knew I was here. You?

Opera: Same? Kind of?

Opera: Was with my friends checking out a recent haunting. We LOVE spooky stuff like that, even if it ends up being fake a lot… people in costumes avoiding taxes or something.

You couldn’t help but laugh a little.

Opera: I’m serious!

Charon: For real?

Opera: Yes! Always the whole “You kids and your darn dog!” rant you know? We weren’t even doing it on purpose, you’re just bad at being ghosts!

Charon: What would make them good ghosts?

Opera: Being dead? I dunno. Anyway it makes the small town life a bit more exciting. Otherwise it’s a lot of sad talks by creeks and not much else.

Charon: I can relate.

Opera: Not surprised, can pick it up on your accent.

Charon: Really?

Opera: Yep. Got a good ear, you’re a country boy…

Opera: ¿Y algo más? Soy curioso….

Charon: ¿Oh?

She smirks.

Opera: ¿Tú me entiendes?

Charon: No.

Opera: Güey…

Charon: Jaja…

Opera:  ¿Estás jugando conmigo?

Charon: Más o menos. Understand you just fine but I’m kinda bad at actually speaking it..

Opera: Yeah… My grandma tries to keep me up to speed but…

Charon: Not really a lot of chances to use it?

Opera: Mmhmm!  So I forget little things. When it comes up it’s like…

Charon: ¿Como se dice….?

Opera: Exactly! And you get looked at like you’re dumb for not remembering!

Charon: Oh my god….. Yeah no my grandma gives me the death stare for it. She’s really good at it…

Opera: Same. Scares me… she’ll be watching one of her novelas when I get back from school and she’ll look over and just… ugh.

Charon: Yeah… love her but I never want to be on her bad side…

Opera: She was some sort of fencer so she’d kick my ass. My famous Grandma Alle, got to compete across 3 continents.

Charon: Mine is a knight, pretty handy with a gun too.

Opera: A knight with a gun….?

Charon: Yes…?

Opera: Aren’t Knights a fairy tale thing? Like, slay the dragon, save the kingdom?

Charon: Maybe a few hundred years ago but… no they’re still around.

Opera: Guess we must not be from the same world then… amazing how much is consistent though. Like…

Opera: We got two languages in common? What are the odds?

Charon: It’s pretty odd, huh?

Opera: Yeah! Feel like if I looked too deep I’d give myself insomnia…

Charon: Same, never stops me from doing it anyway.

Opera: Rabbit holes like that just make me shiver…

Charon: Can’t blame you. So uh…

You look over at her hand. There’s a shadow dangling from it, sinking into the floor a little.

Charon: What’s that you got there?

Opera: This? Oh! Um… Allow me to introduce you!

She pulls it over herself, the shade forming into a large white sheet. She gives it a look over.

Opera: Don’t be shy, say hi!

A little mammal-like head peaks out. It gives you a wave.

Charon: Who’s that?

Opera: My proxy- call him Rebel, he’s been with me forever…

Opera: Just always had him really? Not sure why, usually you gotta work toward it or make a demon pact or something… but I love him very much.

Opera: What about you? What do you got there?

You realize your hand’s been wrapped around something this whole time.

Charon: I’m uh… not sure actually!

Opera: Well, pull it out!

Your fingers dig into the void and yank. A large forked metallic weapon appears.

Charon: Oh yeah… I can do this um… I just got a proxy today and mine can make weapons, I guess? I don’t have the best control of it yet… not even sure where it is either… It’s pretty cool though, right?

Her eyes widen a bit. She seems a bit off…

Opera: Huh…

Charon: You okay?

Opera: Just thinking right now…

Charon: About what?

Opera: Just give me a moment.

Charon: Sorry...

Opera: No just um… one moment?

Your eyes shift away, you don’t know what you did exactly but you’re terrified that you might’ve upset her.

Opera: So… I’ve seen something like that before.

Opera: In the hands of someone kind of bad I guess…

Charon: Ah…

Opera: But I don't think you are! It’s a style of sword that I’ve got bad associations with..

Opera: If you have it though, it’s probably a common thing in some worlds.

Charon: Maybe. Never seen one like that before.

Opera: Ah… huh.

Charon: Product of this weird angel stuff?

Opera: Probably..

Opera: It’s kind of a good look on you. I can tell you’re pretty green but… you look comfortable holding it.

Charon: You think so?

Opera: Mmhmm! Suits you. Anyway, sorry about that, just…

Charon: It’s okay, I was just more worried I hurt you or something…

Opera: Nah… anyway um…

Charon: What’s up?

Opera: I should probably go right now, not good for me to be out in public this long. Gotta find shelter for the night.

Charon: Ah… I mean my friend and I uh..

You point to Erica behind you, she tilts her head in confusion.

Charon: We got a place right now if you need somewhere…

Opera: Maybe… I’ll consider.

Opera: Do want to see you again though, felt nice talking to someone.

Charon: Yeah, of course! When?

Opera: I’ll find you…

The world starts to return to normal.

Opera: Meet you soon!

She vanishes. All that’s left is a dirty alley and Erica behind you.

Erica: Hey kid, you gonna be okay? Couldn’t tell much of what went on…

Charon: Mm? Yeah…. Just made a friend I think.

Erica: You can talk to me about her while we walk back.
CW: None

[Image: unknown.png]

You’re back in your castle.

Your beloved proxy keeps you company.

It’s nervous. You offer it a hand.

You comfort it to the best of your ability.

This entire experience fills you with dread and a bittersweet nostalgia but…

It makes you happy to have someone close by right now.

Styx: Personally I think the new proxy suits you.

Styx: Though I have a soft spot for the old one. Perhaps it’ll find its way back.

Charon: Mm… I see you’ve disrupted my dreams again.

Styx: A necessity, one you’ll grow to appreciate.

Charon: If you say so.

Styx: Are you irritated?

Charon: More… hmm. I don’t know how to put it.

Charon: I know what happens next from here.

Charon: I’m not looking forward to reliving it.

Styx: I’m on the same boat myself, for my own reasons.

Charon: I feel like things are a little different going back.

Styx: Retrospective does that.

Charon: Not just that either. My memory is not 1:1 with the emotions I’ve felt in those moments. It feels like people are missing…

Styx: Side effect of exposure to angelic types. They rewrite your past and your future without you really realizing why.

Styx: But you’re a little too self aware, I think. You’ve seen further more than anyone should.

Styx: It hurts me to see that child making friends, because I know he doesn’t get to grow up.

Styx: What lingers in his shell is delusional, a devil clinging onto fragments of the original. 

Styx: Or perhaps in denial? Either way, it’s sweet that you hold so dear a self that no longer exists.

Charon: If you don’t have anything more to do than taunt me, piss off.

Styx: I promise I have some business with you, urgent to address.

Charon: Is that so?

Styx: Looking further in, it’s hard to gauge if we truly have an intruder.

Styx: May be more akin to a curse really.

Charon: Elaborate.

Styx: I can’t find a connection to anyone, even if it’s clearly originating from our earlier encounter with… Esperanto was it?

Charon: Mm. So we’re not being invaded?

Styx: As of now? I can’t immediately confirm that.

Charon: But we’re very much not safe either.

Styx: No.

Charon: What should we do then?

Styx: Personally? Confront them in the morning. Whatever sorcery they inflicted earlier needs to be addressed directly. It’s certainly had a massive effect on your psyche already.

Charon: Mm…

You give the proxy a concerned look. It presses its muzzle against your face.

Charon: It’s… never really behaved like this before.

Styx: Certainly affectionate. Tell me Judgment boy, are you hiding something?

Charon: Does it matter? You can see everything.

Styx: You’d think, but despite being of my own contract your proxy certainly is.

Styx: Or perhaps wearing it right on its sleeve after all..

Styx: Whatever influence I once had on it seems to be gone.

Charon: Does it no longer carry your power?

Styx: No, because that’s been yours for the last decade.

Styx: Struck me down and took my soul for yourself. Frustrating.

Styx: Would be funny if in 100 years you were the one dealing contracts instead.

Charon: I have my doubts.

Styx: You are a fiend, you’ll live to see those days so long as you make no missteps.

Charon: Hmm….

Styx: Up to you really. Maybe in that time I’ll have been reborn. Maybe I’ll strike you down and it can become a cycle of its own.

Charon: I really doubt you’d want to be reborn into this world of all things.

Styx: Mm… I’ve considered it more than you’d think.

Charon: Really? That’s something new.

Styx: I’m very capable of sentiments and attachments. Perhaps that’s why I’ve managed to survive as a fragment in your mind rather than fizzling out altogether.

Charon: I doubt you care about me that much.

Styx: Certainly more than you or I want to admit.

Styx: I know you wouldn’t be talking to me like this if you truly hated me.

Charon: You’re making a massive assumption.

Styx: I don’t think I’m entirely wrong though.

Styx: Tell me, could you forgive me in another life?

Charon: I’d have to think about it, but on principle I’d at least make an attempt.

Charon: Are you planning to die on me?

Styx: Not quite yet, but I do have to move on sooner or later.

Styx: I think I want to be a rabbit next time...

Charon: I can tell. I’ve seen your true form plenty of times and yet you cling to that corpse.

Styx: One I had a complicated relationship with for certain.

Charon: Your old friend.

Styx: My greatest servant.

Charon: You refuse to let his image die.

Styx: Mm… can’t be helped really. I did really care for him but…

Styx: I don’t think I’m capable of being kind or loving in the way most prefer.

Styx: If I’m not getting a strong reaction from someone I genuinely feel unnoticed.

Charon: You must be furious right now then.

Styx: Heartbroken! You’ve become so cold mannered. I’m really disappointed.

Charon: I’m just tired, I’ve had enough of this for a lifetime.

Styx: Mm…

Charon: I am curious about things however.

Styx: Oh?

Charon: I’d like to hear you talk about your feelings, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

Styx: A tempting proposition..

Styx: As reluctant as I am to say, you’re certainly my second favorite. The bookworm nephew I never had.

Styx: Is nephew the right term actually? I know things can be complicated.

Charon: I’d rather not be seen as any sort of relative but… masculine terminology is acceptable.

Styx: Mm.

Styx: I became very attached to him, my old friend. Did everything within my power to keep him alive, to fulfill my promises so that he could perhaps one day become king.

Styx: Anytime he was on the verge of death I put him back together.

Styx: He never went a day empty handed.

Styx: But… I know he resented me in the end.

Charon: Understandable.

Styx: You’re so cruel…

Charon: I prefer honesty. I am curious though… what was your connection to him?

Styx: Initially? A client in need.. But I think I grew to envy him.

Styx: Grew to envy his capacity to make allies and tough through anything.

Styx: He loved and was loved back… not necessarily always the romantic kind, though there was certainly that too.

Styx: Admittedly you and your friends remind me of him...

Styx: I’d like to show you something, if you’re willing.

Charon: It’s against my better judgment to take an offer from you at this point…

Charon: But with such a rare moment of sincerity I feel I should offer you this moment.

Styx: Thank you..

You look him directly in the eye.

Charon: If you give me any reason to doubt you however, make peace with your preferred god immediately.

Charon: I’ll gut you where you stand.

Styx: Harsh, but merited. Very well then.

Charon: Lead the way.

[Image: unknown.png]

Charon:  Never seen this room before.

Styx: That’s because this entire castle is a labyrinth of secrets that I’d rather those who wander it find for themselves.

Styx: This place belongs to you now, It’d be your best interest to learn it in and out.

Charon: I’ve done what I can, I just… never realized how extensive it was.

Styx: Of course it is, this place is made of the stone of many worlds and the mettle of thousands.

Styx: While the main facilities are certainly easy to get around, only the truly dedicated can map out the entire thing.

Styx: If you truly are my worthy successor, my greatest opponent, the one who outwit me in the end…

Styx: It shouldn’t take you long.

Charon: Are you saying we’re destined rivals?

Styx: No, you’ve killed me.

Styx: You’ve effectively outplayed me in the ultimate game. You are the new Styx, embrace that.

Charon: I don’t think it’s a name I’d like to claim personally.

Charon: Nor do I want to continue your line of business.

Styx: A pity.

Styx: I wonder how good you would’ve been at keeping to a contract.

Charon: I consider what you did fairly questionable at best and incomprehensibly immoral at worst.

Styx: Even if I never went back on my end of the deal?

Charon: You only kept your end because everything you did was in your favor.

Styx: Hmm…

Styx: It’s true, had to make a profit. Unfortunately our agreement didn’t work out for me in the end.

Styx: Alas. My time is limited, nothing matters anyway.

Styx: I only wish to leave a mark of legacy.

Charon: And how do you propose that?

Styx: By making sure that my usurper is better than me.

You two reach the end of the tunnel. A hall of humanoid figures behind glass cases can be seen going deep in.

Styx: Welcome to my true collection, the proxies of those who came and went.

He gestures to you to walk ahead.

You do so with reluctance, keeping your eyes and ears following the snakey rabbit.

Charon:  You’ve had an awful number of clients.

Styx: Amazing really. Many of them were smarter, faster, better fighters than I’ve ever seen.

Styx: A lot of them like you. Perhaps some more noble, some less but they had a common soul to speak.

Charon: Reincarnation?

Styx: No, I’m sorry to say that you aren’t that special but… you certainly have something about you.

Styx: You’re the one who took me down and claimed my throne, my castle on a hill of dreams.

Styx: What you are now certainly isn’t a dog. I’m not quite sure you’re a fiend either.

Styx: A hodgepodge of other people’s memories and experiences and traumatic affairs... Your friends and family and the horrors you’ve encountered.

Styx: And worse of all, you’re me. The best of me and everyone who borrowed my crown.

Styx: I know you already carry quite a weight with the legacy your tribe and name place on you, so I’m sorry for making it more difficult.

Charon: Don’t get the sense that you are.

Styx: Not entirely so, no… just…

Styx: I suppose I’m curious about you... You have no reason to remain mortal.

Styx: You will live a long life, you have the potential to become more powerful than I ever was...

Styx: You were offered ascension back in that little world you saved. To be its hero, its god, immortal flesh and the finest blade… to create a new place free to mold to your liking.

Styx: Could’ve been the greatest king to ever exist.

Syx: And yet…

Styx: You choose to stay mortal.

Charon: As much as possible for someone like me at least.

Styx: I don’t understand...

Styx: Why did you abandon all that?

Charon: I missed home.

Charon: I missed the moments I had with my grandma.

Charon: Waking up early to talk to her before she heads out to work…

Charon: Splitting some beans and coffee…

Charon: I missed my bed, and going to the bookstore, and the nice family who ran the magic shop.

Charon: I couldn't just give that up I don’t think.

Styx: That’s a disappointingly simple response.

Charon: Don’t believe me?

Styx: I’m just… frustrated really.

Styx: Outdone by a country boy who loves his family.  Ego crushing.

Charon: Do you want an apology?

Styx: Tempting but… I think I’m going to suck it up this time.

Styx: Physically you’re an oddity, a destroyer in the shape of a small dog.

Styx: You have more in common with the angel you knocked down and sooner or later you will likely grow out a halo yourself but…

Styx: Maybe that child never left.

Styx: In your heart, you’re still very much in that moment to this day.

Styx: Perhaps it’s for the best. My climb to surpass my humanity ultimately lead to very little good. Just prolonging the death of many sad swordsmen who were braver than I could ever…

Styx: All these husks left behind…. Soon I may join them.

Styx: I don’t really want to.

Styx: And I certainly don’t want to have to add you to the ones here anytime soon either.

Charon: Don’t plan to.

Styx: You can’t guarantee that… but I get the sense you still have plenty of time left.

Styx: I only fear what’ll happen to your comrades. I have had premonitions about the upcoming heist and I dread that it may be worse than either of us were prepared for…

Charon: We’ll make it work.

Styx: Can you be so sure? Your friends may not share your strength in the end.

Charon: They don’t…

Charon: Because they’re even stronger.

Charon: You are too in your own way I think. Whether I like to admit it or not, I needed you back then.

Charon: And for all the harm you caused me… I couldn’t imagine a world without any of it happening. Without everything I saw, all the people I met.

Charon: So in a way, I should thank you.

Charon: Whether intended or not, many were saved by your scheme in the end.

Styx: ….

Charon: Are you alright?

Styx: Processing. I came expecting nothing but anger and resentment toward me.

Charon: Think I’m too tired for that anymore.

Styx: Mm…

Styx: May I ask you a question?

Charon: Go for it.

Styx: I have no idea how much more time I have left.

Styx: I don’t get the sense it’s very long…

Styx: When my time comes, I hope I get a fresh slate.

Styx: If you ever encounter me in another life, be kind.

Styx: Set me on the right path… It’s a lot to ask for but….

Styx: Maybe I just need it at this point.

Charon: I’ll do my best.

Styx: You promise so easy…

Styx: I feel our meeting is wrapping up for now…

Styx: I have more to talk about but… tonight was a pleasant surprise.

Styx: For as proudly as you claimed being a devil, you’re terrible at it.

Styx: But that’s okay.

Styx: Because you’re good at being you.

Styx: Hold onto that….

Styx: We’ll meet again soon. See you tomorrow night...

Charon: See you tomorrow night.
Dr. Strangelove Part I
[Thirteenth Reading Intermission]
CW: None
Perspective: Manzana Judgment.

[Image: unknown.png]

You’ve had a lot thrown your way in the past 24 hours. Zinnia, your first date in god knows how long, your cousins dragging you into their horseshit.

But now it’s quiet.

You take in the air around you as the sunset cracks the edge of the ocean. You’re a bit photosensitive so you can’t really be out for long but… these little moments are your favorite.

You don’t get to enjoy the peace for long.

Your phone starts to ring at you. Your body drags in defiance as you check the caller ID.

It’s Needle from work, probably important.

You put on your best face despite being exhausted.

Manzana: What's up?

Needle: Hey! Wanted to check up on you. You left the lab early..

Manzana: Had plans, sent you a heads up the week before.

Needle: Ah! Forgot about that… everything go okay with that?

Manzana: Yeah…

Needle: You sure? You sound tired.

Manzana: Kinda had a bit of a busy night. I…

Should probably explain, might be good for you honestly.

I don’t need to say anything...

*Yeah but like… you know.*


Today was supposed to be a work day.

Oh shi-

Needle: Hello? You still there?

Manzana: Yeah, just handling some things. Went on a date last night an-

Needle: Wait, a date? For real?

Manzana: It’s not a big deal or anything…

Needle: It is! I haven’t seen you on a real date ever! What’s their name? Are they cute? You stayed the night with them didn’t you?

Manzana: I’ll give you the details in person but no, we wrapped up a little before midnight and then I had a bit of an impromptu meetup with a relative who’s in town.

Needle: Is your mom around? She usually is a bit more planned out than that…

Manzana: No, my cousin…

Needle: The cool one? You gotta introduce me properly sometime.

Manzana: I wouldn’t call him that but…

Needle: Course not, if you know someone long enough they stop being cool. Are you staying with him right now?

Manzana: Sort of. Him, his brother, a few associates. Seems to be some sort of meetup, potential business prospect.

Needle: Is he dragging you in because he wants a favor? How much is he paying?

Manzana: He’s not…

Needle: Better not be anything big.

Manzana: Hard to say yet but… there’s a reason you called right?

Manzana: You didn’t call me just to hear all the details of my night.

Needle: Well… yes and no?

Manzana: Okay.

Needle: Wanted to check up on you mostly, but also wanted to ask if you took some stuff home with you.

Manzana: What stuff?

Needle: A couple of relics.. The construct husk and polearm? Took those back for tinkering I’m guessing?

Manzana: The… um…

Needle: Zana?

Manzana: Right, fuck uh…

Manzana: So the restoration process went in a bit of a surprising direction, have Platino on observation duty.

Needle: Wait, did you reactivate it?

Manzana: Something like that. It’s a little tricky to explain but…

You can Invite her over, I’ll explain while you figure out stuff.

Are you sure? This isn't really on you...

*Yeah. Kept an eye on Zinnia just fine, they’re pretty chill. One of those old smug but sad types. I’ll cover you.*

Manzana: Honestly if you don’t mind could you drop by? Plat can relay anything for me, I need to figure out how involved I want to be with this job.

Needle: Easy. I’ve just gotta handle a few things over here first but I’ll be at your place in the afternoon.

Manzana: I’ll see if I can be there for it, no promises.

Needle: Mm. You don’t need to rush if you’re spending time with family right now.

Manzana: I mean… we’re not really that close or anything.

Needle: Still, you could use a break. Don’t see you do anything like that ever.

Manzana: Mm…

Needle: When you’re wrapped up we should meet. Really do want to hear about how that date went.

Needle: Need to know if you’ll be taking more nights off.

Manzana: We’ll see…

Needle: If you ditch me I’m going to offer your roommate to hang out with me instead.

Yes please.

Needle: Thinking of a horror film. He likes spooky stuff, right?

Manzana: Sometimes.

Needle: I mean he lives with you so…

You hear a dorky little snort from the other end. It’s adorable.



Manzana: I didn’t hear that…

Needle: Hey, I’m a fan too. That look you’re going for? Nailed it, suits you perfect

Manzana: I had to design or commission a lot of it myself so…

Needle:  Maybe you’re willing to take up a job for a little dragon who needs a new wardrobe? Could be fun….

Manzana: We’ll see…

Manzana: I’ll try to be over at some point but like I said, no promises.I’ll see if they’ll let me take some time to handle things. You keep me updated if anything else comes up.

Needle: Will do. See you in a few hours. Have fun alright?

Manzana: Mm, see you..

You wait until you hear her hang up.

You gotta loosen up you know

Mm… It's hard to.

You gonna actually show up?

We’ll see…. Don’t think she needs to be dragged into a mess like this but…

You hear a knocking on the doorway behind you. You turn to see Mercury peeking out, giving you a little wave.

Mercury: Did you spend the night out here? Hopefully weren’t sleeping out in the cold.

Manzana: I’ll be fine, don’t need sleep anyway.

Mercury: I mean I used to think that too bu-

Manzana: As in biologically speaking. Angel poisoning.

Mercury: Ah… my bad. Anyway I wanted to see how you were doing, offer breakfast. You kinda kept to yourself a lot last night. You’re Geezer’s friend, right?

Manzana: Cousin technically, same with Charon too it looks like.

Mercury: I can see it. Into the whole magic thing too or…?

Manzana: In my own way. What about you? Friend, collaborator, babysitter?

Mercury: Bit of all three really. Anyway… you want to come inside? Fenton’s making pancakes…

Manzana:... Yeah. I’ll bite.
[Image: NO_MORE_TOHO.png]

 You follow the other rabbit as she leads you back inside to the main room. Opera is half knocked out on the  bar setup. The smell of breakfast being cooked from the other room makes your ears perk up a little.

Manzana: That smells good…

Mercury: Yeah? Fenton’s pretty good at what he does.. Pretty sure he cooks for him and his partner.

Mercury: They’ll show up sooner or later, busy handling some stuff with the job coordinator.

Manzana: Job coordinator? It’s not any of you?

Mercury: Nope. But it’s someone I trust enough to know that we’re in good hands.

Mercury: Granted, there’s some choices I’m wondering about…

Manzana: Like what?

Mercury: There were a bunch of other folks who didn’t get brought in somehow. In general I’m not sure why we’re not trying to track things down before the auction happens.

Manzana: As someone who has a little insight into these events, the amount of security around them is incredibly high. Many sensitives keeping watch, storage is kept incredibly tight and hard to track to begin with. The rich refuse to part with their payday so easy.

Mercury: Feel like calling potential world enders and a corpse a payday is…

Manzana: Mm. I don’t particularly care for working with them myself. Most of the time relics like these are tossed at folks like me to tinker and tear apart until we can reproduce and streamline them.

Mercury: Define streamline here.

Manzana: Marketable. Most of the time it’s quite a bit of nothing but as I’ve been informed.. Immortality is a new one. They’ll fuck it up somehow for sure but I don’t think I like the idea of people with deep pockets and power living forever.

Mercury: Death’s one of the few things in this world that they can’t dodge.

Manzana: Exactly. That should never change.

Mercury: Mm… 

The rabbit shifts her eyes over to check on Opera.

Mercury: You doing okay there?

Opera: I’m tired….

Mercury: You want us to drag you to your room?

Opera: No…

Mercury: Fair enough. You met Manzana here yet?

Opera: Mm? Not really.

She turns to get a good look at you. You’re a little nervous after earlier.

Opera: Hearts…

Manzana: Pardon?

Opera: Your eyes, they got little hearts. They’re glowing and everything.

Manzana: Mm…

Opera: You’ve gotten the rough end of a contract. 

Manzana: It’s not so bad these days…

Opera: Mm… It’s one of those things that gets easier overtime I think.

Opera: Not always because you feel better but like…

Opera:  Because you’ve grown used to it. You learn to live with a lot of it.

Manzana: Mmm.. Take it that you’ve got a bit of your own?

Opera: Only a little. Managed to cut ties with things early enough that I’ve been better off than most.

Opera: Though I think everyone here’s got a little something going on at this point.

Manzana: I’ve noticed.

Opera: It’s nice though. Not everyone going through it but…

Manzana: Everyone around you understands.

Opera: Exactly.

Manzana: I can appreciate that honestly.

Opera: How long?

Manzana: Me? Uh… 17 I think

Manzana: I started messing with contracts earlier than that, but 17 is when I got deep enough in one to mark me. Left me with a proxy and all.

Opera: 15. Started messing with magic since Middle School but I got deep into stuff around 15 and that’s how I met everyone here.

Manzana: One of those generational things I think. Witchcraft became way easier to get into over the past couple of decades.

Manzana: This region’s always had local circles but I remember a huge boom when I was around 10.

Opera: For me I just didn’t have much else going on. Small town life.

Manzana: If only.

Opera: What about you?

Manzana: Grew up half my life on the streets, then got picked up by a knight from overseas.

Manzana: Got me housing, education, work. Didn’t let me have anything free though.

Opera: Ah, one of those?

Manzana: Yeah….

Opera: That means you’re uh…

Opera: A squire right? That’s what they call folks like that?

Manzana: No, never was really given any sort of title like that. Not really a knight either.

Manzana: Witchcraft’s more my thing.

Opera: Another one for the pile. Between you, Charon, and Fenton we got enough to run a lab.

Manzana: What’s that mean?

Mercury: She’s calling you a nerd.

Your ears flop down a bit.

Manzana: Nerd…?

Opera: I mean… you’re a cool one! You’re like…

Opera: The popular mean girl who secretly likes anime. You know?

Manzana: I don’t know what that is…?

Opera: Like, you’re cool but you got a secret geeky side.

Manzana: Maybe…

Opera: That’s a lot of my friends though.

Manzana: Huh…

Opera: And you’re cooler than your cousins so…

Manzana: That’s really not hard.

Mercury: It’s not? But we love them anyway.

Mercury: Speaking of, you two mind doing me a favor?

Opera: What’s up?

Mercury: Just remembered we’re out of juice and coffee. There’s a convenience store down the street.

Opera: On it! You want to come Manzana? Want to talk to you a bit more, get some air too.

Do it.

I was going to…

Manzana: Yeah, sure.
[Image: Cyber_Crunch.png]
Opera: Hey so….

Manzana: What’s up?

Opera: Sorry about earlier, turbo protective of folks and you well…

Manzana: Bad first impression, I know.

Opera: Literally the only reason I didn’t bop you on the spot is because you looked so… guilty.

Opera: Makes me wonder why you did the act to begin with.

Manzana: I mean… real answer is my mom.

Opera: Need you to uh… explain that one?

Manzana: Long story, but gist is there’s a huge family feud between my mom and her sister. They have some decades old beef that I don’t see any end to.

Manzana: Well… besides one killing the other really.

Manzana: One of those.

Opera: Huh… think I heard someone back there talk about Erica. God I don’t know if I’d be ready to meet up with her..

Manzana: Any reason?

Opera: She’d be like, 70 or 80 now or something. When we met we were all time displaced teens and all that..

Manzana: Weird… can’t imagine her young. When you got that old time cowboy vibe it just… weird.

Opera: She’s literally always been a cowboy so…

Manzana: Did she grow up on a farm or…?

Opera: Don’t think so! Small town type but looking at her entire family? Might just be a personal interest.

Manzana: That.. hmm..

Mazana: Makes it less scary, honestly.

Opera: She could still skin you alive.

Manzana: We’ll see. Anyway…

Opera: Anyway…

Manzana: Anyone associated with her makes my mom flip her shit. Curated the hell out of my friends when I was learning under her, didn’t want any “bad influences''.” Working with Anyone tied to my aunt is asking to get stabbed on the streets.

Opera: Sounds intense.

Manzana: Used to it. So… what’s your deal? Not in the same line as business as the others I think.

Opera: Me? I just investigate all sorts of hauntings and curses across the country really. Back where I’m from there’s not really witches the same way you think of.

Manzana: Really? Must be pretty far out.

Opera: Mmhmm! Don’t like traveling alone but thankfully I got my little buddy with me.

Opera’s coat unfurls a little to reveal the head of a bat-like creature.

Manzana: A proxy?

Opera: Sorta? I mean guess yeah but… he’s different from what a lot of you folks have.

Manzana: No kidding, can get a lot out of just a look…

Manzana: He just been there the whole time?

Opera: Mmhmm! Rarely ever isn’t out.

Manzana: Doesn’t ever get tired?

Opera: Nope!

She stops to scratch behind the bat’s ears, causing it to crackle affectionately.

Opera:I mean has to sleep and all that but just always with me.

Opera: All you magic loving folks say he’s special and I gotta agree on that. Bit of a bastard but..

Manzana: Does he have a name?

Opera: Mmhmm, Paige Bailiff.

Manzana: Why Bailiff?

Opera: Mom used to put on a lot of daytime court stuff back home, always thought the word was funny as a kid.

Opera playfully presses her nose against the proxy’s. He sneezes in response.

Opera: He’s a sweetpea, always gonna be by my side.

Manzana: Cute….

You reach out to pet him, he pulls back, clearly less than comfortable with you..

Manzana: Ah…

Opera: He’s a bit shy, don’t push too much yet.

Manzana: Figured, never been good with animals.

Opera: Just gotta spend more time around them, they mellow out.  When we get back you two can get familiar with each other, maybe let you feed him treats.

Manzana: Mm..

Opera: What about uh… Platino? He uh… talked through you last night?

Manzana: He’s my proxy too, we share control of this body but lately I’ve gotten him a blank so he can do his own thing more. You’ll meet him properly at some point.

Opera: Excited! And uh.. I’m guessing that means we’re going to see more of you then?

Manzana: Maybe, we’ll see. Did promise to help but how much time I can give is a little tricky.

Opera: Busy with work?

Manzana: With everything really. Going to do my part in this but I have a lot of contracts to fulfill and can’t risk getting caught with any of you.

Opera: But… you’re walking to the convenience store just fine with me?

Manzana: Nobody recognizes me out of uniform.

Opera: Kinda doubt that, you uh…

Manzana: Mm?

Opera: You got like.. A lot? Like…

Manzana: Pick your next words wisely.

Opera: Like… you got big white hair…

Manzana: Tie it back after work.

Opera: You got those heart eyes? Those real? They’re really cute.

Manzana: Get asked both of those things plenty, answer’s yes.

Opera: That’s so cool though….

Manzana: …Right.

Opera: I’m guessing you’ve been exposed though. Hearts got that glow.

Manzana: Plenty, occupational hazard.

Opera: Charon says that a lot too…

Manzana: Bit of a running joke for folks like us. Without a little gallows humor you’d never get far.

Opera: Mm… I guess. Little bit poisoned myself but it’s pretty minor…

Manzana: For the best really..

Opera: Mm…

Opera: You can tell me if you need me to back off at any point also.

Manzana: You’re fine.

Opera: Wanted to get to know you a bit more but, I know it can get annoying.

Manzana: Treating it as a job interview, got every right to know about who you're working with.

Opera: Guess so.

Manzana: Plus it’s easier if it’s you,  no offense to everyone else but you’re the coolest person I’ve talked to so far.

Opera: Maybe, compared to who?

Manzana: Geezer.

Opera: I think he’s cool…

Manzana: He’s a dweeb, just a well dressed one. Charon’s nice but he gives me tryhard vibes. Platino likes him though and I figure I’ll be working with him on any equipment we’ll need for the heist.

Manzana: Seems to be a bit of a retrofitter though, self taught one too from the looks of it. Going to have to teach him to clean up his work. Got potential, listened to me ramble about soul packeting for a hour so that’s nice…

Opera: You two are nerds.

Manzana: Paid nerds, big difference.

Manzana: Mercury’s cool but she’s… hmm.

Opera: What?

Manzana: She’s got the energy of an aunt coming over for Christmas. You know the type. Nice but… eh. Sort of thing makes me nervous.

Opera: Mm..

Manzana: Not her fault.

Manzana: Rosario called me a bunny, I’m not a fan.

Opera: But… you are?

Manzana: No, it’s about the energy. I’m a rabbit. Bunny would be… I guess Platino maybe.

Opera: That really a thing?

Manzana: Mm. And Esperanto only showed up briefly but I don’t like their vibe. Reminds me too much of my mom in a bad way. Haven’t talked to Fenton yet soo…. congrats, you’re the coolest one here.

Opera: Do I win anything?

Manzana: Maybe. Let’s bring back juice and coffee like we promised and we can keep talking over that.

Opera: Yeah, I’m down. We can split the fee..

Manzana: I’m covering, that’s final. I shot your friend, I gotta make up that much.

Opera: Fair enough, I’m not great on cash right now anyway.

Manzana: Easy. And… appreciate you for hearing me out a bit. Think I actually needed that.

Opera: No prob, really help?

Manzana: Yeah… really did.
The Path of Most Suffering
[Fourteenth Reading]
CW: Mentions of fear, death, verbal abuse.
Perspective: Charon Judgment

[Image: JESUS_CNADLES.png]

 You finally wake up.

You no longer feel Styx’s presence. Wherever he is right now, he’s cut off communication with you.

You look around in your candle lit room.

You see a gift left for you, a note attached.

“The boss left you something, a gesture from someone close to you.

Wash up, put this on, meet me outside


You unwrap the present. A fresh change of clothes with a coat.

You recognize the material as being laced with fiend silk, famous for its ability to protect the wearer from a variety of supernatural ailments and attacks.

You need to confront Esperanto about last night.

With Styx’s warnings of an intruder, you have to wonder what exactly they’re looking for.

You follow the instructions without a moment of hesitation. You could be playing into something dangerous, but you’re surrounded by allies.

Still, you wonder why someone outside of all this has been brought in. Rosario isn’t part of the original group either but… her vibe feels like a natural fit at least.

Esperanto is odd, distant, a little menacing to be frank. Someone hired by this mysterious person who’s gathered everyone.

Whoever this is seems to be aware of who you all are. They didn’t invite you with Geezer, so it’s very likely they had no idea where you even were. Maybe they got lucky and nailed two birds with one stone.

It’s a bit odd though, this had to be someone with knowledge of the angel pocket in detail. Maybe they’re Hickory? One of the few folks from back then who seemingly isn’t here. Fenton made it more than clear they’re fine.

What if they’re in a dangerous situation? What if they’re collecting info for this heist and can’t compromise their location?

You’re a little worried now admittedly.

The fiend silk? Erica? Arabis? This doesn’t make sense…

The stitching is certainly the latter’s work, he must be in contact in some way but…

Erica is way too hands on to not be here herself if given the offer.

Did they know you’d be here all along? How’d they get this over so quickly? A few folks in your group are capable of warping from the Judgment House to Plaza quickly enough.

Opera? No, she doesn’t seem to know who’s in charge and isn’t the type to keep this sort of thing hidden.

Fenton? Maybe but… you haven’t really spoken to him either.

Nobody in your family has the capacity to do that themselves…

You get the outfit on, it’s a comfortable fit. It wouldn’t be too hard to have someone figure out your measurements if they’re in contact with folks who were able to track you and Geezer down.

Doesn’t matter, you’ll find out soon enough.

As you make your way toward the nearest exit and spot them outside as promised…

[Image: Those_who_further.png]

Face to face...

Charon: We need to talk.

Esperanto: We do.

Charon: What do you want with me? Can’t imagine this is standard protocol. The flashback, the dreams, whatever you’ve done to my proxy…

Esperanto. I thoroughly background check those involved in this, but since you’ve appeared without any info given I have to be extra cautious and well…

Esperanto: Certainly are someone of interest. You’ve been through quite a bit from a young age.

Esperanto: More than most could even imagine in their life.

Esperanto: Gives me more reason to make sure you’re suited for the job.

Charon: I’d like to think given I’m just as personally motivated to follow through with it as the others, I have more right than you.

Esperanto: Maybe. You’re certainly a promising one for being so early and yet..

Esperanto: The choices you made have me concerned. You’ve made deals and contracts that make me doubt your decision making down the line.

Esperanto: A knight is risking a lot with each client, and I don’t know if you’re suited to this occupation frankly.

Charon: I’ve done my work, I deserve to find that out myself.

Esperanto: We’ll see. I’m watching you closely over the next couple of weeks, don’t disappoint.

Charon: Who are you to make the call anyway? How’d you get a hold of something like this?

Esperanto: A secret for now, all you need to know is that I’m fulfilling a favor long owed. It really doesn’t come down to me though, honest. I just report what I see and well… if what you display doesn’t wow? I will strongly suggest against your involvement.

Esperanto: Though with that little devil in your head I can’t help but already wonder..

Charon: If you need to observe anything, do it the normal way.

Esperanto: Can’t really trust you with that, you’re far from honest.

Esperanto: Lying to yourself even, that poor proxy’s been feigning courage even harder than you.

Esperanto: The form it takes now is the truth. Timid, insecure, not long for this world…

Charon: Back off.

Esperanto: If you want to prove me wrong, show some teeth. Not that it matters, I know everything you’re scared of. All it takes is one good look into your soul.

[Image: Misery.png]

Esperanto manages to grab you faster than you can react, a deathly vision mirrored in your eyes. It pierces your mind and body like wet paper to a scorching knife. No matter how hard you try, you can't break through the illusion at hand... It takes everything within you to not scream...

Esperanto: I can see every fear, every intrusive thought, and every crack in your foundation…. You’re an anomaly really. One eye sees the world and the other sees the truth, and anytime you look in the mirror you can’t deny what you see.

Esperanto: Thankfully we have plenty of time to fix that…

Esperanto tightens their grip on you.

Esperanto: When we’re done, you’ll cast away only ignorance and that vile squatter’s magic. You won’t need to hide behind that little shade anymore. When I’ve purged you of all that dead weight, you’ll know who you really are.

Charon: Leave them out of it.

Esperanto: Of all people to defend… you’ll be the death of you and everyone you love…

Esperanto releases you. The visions clear up, you feel reality start to ground you again.

Esperanto: That’s enough from now, really managed to keep a poker face through all that..

Charon: Didn’t have to go that far….

Esperanto: I think I did, it’s only going to be harder from here. I’m not apologizing for what I said, not until you prove me wrong.

Esperanto: Spar with me.
CW: Physical violence, injury, destruction of mobility devices.

[Image: unknown.png]

Without hesitation, your proxy swoops in and jabs them full force, catching an expression in genuine shock in the moment.

You send them crumpling onto the beach.

Charon:  We’re past that point.

Charon: Hands up.

A mist begins to form around you and Esperanto, the world a stage melting over. It’s hard to say if you’re in the middle of reality.

Your proxy looks back at you with a confident look, stronger than you’ve seen in a long time… it makes you feel happy.

Esperanto: Hardly sporting.. proud of you.

Charon: Excuse me?

Esperanto: You had every right and you pulled the trigger. Boss will be happy to know. 

Esperanto: Truth be told, I reported everything from last night that I could. There was a bit of hesitation but…

Esperanto: I assured them I’d make you a fine addition with a little polish.

Charon: Who is this boss? Why are you so invested in this?

Esperanto: Just someone who was asked to help tie loose ends from a long time ago, including yours

Charon: You mean Styx?I hadn’t thought of him in god knows.

Charon: You spent 5 minutes poking at my head, now I’m hearing him crystal clear again. If you were tying loose ends, you’re lousy at it.

Esperanto: An oversight.

Esperanto: Let me get rid of him, you’ll never have to again…

Charon: To be honest with you? I’m not sure I want to. I think…. Things will be different-

Esperanto: Don’t tell yourself that.

Esperanto: I know his type. You give him a single inch and he takes a mile.

Esperanto: You don’t need him.

They make an attempt to approach. You draw your weapon.

Charon: Back off, I don’t like how you’re looking at me.

Esperanto: Do you really trust him?

Esperanto: The amount he’s put you through.

Charon: I know.. I’m very aware and I can’t get too comfortable around him but..

Esperanto: But you know what he can do.

Charon: I’m willing to take that risk.

Esperanto: Baffling… I’m giving you an out and you’re protecting him…?

Charon: It’s my call on how I want to handle this. If the team has to take me off the job for their sake? So be it. But I want that vote made by people whose input I value more.

Charon: You’ve done nothing to merit my trust so far, and it honestly has me only questioning this job.

Esperanto: Really going to make this difficult… Well…

Esperanto: In that case I’m giving you a fair warning. Don’t complicate this.

Charon: No chance.

Before you can fully register what happens next, you’re sent crumbling into the ground by the full force blunting of a giant sword. 

Esperanto: Please stay down. It’s for your best.

You refuse.

Your proxy lifts you off the floor. Your entire body is in agony.

Esperanto: You’re really going to make this a big deal?

Charon: It’s all I’m good at.

They take another swing, this time the sharp end crashing down. You manage to catch it with your bare prosthetic hand, it digs in deep into the palm.

You take the opportunity to yank them in for a counter blow to the throat. It staggers them hard though not to the extent you were hoping for.

They quickly bounce back and return a headbutt.

You trade your own in time.

It seems to have more of an effect. You use your free hand to cling on and bite deep into the shoulder.

Blood is drawn.

The taste of it fills your throat.

Your entire body flickers and howls with a primal flame.

The sword digs deeper, burrowing into your mechanical wrist.

The Proxy dives in to push back. You pummel for your life.

Esperanto grabs you by the chest in return and pulls you in for a knee to the face.

And another..

And another…

And another…

It takes everything in you to keep conscious through this.

Eventually you recall your Proxy, the sword shatters your left arm into metal fragments and wire. You’re tossed directly into the dirt.

They place a foot directly on your remaining arm.

Esperanto: Where is he? I don’t want to be doing this-

Your proxy reappears and football tackles them off of you. They manage to grip the proxy and steer it directly into the ground like a bull flung by the horns.

You take this opportunity to grab a fragment of your shattered arm and jab it directly into their side.

They wheeze intensively, you finally land a blow that seems to have impact. You dig your hand deep into the void, your fingers around the handle of a short blade.

You’re cut short..

They grab your arm by the mechanical joint and immediately break the hinge with their bare hands. Your hand goes limp, the weapon falls back into the abyss it came from.

Your proxy swoops in to save you from their grip only to end up in a stranglehold.

You’re out of options.

You can’t trade in any meaningful way.

Your proxy is pinned.

You have no way to hold a weapon.

All you can do is bite and kick and scream until your lungs give out.

Esperanto’s grip tightens around the Proxy’s neck.

You can feel that tightness.

Esperanto: Right now you’re in a world you don’t have a lick of control over.

Esperanto: You may be walking but you never truly woke up.

Esperanto: You only  hit me because I let you hit me.

Esperanto: Any little moment of advantage? I gave you that.

Esperanto: I’m not asking anymore, where is he?

Styx: I’m right here.

The devil slow claps as he enters the room.

Styx: Couldn’t have the guts to throw hands with someone your size?

Styx: Pity.

Styx: In a fair fight, my bets would be on the kid.

Styx: Respect him a ton even if we don’t see eye to eye often.

Styx: Me personally? Not having much fun watching this, neither are you for that matter.

Styx: Put him down.

Esperanto drops you onto the floor, you don’t have anything left in you to stand back up.

Styx: Good dog.

Esperanto: I’m lost, what’s your angle?

Styx: Nothing. Don’t got all that much love for the cuss personally but..

Styx: Made a deal to protect him.

Styx: So go ahead, have at me. Not much left to kill really.

Styx: But don’t figure you’re the good guy after all this.

You move your mouth but your throat can’t make a cohesive sound.

He looks right at you.

Styx: You did your part, now stay down yeah?

Styx: When the time comes, you’ll be a better devil than I’ve ever been.

Styx: Happier one.

Styx: For now just sleep, yeah? Things will be good when you wake up.

Styx: We’ll settle this out nice and easy…

Styx: Talk to you again soon.

You black out.
[Image: MOSHED-2022-9-17-11-58-4.jpg]

CW: Discussion of Death and Violence.

You're back in that pit again...

A dream, or a memory...
 Geezer: Charon, you okay?

Charon: Not really..

Geezer: What’s up?

Charon: Overwhelmed right now…

Charon: Check out some books on the occult one day, end up burning down a city the next…

Geezer: Feel that…

Charon: Rotting every part of you just to make it to the next day…

Charon: I’m sorry you got dragged into this..

Geezer: It’s okay dude… We made it this far, right?

Charon: Mm… don’t know how much more we’ve got in us.

Charon: Killing’s hard Geez, really is.

Geezer: I know…

Charon: Even if these people had it coming…

Geezer: They did…

Charon: That’s the thing right? Each time makes a little more sense in your head like…

Charon: Fuck…

Geezer: It’s what’s gotta be done. You remember what Grandma said?

Charon: If someone comes for your leg, you make sure they never walk again.

Geezer: Because if you let them get back up, they’ll try it again. Could be you, could be someone else.

Geezer: If we don’t here and now, they’ll just find a fresh start and do it all over.

Geezer: Corny shit but..

Geezer: Remember this from something I watched growing up.
Geezer: “Not a sin to fight for what’s right.”

Geezer: “Some folks won’t ever listen to words.”

Geezer: Paraphrasing of course. Thought that shit was so cool but…

Geezer: Think that’s the truth.

Geezer: Don’t make our stand now, might never get to again.

Geezer: Can’t afford to lose, so we won’t.

Geezer:.... Charon?

Geezer: Ah shoot uh… are you crying? Uh…

Charon: Sorry….

Geezer: Let me get you something-

Charon: It’s fine, need this right now…

Charon: Guess just… I don’t know..

Charon: Wish I was as brave as everyone else you know?

Geezer: Literally never seen you break a sweat during a fight, fuck are you on about?

Charon: All just pretend, doing it so nobody else worries.

Geezer: Yeah? That’s pro stuff. Putting on a face when you could die… that’s not easy at all.

Geezer: Nobody’s going to give you shit for being stressed. Not me, or any of our friends.. Think Hickory’s got a lot of respect for you too at this point and they don’t listen to anyone.

Charon: Except Fenton.

Geezer: Yeah but like, those two are like… you know.

Charon: Gay?

Geezer: Yeah, that.

Charon: I mean… they always got each other.

Charon: And we got all our friends we made on the way.

Geezer: Yeah.

Charon: Corny but… it’s something to fight for.

Geezer: Exactly, you get it.

Geezer: Not just about the killing…

Geezer: It’s about famil-

Charon: Shut the fuck up dude, I will cut you.

Geezer: We’re a family dude.

Charon: Oh my fucking god….

Geezer: Hey, got you smiling.

Charon: You did…

Geezer: You feeling better now?

Charon: Little, yeah…

Geezer: Always got your back.

Charon: Yeah…

Charon: We should check in on the others…

Geezer: Yeah, know Opera isn’t doing her best right now. You good for that?

Charon: Mm…  let’s keep it going. 
[Image: Cooldown.png]

You wake up by the shore, drenched and thrown aside..

Your cousin looms over you nonchalantly.

Charon: Geezer…?

Geezer: Yeah, sup.

Charon: Should you be standing up like this right now?

Geezer: Stable for now, can’t do anything too extreme til I get a more thorough repair job but… Fenton is Fenton. He’s good at making things work in a pinch.

Charon: Mm..

Geezer: Gotta wonder what happened with you though. Look like you got roughed up hard but when I checked up on you well… not a scratch. You wanna explain?

You get to your feet, checking yourself. Your prosthetics are just fine despite the destruction of them earlier, and your injuries have healed completely. The only proof of your earlier fight is the now dry stains on your face.

Charon: Got in a scuffle with one of the crew. Esperanto.

Geezer: Who?

Charon: That’s exactly what I want to find out..

Geezer: That’s not uh… whoever Mercury was getting all kissy with last night, right? Don’t want to be killing the buzz on that but..

Charon: That’s Rosario, she’s fine. Esperanto is the weird abstract looking one, you can’t miss them.

You can’t help but snarl a little.

Charon: Next time I see their face I’m going to put them in a coffin…. Spineless.

Geezer: You’re looking a bit aggro there…

Charon: Can’t be helped frankly. Everything about their presence irks me, and their weird fixation on Styx isn’t helping.

Geezer: Okay, I think I missed out on a lot…

Charon: Mm, Styx is back-

Geezer: He’s what?! Okay no, this is-

Charon: It’s fine this time-

Geezer: No it’s not! Charon-

Charon: Let me talk-

Geezer: How? Why?!

Charon: Don’t you fucking cut me off.

He goes quiet, more than a little hurt by your response.

Geezer: Charon…

Charon: I’m… sorry. I’m just… I’m dealing with a lot right now and I don’t know what to make of it anymore..

Charon: Feel tired, heated…

Geezer: No kidding dude, even your face. What happened there?

Charon: My face…?

He fishes around his pockets for a phone and passes it along.

Geezer: Check your reflection.

You take a look at yourself on the screen to see eyes so dark they’re practically bleeding over, the red and blue having their glows now overlap.

Your teeth have turned into a rosebush of fangs…

Though much remains intact you struggle to recognize yourself

Charon: I don’t know if I can do this..

Charon: One night and I’m falling apart..

Geezer: Look..  we got all sorts of folks inside who can take a look at you. Someone’s gotta know something.

Charon: I don’t want them to see me like this… didn’t want to yell at you either…

Geezer: I mean.. Everyone here’s facing a lot of shit we thought we were done with.

Geezer: Some asshole dug it all up.

Geezer: Shit’s got me still fucked, you’re allowed to be stressed dude.

Geezer: Just calm down for now. We’ll take you in, get you something to eat, figure it all out.

Geezer: …

Geezer: Charon?

Charon: Mm.. sorry just..

Charon: Can we really do that?

Geezer: Yeah. Let’s get you dried up though, I think folks would be pissed if we ruined the floorboards.
[Image: unknown.png]
The two of you walk back into the place, smell of pumpkin pancakes filling the air the moment you open the door.

You spot your friend working on plating, Geezer giving him a little salute to catch his attention.

Geezer: Yo Fenton!

Fenton: Geezer! 

Geezer: Talk to me, how’s breakfast looking?

Fenton: Practically done, just-

He gets a look at you and stumbles, startled immediately. You avoid eye contact on instinct.

Fenton: Charon..?

Charon: Mm. Morning.

Fenton: You uh.. Got a little something on you.

Charon: Very aware, may need your assistance here.

Fenton: I’d say, how old are you?

Charon: 24? I don’t see what that has to do with anything..

Fenton: Ah… you seem a bit late but it’s still in the typical window.

He takes a closer look at you.

Fenton: You bit someone.

Charon: Mm… got in a scuffle with Esperanto.

Fenton: Really?  I’m surprised…

Charon: What do you mean?

Fenton: Known them for a couple of years, met them when doing a favor for Erica.

Charon: You’ve kept in contact with her?

Fenton: Mmhmm. Oddball, not entirely sure what their deal is but they’re not the type to start fights…

Charon: Have a hard time believing it after the past 24 hours.

Fenton: I mean… what was it over?

Charon: Seems to doubt my capacity to handle the job, or at least our mystery employer here does…

Fenton: Huh…

Geezer: You know anything about them?

Fenton: Little bit. Unfortunately not at the liberty to out their identity for safety reasons..

Geezer: What’s that mean?

Fenton: Being targeted by someone, very selective on who’s allowed to know..

Charon: You can’t tell us?

Fenton: No, would be risky to them… but I can promise you they’re a friend.

Fenton: And I wouldn’t let them put you in danger either, not that I think they would..

Fenton: Anyway…  your current problem… might be going through an awakening of sorts.

Fenton: Fiend hybrids like us go through a bit of weirdness with age you know? You ever had the urge to feed before?

Charon: Occasionally, I try not to… can count the number of times on my hands... Rather not drink blood if I can help it since… you know.

Fenton: Once a fiend starts drinking regularly, becomes harder to go without it.

Geezer: Explains a lot actually, never Charon or Erica drink before.. Except maybe the one time where you bit whatshisface. You went kinda berserk.. ..

Charon: Hence why I try not to.

Geezer: Yeah…

Fenton: What were the other times?

Charon: Mm well… had a former partner who was quite into the idea..

Geezer: You’re going to talk about that here?

Charon: Not going into graphic detail if that’s what you’re worried about..

Fenton: Mm..

Charon: Never had it change me this much before however, not off just one heat of the moment bite.

Fenton: That’s because the circumstances for an awakening are.. Little precise?

Charon: Oh?

Fenton: Gotta bite someone in a bit of an extreme, someone who’s got some fixation on you and pushes you to a state of special tension.

Fenton: A rival, a nemesis, anything of that sort.

Charon: Mm…

Fenton: Esperanto isn’t anything close to normal so… that checks out..

Fenton: Granted, nobody’s seen their true form.

Charon:... What do you mean?

Fenton: They’re an illusionist, you noticed right?

Charon: Mm..

Fenton: Have that eye of yours, the angel poisoned one..

Charon: Could see that much but couldn’t gaze past the magic at all.

Fenton: Really? Terrifying..

Fenton: But it sounds about right for them.

Charon: So… what is this awakening exactly? Heard things here and there but no concrete answer.

Fenton: Aye, the inconsistencies between people.

Fenton: But the origin comes from first generation fiends. They show up, target someone they have a grudge against, and then when they do the job they move on…

Fenton: But if you feed on someone in the heat of the moment? Might lead to places.

Charon: Don’t exactly know them..

Fenton: No, but they tend to play into their opponents… insecurities to put it bluntly.

Charon: Ah…

You can’t help but grumble under your breath at that.

Fenton: Don’t take it personally when I say that-

Charon: I didn’t.

Geezer: Charon..

Charon: Just.. moment. Sensitive.

Geezer gives you a little nod.

Fenton: The awakening tends to play into existing feelings and escalate them. Us fiends are well…

Charon: Emotional.

Fenton: Absolutely.

Fenton: Awakenings for first gen fiends are very cathartic but…

Fenton: For someone like you or me? Hectic. Parts of you that are or aren’t start clashing until they balance out, the fiend side becomes passive, or it becomes the primary you.

Fenton: It’s healthy but… upsetting until it resolves.

Geezer: How long is it going to last?

Fenton: Variable. Few days, a week, maybe two?

Fenton: Could potentially overlap with our schedule the entire time…

Fenton: You’re a spider variant, right?

Charon: Yes..

Fenton: What’s your breath type?

Charon:... Web.

Fenton:... Rough then. Chance you might cocoon for a few days at some point. Metabolism might also pop off… and you might be a little more…

Charon: Volatile.

Fenton: Mm…

Charon: I… don’t think I’ll be a good fit for this job.

Charon: They sabotaged me. Wasn’t on the invite list, baited me into biting.

Fenton: They’re the type to make people sink or swim but… don’t think they intended that last part. Seems like a bit of a ridiculous gambit.

You can’t help but glare at him briefly, watching his face sink immediately before backing off.

Fenton: Sorry…

Charon: Likewise..

Fenton: I’ll talk to them, Mercury too.

Fenton: Both of us know them better than anyone else here. All this seems off as hell…

Fenton: Honestly though, if it comes down to it I’ll vouch to have them removed from the heist. After everything, think I’d prefer you were there.

Your ears perk up.

Charon: Are you sure?

Fenton: Job’s gotta get done one way or another, but think we’d all miss you. Worst case, you’ll help me in the workshop.

Charon: Did talk about collaborating like this one day…

Fenton: Still up for making good on it?

Charon: Maybe… I’d like to. Feel like screaming but…it gives me some assurance.

Fenton: For now just get situated, we’re just waiting on Opera and Manzana to finish their errands.
[Image: unknown.png]
The stack of flapjacks standing before you is perfect in every form.

This is the ideal breakfast for a cold day in fall.

Charon: You’ve really outdone yourself with these…

Geezer: Cute…

Fenton: Like them?

Charon: Mmhmm. You really didn’t have to…

Fenton: Tis the season, darkest night is rearing up and we have some time to appreciate the season.

Charon: I’d assume the prep work would be more intensive… hard to celebrate when you’ve got a potential doomsday timer.

Fenton: It will be, but we’ve got plenty of hands on board and a few backup options..  We can afford little things like this.

Geezer: You mean bombing the place?

Fenton: Mmhmm. Don’t want to resort to that but.. It’s potentially dire enough.

Charon: Honestly I’d be tempted to… anyway what’s keeping breakfast held up?

Fenton: Just-

You hear someone approaching the entrance, the dialogue becoming clear as it gets closer.

Manzana: You’ve never seen the prequels?

Opera: No! There’s only one movie back home.

Manzana: No….

The two fiddle with the door knob.

Opera: Shoot, forgot keys…

Geezer scoots on over to unlock the door.

Geezer: Gotcha covered, what’s up?

Opera: Juice, coffee, milk.. Breakfast things.

Manzana: Covered the expenses, sorry about yesterday…

Geezer: No biggie, I’ll be back to full after visiting the shop.

Manzana: Surprised you’re walking so soon after that..

Geezer: Fenton’s good with machines. Anyway hurry up, don’t want it all getting cold.

The two shuffle inside and start laying everything out on the tables. Fenton finishes with handling plating, stacks of pumpkin pancakes for everyone.

Opera: You’ve really outdone yourself with these…

Opera: So cute…

Fenton: Hehe, well you know.

Opera: Let me grab the others, excited to try these… you really didn’t have to…

Fenton: It pays off when I see everyone happy…

Opera rushes up stairs to call the others.

Charon: Earning your praises.

Fenton: Got to hear them again. Never mind that…

Fenton: Charon, mind grabbing the syrup and napkins? I can uh… explain the fiend thing to them while you do.

Fenton:  Figure it’s best for them to not worry.

Charon: Mm… it’d be appreciated.

Fenton: I got your back, we all do.
[Image: unknown.png]
You return with everything and set up on the table as folks gather around.

You do your best to keep a low profile, avoiding eye contact. You catch a glance of Fenton talking to everyone as they gather, Opera taking a quick look over. You barely manage to look away in time but you’re pretty sure she noticed.

Footsteps your way.

She’s approaching, you wince just a little.

Opera: Morning.

Charon: Morning…

Opera: Need help there? Saw you bringing in the syrup…

Charon: All done for now. Should be ready to eat soon. I… hmm..

Opera: Yeah. Got filled in. Styx, the new guy, fiend stuff.

Charon: Mmm.. bit overwhelmed if I’m honest.

Opera: Nobody can blame you for that. Anything I can do for you?

Charon: Hard to say really. Admittedly feeling pretty ugly right now.. Snapped at Geezer earlier.

Opera: Really?

Charon: I apologized but…. I haven’t done anything like that since back then.

Charon: Even after talking to Fenton I just…

Charon: Helped, but I already feel heavy again.

Charon: Promised it wouldn’t get bad but one day in I’m already falling apart..

Opera: Not your fault, whole thing is just rough timing.

Opera: And if you need to back out, you can but…

Charon: But?

Opera: It’d feel wrong not having you I guess.

Opera: You and Geezer were my best friends during all that….really was excited when I found out you both were here together.

Opera: Always makes me happy knowing everyone from back then’s doing pretty well these days. Much as we can….

Opera: Can I uh….

Charon: Hmm?

She makes a gesture for you to turn toward her.

Opera: Let me see.

Charon: Right…

You follow along, not enough to face directly toward her but giving her the opportunity to get a clear look.

She places a finger down gently on your face. Your brain can’t decide if you’re irritated or comfortable the moment contact is made.

Opera: Huh….

Charon: Mm.

Charon: I haven’t seen myself but.. I can tell it’s bad.

Opera: the eyes… d
You return with everything and set up on the table as folks gather around.

You do your best to keep a low profile, avoiding eye contact. You catch a glance of Fenton talking to everyone as they gather, Opera taking a quick look over. You barely manage to look away in time but you’re pretty sure she noticed.

Footsteps your way.

She’s approaching, you wince just a little.

Opera: Morning,

Charon: Morning…

Opera: Need help there? Saw you bringing in the syrup…

Charon: All done for now. Should be ready to eat soon. I… hmm..

Opera: Yeah. Got filled in. Styx, the new guy, fiend stuff.

Charon: mm.. bit overwhelmed if I’m honest.

Opera: Nobody can blame you for that. Anything I can do for you?

Charon: Hard to say really. Admittedly feeling pretty ugly right now.. Snapped at Geezer earlier.

Opera: Really?

Charon: I apologized but…. I haven’t done anything like that since back then.

Charon: Even after talking to Fenton I just…

Charon: Helped, but I already feel heavy again.

Charon: Promised it wouldn’t get bad but one day in I’m already falling apart..

Opera: Not your fault, whole thing is just rough timing.

Opera: And if you need to back out, you can but…

Charon: But?

Opera: It’d feel wrong not having you I guess.

Opera: You and Geezer were my best friends during all that….really was excited when I found out you both were here together.

Opera: Always makes me happy knowing everyone from back then’s doing pretty well these days. Much as we can….

Opera: Can I uh….

Charon: Hmm?

She makes a gesture for you to turn toward her.

Opera: Let me see.

Charon: Right…

You follow along, not enough to face directly toward her but giving her the opportunity to get a clear look.

She places a finger down gently on your face. Your brain can’t decide if you’re irritated or comfortable the moment contact is made.

Opera: Huh….

Charon: Mm.

Charon: I haven’t seen myself but.. I can tell it’s bad.

Opera: the eyes… do they hurt?

Charon: No but… it doesn’t feel comfortable either. Like adjusting to new frames…

Opera: Look like little halos.. Kinda like hers honestly.

Charon: Ah…

You feel yourself sinking in your own flesh.

Charon: I don’t feel like I’m quite all here honestly..

Charon: No clue where I start or end….

Charon: Maybe I’m becoming something awful.
She shakes her head at you.

Opera: Still pretty different. Never really fit quite right, always could tell she was something awful underneath.

Opera: I just see you.

Opera: Maybe a little scared and angry but… you don’t really let yourself do that.

Charon: Don’t want to hurt others.

Opera: You won’t.

Opera: Don’t know how your whole fiend metamorphosis thing is going to work out but…

Opera: Think you’ll be you no matter how it turns out, you know? Just more growing.

Charon: Never really stops…

Opera: Nope. Plus it’s pretty, whoever you got in your life right now is pretty lucky.

Charon: Not really seeing anyone currently..

Opera: Really? Geezer is…

Charon: He never told me that…

Opera: He was going to bring it up later yesterday over Pizza but.. You know.

Charon: That’s fair….

Charon: Wait..

Charon: Are you telling me something?

Opera: I mean…

Charon: Who?

Opera: Someone special… think I wanna keep quiet til we all are done with this. Ya’ll are invited to the Opera house.

Charon: Very punny.

Opera: Had to listen to you and Merc kill every noun on this earth last night, I’m allowed.

Charon: You are..

You turn to face her properly. She returns a tiny grin.

Charon: Don’t understand how you do it. Everyone really…

Opera: Do what?

Charon: Everyone’s been so good to me, think I’d pick a fight if I had to deal.

Opera: Think everyone would throw hands with themselves really. ‘Sides, we get along just fine.

Charon: That’s true. Think you’re more like Geezer than me frankly.

Opera: I wish, I’m so short…

Charon: Same…

Opera: Not gonna get any bigger without breakfast though, shit’s getting cold.

Charon:  You’re 25, no? Think you’re done by now.

Opera: Never too late to become tall.

Charon: That…. Opera…

Charon: No…

Opera: I mean… Fenton told me you might get a inch or two from this whole vampire thing so maybe I’ll get lucky too?

Charon: That’s not quite correct. Biologically I’m more akin to a silkworm with inherited  mimicry meant to look like a dog. I’m more likely to lay eggs than die from UV radiation-

Opera: Nerd!

Charon: Yeah…

Opera: Heh…

Opera: Sit down with me and eat up. I wanna go see the festive stuff in town today.

Opera: Zana and uh… Platino? They’re  gonna be there too if that’s alright.

Charon: Yeah… could use that.
The Cloak
[First Resurrection]
CW: None

[Image: unknown.png]

After wrapping up a much needed fall breakfast, you make plans with your cousins and Opera to go into town.

But… you want to make some preparations before.

You approach Mercury as soon as she finishes up with her plate.

She’s got good takes when it comes to a lot of supernatural growth and right now you could use some of that.

You give her a little gesture. She returns it.

Charon: Merc.

Merc: Charon, you okay?

Charon: It’s… can we talk quickly? Have a bit of trouble on my hands right now.

Mercury: Mm, is this about..

Charon: Somewhat. The fiend imbalance, the entire sudden shift in proxy…

Charon: I’d… like to get some advice on the latter. You’re a bit of an expert.

Mercury: Could say that. I’m filled in on a lot of it. Know a good bit so… fire away.

Charon: What do you do when something shifts so quickly? I imagine that’s had to have happened before..

Mercury: At least once before we met. Bit of a jarring thing when it happens.

Mercury: Makes you panicky, sudden shift in project of ego is one of those things where well..

Charon: You worry that you’ve become someone else.

Mercury: Mm.. and in some ways you do.

Mercury: But that’s normal for everyone in life. Difference between most folks and you is that it’s way more obvious on the outside.

Mercury: Especially the fiendish parts. Creatures made of unfiltered emotion and will. We all are but you’re like…

Charon: It’s corporal with us.

Mercury: Exactly.

Charon: What if it’s something awful? What if… you can’t recognize yourself anymore after a point?

Mercury: Honestly? The fact that you’re worried means your heart’s working fine.

Mercury: You’re scared of losing yourself yeah?

Charon: More than that…

Charon: I’ve realized this is going to be a crucial point for me.

Charon: A chance to rebuild myself in a lot of ways both physically and emotionally

Charon: I’m terrified of becoming someone appalling by the end but..

Charon: I think I can also become better, more whole.

Charon: I’ve neglected parts of myself for so long… proxy’s made it clear that it’s been bottling up quite a bit.

Mercury: I mean, really it’s you doing it too.

Mercury: Your relationship with it is symbiotic, least it’s supposed to be.

Charon: Mm.. Opera’s situation seems so peaceful by comparison. She could have it out in public all day without issue.

Mercury: I mean you can too, no?

Mercury: Just… picture it as part of your life..

Charon: Mm..

Mercury: Picture it as part of you, the same way everything else is.

Mercury: Your family, your friends, every moment for better or worse.

Mercury: Focus on the parts you want to build off of, your dreams, and everything you’ve overcome…

You nod, closing your eyes.

Mercury: Just… let it breathe for a bit. The proxy is just as much an organ as the heart and lungs.

You feel a cloak start to wrap around you, very gentle and assuring as it coils to your body.

Charon: I think I see-

Mercury: Shh… let it keep going.

Charon: Sorry..

Mercury: I want you to imagine something small, something close that feels right.

Mercury: Picture a memory that gets you through anything….

A memory…
There's many moments you can't live without, moments that embody everything you are or ever will be..

The time you shattered a god...

[Image: unknown.png]

And brought down the stars too.. You risked your entire existence and made it out a stronger person.

[Image: unknown.png]

Despite being the validation you sought out, it wasn't what drove you...

[Image: unknown.png]

Nor was it the legacy you inherited...

The burden of being the last remnant of a time you never experienced yourself..

You can't help but wonder why Styx clung onto this host more than any other sometimes....

When you really think back, what kept you going...

Was the hope to make it back with Geezer.

Live life with your grandma, as long as you have the chance to left....

It's silly but....

[Image: unknown.png]

Erica: Back from work kiddo.

Charon: Grandma? You're usually out til morning...

Erica: Easy night, town let me off. Got us some goodies.

Charon: Oh?

Erica: Imported cola, the kind with real sugar.

Erica: And some food from the streets. We'll unpack those soon.

[Image: 20190616_154743.jpg]
Charon: R-really?

Charon: Is it a special day? I didn't forget something right...?

Erica: Mmm... not yet but...

Erica: Thinking about everything. Getting older, figure ya'll need as much time with me as you can get.

Erica: Especially with your cousin moving in.

Charon: Geezer, right?

Erica: Mmhmm. Picked him up under a mentorship so he's gonna be learning a lot of the family trade but....

Erica: He's pretty mellow. Think you two will get along pretty well.

Erica: Figured it'd be best to take him in as easy as it'd be to toss him over to Uncle Virgil or your Great Aunt.

Charon: Mm... is his room ready? I can help if you need me to.

Erica: Appreciated, but I've got it covered....

Erica: Anyway, why don't we go over to the porch, get some food together and keep talking...
[Image: unknown.png]

Erica: What’s that over there?

She points to the big wooden sword left on the side of the porch as you two exit.

Charon: Just been training some more…

Erica: With that big nasty thing? Seems a bit much…

Charon: I mean… I wanna look good the first time people see me.

Charon: So I think if I could lift a big enough sword, I’ll get noticed anytime I walk to a new place.

Charon: That’s worked for plenty of knights, right?

Erica: Yeah, got me there.

Erica: Still… thing is so beat up. Where did you find it?

Charon: Armory. Looks like a lot of work went into it so…

Charon: Maybe that could rub off on me, you know?

Erica: If you say so.

You walk on over to it to show off. You make a few broad overhead swings. Erica gives you a puzzled look.

Erica: You got the technique down but.. You’re kinda thinking too in the box with that.

Charon: The real thing’s dangerous so… can’t really make mistakes there.

Erica: Guess not.

Erica: It’s a good look on you for sure.

Erica: Not what I would’ve picked for you but… exotic weapons like that are fun.

Charon: Really?

Erica: Mm.. granted, you know what they say about those types.

Charon: The path of most suffering..

Erica: Nothing comes easy, especially not a big ol’ sword like that.

Charon: Maybe not…

Charon: But when I become a knight, I wanna make it special.

Charon: When people think of the name Judgment, I want them to say good things because well…

Charon: Because It’s your name!

Erica: Maybe. Truth be told, we’ve done a lot of wrong behind the curtain.

Erica: For every great hero, there’s a heck of a lot of drama.

Charon: I’ll change that too.

Charon: Even if you won’t train me, I’m going to make it happen.

Erica: Can’t really stop you if you want it that bad…

Charon: And… maybe we’ll find you-know-who?

Erica: We don’t talk about you-know-who because you got no clue who that is.

Charon: I think I do… and… I get why you don’t want to tell me.

Erica: Oh?

Charon: The knight in solitude, B-

Erica: What about?

Charon: They’re my uh… I mean.. Is there a word for it?

Erica: Probably. But I can’t confirm or deny anything.

Erica: Whoever asked me to raised you wanted me to promise never to confirm.

Erica: Granted… it’s only going to get more obvious as you get older.

Charon: Things like web texture, hair, fiend canines, pigment changes…

Erica: You know the answer you want to hear, and you know the one that’s obviously true.

Erica: Hopefully? One the same.

Erica: That said, wouldn’t advise going to Solitude of all places.

Charon: I know, went “missing” and all…

Erica: Mmhmm. Their god doesn’t look kindly on us. Pray we don’t have to deal directly. Buck’s gotten into some deep stuff..

Charon: We should save them then, right?

Charon: Like… they’re family and all.

Charon: And… I know you keep in contact.

Erica: I mean… I want to.

Erica: But everyone else gets put at risk if we’re too obvious. You, me, even your dozen cousins.

Erica: I’d lay low.

Charon: For now…

Charon: But… when I become a knight, I’ll go out there and save them too. Whoever they are in the end.

Erica: Mm….

Erica: You got a big heart, keep that.

Erica: Don’t think we can do much anytime soon but..

Erica: If you manage that? You’d be doing a lot for me too…

[Image: unknown.png]

Styx: Happy to revisit something nice today?

Charon: Mm, admittedly I needed that-

You turn to look at him. You’ve never seen him so rough.

Styx: What’s the matter?

Charon: You’re hurt…

Styx: Had worse, just a scratch really.

Charon: Let me take a look at you.

Styx: I’ll be fine.

You reach for him only for the snake to avoid you.

Styx: Don’t. Esperanto put some sort of mark on me. Fear if it’ll spread on contact-

You ignore him and get a good look at his wounds.

Charon: Really chunked you…

Styx: I’m still here but…

Styx: Yes…

Styx:I ’ll recover with enough time but.. I don’t think I’ll survive a rematch.

Styx: Honestly, I think I only lived because they wanted me to…

Styx: Their cursed proxy did a horrid number on me.

Charon: Styx…

Styx: Don’t worry much about it for now though. I just…

Styx: Fear that this could be my last rodeo. I don't think I can keep performing fake outs.
Styx: It's been a long time since I've thought about the possibility of truly fading from the world.
Charon: You're serious.
Styx: I've been hurt many times, and that last beating really did push me to my limit...
Styx: So...
Styx: I think it's time to max out our hand here.
Styx: I've taught you plenty, but not everything I'd like you to know yet.
Styx: Your foes ahead are strong, and your newfound rival wants to teach you the hard way.
Styx: You will sink or swim, a knight's true trial.
Charon: The Nemesis method...
Styx: Right.
Charon: Considered cruelty by today's standards, only the classically trained go through such hardship..
Styx: A old ally of mine went through this herself. She was the strongest knight I've ever met but..
Styx: She was full of hurt. And I imagine it shaved a few years off her life at that.
Charon: It pushes you until you either rise to the occasion or retire.
Charon: My Grandmother and her sister both went through this. I'll endure too.
Styx: It's abusive.
Charon: I know.
Charon: I'm going to make sure they know too.
Styx: Always have a response.
Charon: Learned from you.
Styx: As you should.
Styx: Your friends are waiting so...
Styx: I'd like to grant you one last gift until the next meeting but...
Styx: Just... come with me...
[Image: unknown.png]

You follow along, finding yourself struggling to keep up in places the further you go. The world begins to become darker, a misty remnant of the castle before.

Charon: What are you up to.

Styx: Nothing just…

Styx: If you are to take my throne, I want you to be ruler of your own fate.

Styx: I am giving you the keys to choose who you are, the castle and all.

Styx: When I one day truly do fade… you are the lord who will guide souls.

Charon: Mm…

Charon: What if I don’t want to be?

Styx: My power will still be yours.

Styx: Your friend waits for you out there….

Styx: I am removing your limiters.

Styx: The power of seeing all, and knowing everything… it’ll consume you if you tap too deep but.. I do truly trust you to do fantastic things with it.

Styx: Your fiendish aspects, proxy, your true self will all be intertwined and what happens there is truly yours to figure out.

Your eyes become heavy

Charon: You’re not dying on me, are you?

Styx: Not quite yet I don’t think, but I earnestly do fear this job is my last so…

Styx: I am preparing you for the worst, so you can be your best….

Styx: Make your friends proud Charon….

Mercury:  Wake up….
[Image: unknown.png]

Mercury: Charon, you doing alright?

You’re back in reality.

Charon: Honestly? Better than I’ve been in a long time…

Mercury: No kidding, aura's hella smug right now. More than usual..

Mercury: No pain?

Charon: None at all..

Mercury: Good, good. Was watching you and uh… your snake friend.

Charon: Styx.

Mercury: Right. You two talk to each other. Never heard a dialect like his before but his voice kinda sounds like yours otherwise…

Charon: It’s a result of contract poisoning… you make a deal with an entity, you become more like them overtime.

Mercury: Yeah… you been okay with that?

Charon: To be frank? More than I should be but…

Charon: I feel calm..

Mercury: Yeah, can tell. Maybe a bit too much? You’re stabilized for now either way. No idea how long, wouldn’t count on it being forever but…

Charon: But enough time to get a gameplan going, yes?

Mercury: Mmhmm! Should talk with the other fiendish folks around here about it.

Charon: Others?

Mercury: Ah… you haven’t figured it out? I mean…

Charon: Esperanto?

Mercury: Mmhmm.

Charon: Makes sense. Something about our fight felt…. Too personal.

Mercury: You took losing pretty bad, no offense. Know you can be hard headed about that but you were full tilt from what I’ve heard.

Charon: Still sorry about that…

Mercury: Happens, no big deal right? Anyway, I think they're-

Manzana knocks on the doorway. Everyone turns their attention toward her.

Mercury: Oh, hey. Just wrapping up here.

Manzana: Actually… I think I have something I’d like to share. But… I’d like to keep it family only for now. Opera too just as a witness.

Manzana: Ran into some complications the night before this, meeting up with someone today about it.

Manzana: Wanted to do it in private but… I think someone else here would have a better clue on how to address it.

Charon: What do you mean?

Manzana: Zinnia…

Manzana: They’re around. Not too sure about them but… perhaps one of you can resolve this?

You look directly at Mercury.

Charon: Merc...

Mercury: You need to go, I get it. We'll get back to this later but...

Mercury: You do what you gotta do kid. Proud of all of ya'll who've grown up so strong.

Mercury: You're gonna do good out there.

Charon: Nothing less.
INTERMISSION: Master and Disciple

CW: Abusive language and behaviors.

[Image: unknown.png]

You are Bucket Judgment, the true Heir of Judgment and Champion of Solitude…

At least you were…

These days you wander around the continent, slaying cults and leaving behind happier towns.

A true nomad hero, the Blanc family back home would have something to say.

Today you’ve got a lead.

You’ve dived into a big nest, something that could make all your efforts go to waste…

Thanks to a contact, you’ve made discovery that overseas someone has found access to a undying body and equipment beyond your understanding.

A science project from another world.

The cult’s you’ve been fighting have deep pockets. Folks would be able to pick up much of what’s there and potentially bring it back home to cause issues.

And if what you’ve heard is true, the odds are looking rough. You need an investor. One who’s own potential interests are too petty to be a danger by comparison. Too isolated to sell it off to the cult that’s burned down many lives.

You stand in the tent, holding your best posture with your assistant with you.

Your former mentor and aunt, Ali Judgment.

She approaches, giving you a grimace.

Ali: After all these years, you’re a renegade. Not surprised.

Ali: Better fit anyway, you were a wild card when we trained.

Bucket: Good morning, Ali.

Ali: So it is, now that I’m here.

She examines the tent set up, taking a look at your collection of arms, books, and your allies trying not to catch her gaze.

Ali: So this is your grand resistance… suppose classical knight guilds weren’t too different.

Ali: Can’t believe you had the audacity to ask me to be the one to visit you… I was across the globe. I have quite the schedule.

Bucket: Certainly was a bit of an endeavor for a infamously busy person such as yourself.

Ali: Mockery or flattery? With your tone I can never tell…

Bucket:  Depends on how this exchange goes.  I believe you understand that I’m looking for assistance?

Ali: Mm. And what’s with the getup? Certainly a lot less refined than I remember.

Bucket: Things have become difficult, the years of evading Rein…

Ali: Heard a rumor. The pilgrimage thing seemed like a lie.

Bucket: Never bothered to check in?

Ali: Don’t need to draw more attention your way. Don’t have a glamor to hide my face as well as you do.

Bucket: I’m certain you have a courier.

Ali: Don’t want to risk them getting box’d by a god.

She looks over at the young salamander next to you.

Ali: Who’s that? Adopting dropouts for your little cause?

Bucket: Proxy actually. Student was sacrificed for some experiment, one that involves fiendish material.

Ali: Ah… a host.

Bucket: Mm…

Ali: Dangerous one at that..

The salamander holds out her hand.

???: I don’t bite, long as you’re willing to play nice.

Ali refuses it with a dismissive gesture.

Ali: Don’t trust creatures like yourself. Anyone wearing another’s flesh is one to take caution of.

She was glared down.

Bucket: Didn’t you consider a plan like that yourself? You did pick up a number of powerful candidates…

Ali: They proved more… useful as themselves.

Ali: And frankly I’d rather not have to explain to my children why I’m suddenly a rabbit or a bear.

Bucket: You are certainly something….

Bucket: Her name is Bern, I hope you try not to forget it.

Ali: You named that thing too? You’re setting yourself up for heartbreak.

Bern: Don’t talk about me like that.

Ali immediately gives her the glare again, a hiss across the room this time everyone could feel in their skull.

Bern backs off.

Bucket: You really went and used the scary eyes on her?

Ali: It’ll be fine. Now, shall we talk business?

Ali: You need my funding, and I have a lot to gain from this investment. 
[Image: image.png]
The two of you seat yourselves at a table in the middle of the tent setup, Bern tries make herself look busy and pretends to examine equipment, keeping an eye on the conversation.

She’s a smart cookie, being present yet in the background to make the observations you may have missed in the moment.

Ali shuffles through he coat pockets for personal belongings.

Bucket: Is everything alright?

Ali: It’s fine. You need a card spread? Smoke? Do you still do those?

Bucket: Not really, both have rotated out of the realm of interest for me.

Ali: She takes her hand out of her pocket.

Ali: Good, for the best.

Ali: So, the auction.

Bucket: Mm. Intelligence has told me much about an upcoming auction in a region not too far fromTaverne.

Bucket: Are you familiar with Plaza?

Ali: Mmhmm, one of my daughters came from there. Bit of a construct sanctuary, attracts a lot of attention overseas for its tourism.

Bucket: Exactly..

Ali: I saw the details. Equipment from another world beyond our wildest imaginations. Potentially a good spot for the Judgment armory.

Bucket: You mean for Your armory?

Ali: Same difference, no offense but Erica does a piss job with hers.

Ali: Basically a storage room for poorly maintained gear. With how long our family’s been in the business, should be an open archive for the people.

Ali: Instead it all drowns in the odd chance a wanderer passes by and happens to be in desperate need of a knife.

Ali: Pity really. For the best that the family relics are no longer in her possession.

Bucket: Do you know where they are?

Ali: I have tabs on them…

Ali: Regardless, this is an opportunity to add. Nothing makes for an active guild more than a library for the community.

Bucket: Right..

Ali: But this isn’t just about that either. It’s about who’s involved in the auction.

Bucket: A few people Spit has in her pocket are going to appear. She has quite a few wealthy advocates keeping her cult going.

Ali: Mm…

Bucket: Reason to believe that this info is a detriment to the world should it be in her hands. Arms of the inhumane nature, modifications for warfare, and potentially the key to immortality.

Ali: Saw the footage leak your insider managed their hands on. A truly undying body..

Bucket: Something that should never be in the hands of anyone looking to weaponize such a concept. Frankly debatable of such a thing should exist at all

Ali: Have to say, not sure who you met to get in on it but you’re one lucky dog. I’ve seen your plan, it’s interesting. Assemble a crew alongside your contact, get an invite to the auction one way or another, have a secondary saboteur team ready to burn the place down if your heist fails.

Ali: Though I have to say, I’m curious why you picked me over other immediate family. Erica would help, no?

Bucket: Erica is… someone I rather not risk being compromised for this job. Should the cult find her involvement, it’s troublesome for a large number of important people. I don’t wish to risk that…

Ali: You mean the kid?

Bucket: Mm…

Ali: He was in that footage you know. Makes me wonder how many little things your side of the family’s been trying to keep under wraps. Feel like whatever experience lead to that would’ve been one you’d have all more to say on.

Bucket: I’m not even entirely sure, Erica’s very familiar with it however.

Ali: As am I, even if not directly so..

Bucket: Mm…

Ali: So, who are the invites here?

Bucket: A number of those involved in this incident, including my mother’s pupil.

Ali: Ah, the rabbit.

Bucket: Is that what he is?

Ali: Mm. Erica and I were both involved in a mentoring program at Plaza around the same period, nothing too special. During that we each manage to find ourselves a diamond in the rough.

Ali: Well… don’t know if I’d call hers that. He’s got the maturity but his potential is so low. Hero category but a weak one.

Bucket: Hero category?

Ali: Those in the family tend to be easy to assign into three styles: Hero, Nemesis, Courier. Category Virgil’s parents came up with to examine our family on a historical level.

Ali: Hero types are straight laced. They’ll perform well, have an honest career, and retire at a relatively normal age for their species.

Ali: They’re certainly rare in recent history though. You had the makings of one but your potential is… too high, lets put it at that.

Bucket: What does that make me then?

Ali: Nemesis. The blood knights of the family. You, me, and your mother all fall into this. Monsters on two legs. Generally have the most notable potential among the family. Hopefully you won’t waste yours.

Bucket: Right…

Ali: You might be a inbetween but your abilities are absolutely of the nemesis variety.

Bucket: And what if the courier type you mentioned?

Ali: Soft types, destined to retire young and unremarkable.
Ali: Your um… Charon was it?

Ali: Is absolutely one of those. Falls back on weak lesser magic, reliant on equipment to keep up…

Ali: His eyes say a lot more and he certainly has the potential but…

Ali: He’ll fumble over his own two feet.

Bucket: Think it’s a bit unfair and cruel to count him out so fast…

Ali: What’s your point? Am I wrong? Erica chose to not train him despite his interest in maintaining the legacy.

Bucket: Stop talking about him.

Ali: What can I say? Your kid’s got a little bit more potential if set right but at this point? Too much of a softie to go in this world.  Granted, my kids need to toughen up too but at least the rabbit’s shown her work.

Bucket: You’ve never been good to your students…

Ali: I’m preparing them for the world, you wouldn’t be alive without me.

Bucket: I’m on the run *because* I took your job recommendation…

Ali: You didn’t have to.

Bucket: You pushed for it..

Ali: You took a god’s offer before a month passed. That’s on you.

You start standing up from your seat.

Bucket: I-

Ali: You what?-

Bucket: I thought that you had my best interest. You always spoke about wanting people to walk out living an easier life than you did. I wanted to believe that all the hardship was genuinely to put me on the right place and-

Ali: And it worked. Nobody knew what that god of yours was up to. You took the job too early, found out too late. I told you to take a year contract to gauge the scene and you were too excited to play hero for a crowd to notice the red flag.

Ali: All you’re proving is that nothing I ever taught really stuck.

Ali: Erica left you too trusting for your own good. No wonder it went to shit.

Ali: Same thing’s going to happen to your kid, worse even.

Ali: Fragile, reactionary, fights with his heart first and brain last.

Bucket: Enough-

Ali: He’ll fight tooth and nail for every win and barely scrape by each time.

Bucket: He won’t be a knight anyway, Erica has actively-

Ali: He has his license Bucket, he trained and registered and took the exam at the continent’s biggest proving ground in order for every guild in the continent to recognize him.

Ali: You think he’s going to do better than you?

Ali: Kid needs a cane to walk by the end of each day.

Bucket: …When did this all happen?

Ali: I have access to a lot of money and info, that’s why you came to me.

Ali: I know where and what every member of this family is up to.

Ali: Tell you this, kid could be a pretty damn good witch if he cleaned up his work. My kid could put him on the right track fast. Also pretty soft but she’s got so much talent there.

Ali: Did everything I can to make ure she works with the best tools, the best crew, got her education.

Alli: You? You know even with being on the run that you haven’t done enough.

Bucket: Bringing you in was a mistake…

Ali: One you’re going to grin and bare if you want this job funded your way. If you don’t I’ll figure out my own plan. I can get whatever info you’re keeping in your pocket from somewhere else you know?

You sit back down and take a deep breath.

She looks at you with a smug grin.

Ali: That’s better. Hard lesson of the day for you. You want saying power at the adult table? You make sure the cards in your pocket are bigger than anyone else’s.

Bucket: Let's start over then...
[Image: image.png]
Bucket: What are our terms here? I desire to see them pinpointed precisely.

Ali: I fund the job and a little more for your resistance effort. All the loot will be added to my library. You’re allowed access to any information discovered that may be beneficial to you.

Ali: Especially of the god killing variety.

Bucket: And how do I know I can trust you on this?

Ali: Because I personally enjoy having a contact for everything.

Ali: And I know you’re long away from being out of the woods.

Ali: It’s a 50/50 anyway. You might get out of all this with your freedom best case scenario.

Ali: And if you don’t? Well… I can arrange something more.

Ali: You’re family after all.

Bucket: Don’t want to hear that from you.

Ali: I got you out of that shithole, nothing town. Could get you way more.

Ali: I’ve seen your work since, you’re a bit of a master of your craft.

Ali: Not fair that you’re stuck on the run.

Bucket: Let’s see how that job goes first.

Bucket: I do wonder why you seek this.

Ali: Seek what?

Bucket: Immortality has been on the mind forever for you.

Ali: It’s a gift you’ve got.

Bucket: Gift is a strong word…

Bucket: And it’s conditional at most.

Ali: An opportunity nonetheless. Surprised that bastard hasn’t cut you off.

Bucket: It has its reasons, vile ones.

Ali: Never would’ve read it that way but.. The obsessions of gods aren’t relevant to me.

Bucket: You think you’re beyond that?

Ali: Beyond anyone, given the right tool in hand.

Ali: Can you say that for yourself?

Bucket: A knight shouldn’t see themselves as above anyone frankly. Disconnecting yourself from your humanity is a betrayal of our origins.

Ali: If you cling onto the old way, sure.

Ali: But our kind is dying. The knights, the guilds, the very family name we’ve had so long.

Ali: So much of this world is run by monarchs and the people are useless in the face of them.

Ali: Community guilds shattered, witch circles forced into basements and hidden taverns.

Ali: The power of the average person has dwindled.

Bucket: Then it’s only natural to empower them, no?

Bucket: We build archives and libraries, armories for the average person to revolt against the oppressor..

Bucket: Our kind take care of the community’s needs and are taken care of in return.

Ali: Tell me this, when’s the last time a town has resupplied you to compensate for the favors you’ve done for them?

Ali: Or offered you a job in exchange for bed and essentials?

Bucket: There’s been plenty of individuals willing to step up-

Ali: Has it been consistent?

Bucket: No.

Ali: They’re not reliable. People are too inherently selfish and cowardly to be reliable to make big changes.

Ali: Empowering them only does so much when all it takes is one little display to send them hiding and begging for their lives.

Ali: The Gallows Effect. Are you familiar?

Bucket: Mm.. The practice of rounding up knights and executing them in the public eye to discourage any political opponents in regions where gods and government are particularly hands on….

Ali: You know it’s still *very* legal in most regions? It may not come up, and certain gods may not practice it but..

Ali: It’s still very much a tool many gods keep in their pocket, just in case.

Bucket: And what do you plan to do then?

Ali: Become greater than any god on this mortal plane. True immortality, a champion who cannot die.

Ali: I can’t trust anyone else in this world to get it done right, so I’ll oversea it myself to the end of time.

Ali: You’d be more than welcome to join. Be a waste of talent.

Bucket: Then consider it wasted.

Bucket: I’ll take the job but I’ve had more than my fair share of eternal youth to be quite sick of it.

Ali: I’ll go talk to my legal worker to start working on forms. We’ll oversee them together.

Ali gets up from her seat.

Ali: If you have time, I’d like to spar some and perhaps dinner after too.

Bucket: On the condition that I can take my comrade.

Ali:Really now?

Bucket: Bern is essentially for me to operate at my fullest. She’s a loyal comrade and part of the negotiation with full pay and compensation.

Ali: To think you’d rely on such feeble magic…

Bucket: She’s my proxy, adopted or otherwise.

Ali: I see.

Ali: In that case, do understand that I will not tolerate underperformance on the job.

Ali: If she causes issues, you’re the one responsible.

Bucket: You’ve vouched for me before, don’t see why it’s different.

Ali: It is.

Ali: You’re the only one who understands, whether you know it or not.

She marches out of the tent.

Ali: I’ll return shortly. Grab your reading glasses if you need them.

You wait until she’s fully out of view. You look over at Bern who’s been in the background this whole time.

Bucket: Hey-

Bern:  You didn’t have to stand up for me like that-

Bucket: I do, not for you. For her sake.

Bucket: I want to make sure everyone knows that she bleeds.

Bern: Wow uh..

Bern: Huh.

Bern: Still.. Should be the one speaking up more.

Bucket: She dismisses anyone who hasn’t impressed her. You’re not missing anything.

Bern: Then I’ll have to do my best on this job, right?

Bucket: Do it for yourself first. She’ll learn overtime. She’ll hate it but…

Bern: But she’ll have to admit I get the job done, yeah?

Bucket: Exactly.

Bern: Mm…

Bern: Thanks. Sorry I didn’t get much in.

Bucket: You’ll have your time, I’ll make sure. Until then, do your usual.

Bern:  Mm.. I actually caught a few things while you two were talking. Something about her posture is really off…

Bucket: Not surprising. Can you write it down for now? I don’t think we’ll have much time to share.

Bern: Sure thing. You doing okay yourself? All that looked intense.

Bucket: Me? I’m fine so far. After dinner.. We will see. Would you like to come to that?

Bern: Maybe… think she’ll go for some big ticket place?

Bucket:  Absolutely.

Bern: Strongly considered.

Bucket: Mm…

Bern: You going to be okay though, for real? Not just toughing it out?

Bucket: Always is with her. I’m just a professional at this point.

Bucket: But for now, consider us employed…

[Second Resurrection]
CW: Abuse Trauma, Fear

[Image: image.png]

 You make your way out of the little headquarters, a little sensitive to the morning light at first.

Whatever metamorphosis you’re going through hasn’t made you any bigger a fan of sunlight. You bring your cane for good measure.

Though you haven’t been as dependent on it lately, you know that after that fight the walk will do you in without it.

Greeting you as you exit is a white haired rabbit, your cousin with an unusually warm smile and a friendly wave.…

Charon:... Plat?

Platino: Mmhmm! Asked if I could get some time with you before we head to the apartment.

Platino: We got a little time so… you know?

Charon: Mm..

Platino: You alright?

Charon: Just… admittedly a bit surprised to run into you. Everything else too.

Platino: Ah, yeah I wouldn’t guess you’d be just a person away, yeah?

Charon: Mmhmm. Small world.

Platino: Wasn’t exactly free to talk much about my family. Could shit talk my mom but her rep’s too tight to name her and all.

Charon: Makes sense. Miserable..

Platino: Becoming friends on the same board though for similar shit? That’s wild.

Charon: Not as big a coincidence. Parents are sisters in the same line of business.

Platino: Right, kinda bound to bump into each other one day,

Charon: Way I see it, family is too weird for the overlap not to happen.

Platino: Bugs me how much they do though. Makes me wonder if mom put me through everything to one up everyone else…

Charon: You’re free now at least.

Platino: I wish.. She’s got me and Zana contracted pretty regularly. End up taking it just because without her stepping in I’d be hell crunched.

Platino: My negotiator a lot of the time, you know?

Charon: You can’t find someone else?

Platino: Could find work sure, but couldn’t get clients to agree to paying my flight, bedding, even materials as easily. But…

Platino: I don’t wanna talk too much about that you know? Just glad to be hanging out.

Charon: Same.

He takes a good look at you, up and down.

Charon: Everything okay?

Platino: You really just have that proxy chilling in public like that? I’m guilty of that in my own way. Split from you or..

Charon: No, not in any meaningful sense… but I wanted to give it more time out. Get some fresh air and all. See Opera doing it all the time.

Platino: Yeah, she’s a sweetheart as far as I can tell.

Charon: Admire it really.

Platino: Her and Manzana talked a bit earlier, can’t believe she nearly popped us last night honestly. No idea how someone can carry that kind of heat without being a little on edge….

Charon: She’s tough, wouldn’t have had half her restraint in a lot of the same situations.

Platino: Yeah. Warm voice, sad eyes. You’re kinda like that too. Maybe a little more… tired? Guess that comes with folks like us.

Charon: You’re never all there anymore. One foot in the past…

Platino: And an eye that sees everything coming. Remember you used to love that show back then.

Charon: Some things die hard.

Platino: Suits you really.

He goes quiet, eyes very contemplative of his next words.

Charon: Talk.

Platino: Thinking. Timing of everything gives us both some bad vibes.

Platino: The four of us all here, this whole angel world thing rearing its head, Zinnia.

Charon: You need to elaborate on that, genuinely seems really important considering how much overlap there is here.

Platino: I know, I guess just.

Platino: We’re both so fucking scared right now….

Platino: We’re actually bleeding over pretty hard right now.

Platino: Getting hard to tell who’s thoughts are who.

He opens his arms out as if requesting for a hug, only to back away when you approach.

Platino: Sorry…

Charon: Plat?

Platino: She rejected it, doesn’t like being touched by most people.

Charon: You’re fine…. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you two safe. I’ll keep everyone safe-

His cadence is suddenly replaced by a distinct harshness

???: You can’t fucking promise that. You think you can but if my mom gets involved…

Charon: Plat..

???: I’m sorry… We’re both here right now I think…

Charon: You don’t need to apologize..

???: I just..

???: Want a promise.

???: If this whole thing goes to shit, bail.

Charon: It won’t reach that point-

???: Listen to me, I know how my mom operates.

???: Not a single one of you can take her head on directly. The cleanest possible answer here is someone takes the bullet in a 1v1 and pray to god she’ll let everyone else walk out intact.

???: If you take her own in a group, she will slaughter every one of you. She has these rules in her head and the moment you threaten her pride she will treat you like livestock.

???: Grouping up on her is the biggest mistake you could ever make.

???: Please just…. 

 They were practically whimpering at this point.

Perhaps you could….


It worked for you…

Charon: Wouldn’t be fair to keep going without addressing your worries.

Charon: And… even if we’re all still new to you… I do think people want you around.

Charon: I refuse to let anyone get hurt so…

Charon: I think your concerns should be voiced and addressed before we go any further with our plans.

Charon: A plan to fall back on is something we need. If it comes to the worst, it’s better to retreat and fight another day so…

Charon: I have an offer, one I’d bet everything on.

You hold out your hand. The two of you feel a familiar haze and the faintest hiss of a radio static.

Their eyes widen at you.

Charon: Negotiations are open.


Quick Reply
Type your reply to this message here.
Smile Wink Cool Big Grin
Tongue Rolleyes Shy Sad
At Angel Angry Blush
Confused Dodgy Exclamation Heart
Huh Idea Sleepy Undecided
[get more]

Human Verification
Please tick the checkbox that you see below. This process is used to prevent automated spam bots.

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)