ILLUMINATI: The Circle Chase (Part III of V)

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Michuru81
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ILLUMINATI: The Circle Chase (Part III of V)

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:07 pm

Salutations and hello!

Most of the players in our campaigns have been after me to start posting a narrative detailing the exploits of one of our other teams. Plus, I'm always open for expanding the OUBLIETTE campaign world a smidge. The Illuminati is a PL 10 campaign originally run by moi. With Illuminati #13, the GM duties were passed off (to the player behind Lodestone) and I became a player. It's likely that this narrative won't be as in-depth as New Vindicators, nor will it be updated as frequently.

ILLUMINATI: The Circle Chase
Featuring! wrote:The Apprentice (Coup Field): Apprentice to the Aurelius, Coup is a former street magician who takes little seriously. Coup is played by the same player responsible for Fathom, Trigger Happy, Iris, Backlash, Gabrielle Farouk and Savant in the New Vindicators campaign.

The Archeologist (William Benson): A low-ranked peon amongst the Thule Society, William has a thirst for knowledge and an adventurous soul. He also has a knowledge over the unknown that rivals even the Aurelius. Frostbite and William Benson are played by the same person, as are Mazui, Pict, Falkenburg and Bluetooth.

The Doctor (Doctor John O'Reilly): When his wife died in an explosion meant for their nephew, Doctor O'Riley became obsessed with finding a way to plend science and sorcery to revive her. He created the Alpha Virus, a bacteria that keeps his body alive against most other odds. His player has also controlled Deimos, Kiln, Anthropoid, Gabriel Farouk and Renewal.

Tick-Tock (Joseph Higgins): This man remembers nothing of his life prior to the day he woke up and found himself a young man stranded in Canada. Unbeknownst to him, his real name is Chronus Aeon- the Lord of Time, he is history incarnate. Aside from Tick-Tock, he's known for playing Portal, Brickhouse, Quintessence and Fluke.

The Shinobi (Unno Rokuro): A shinobi and part of Sanada Yukimura's group of immortal ninja- introduced in New Vindicators #6. Rokuro's player has not been involved in any other campaigns within the OUBLIETTE universe.

And later...

The Wanderer: a mysterious old man with one eye, the wisdom of the ages, and the power to shapeshift. He has a mysterious connection to the Aurelius and a hidden agenda with the Illuminati. The Wanderer joins and leaves the group during ILLUMINATI: Philanthropic Vengeance The Wanderer is played by the player behind Lodestone, Saya, Fey, Thuggy Thuggerton, Bulwark, Suicide King and the Damned.

Rumble (Atlanta White): a young woman who's body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight response, Atlanta joins in Illuminati #13 as part of OUBLIETTE Reloaded- an event that shook up the line ups in each of the campaigns. Rumble is played by me, after the reigns were handed off to another GM.

Deimos (Jeremy Carlson): a hybrid Nephilim/Neo-Sapien, the rebellious Deimos is capable of conjuring hellish black flames that he uses to forge a scythe, armor and wings to augment his own fighting ability. The greatest weapon in his arsenal, however, may be his indomitable will.

Xrix: a mysterious Nephilim capable of conjuring green fames, Xrix has the ability to scan the surface thoughts of those she meets and alter her appearance to become a familiar face. With a love of playing games with her teammate's minds, Xrix is a helpful ally but a chaotic one...
Last edited by Michuru81 on Fri Nov 27, 2009 6:35 pm, edited 10 times in total.
OUBLIETTE - NVAE: IC | OOC

Michuru81
Cosmic Scion
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Posts: 5693
Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:17 pm
Location: Pekin, IL

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:08 pm

ILLUMINATI #1: The Circle Chase [Part I]
Long, long ago, in Ancient Rome, there existed the tradition of the gentes. A gens was a clan, a family connected in that they could each trace their lineage to one key figure. In most cases, it was a ruler or philosopher- a mean of riding their coattails long after they had returned to the earth. It was a major component of the political world of the times and many people campaigned for adoption into these clans- as not everyone could seek office.

The members of a gens had a legal obligation to help each other when asked. They were forbidden to marry outside of the tribe. Today, such archaic traditions do not exist- the gens are all but gone now… all but for the Aurelii gens.

Loosely translated, it means “the Golden Clan”. The mother of Julius Caesar, Aurelia Cotta, was part of this clan. So were the emperors Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius and his son Marcus Aurelius Commodus. Aurelius Clemens Prudentius was a Christian poet of the fourth century; the man responsible for dreaming up the seven virtues was also a member of this family.

All of these people were able to trace their lineage to one man… to the Aurelius. Thousands of years ago, there was a group of supermen who fought to protect the world from evil. They were men of great renown; they were the Gibborim. Amongst their number was one man; he was a wise elder, a man who had penned everything forbidden mankind had been taught, compiling it into a single tome. The Aurelius had written the Book of the Grigori, and he passed it on from generation to generation.

Aurelia Cotta, Marcus Aurelius, Aurelius Clemens Prudentius… each was charged with an unearthly task… to safeguard the Book of the Grigori and protect mankind from the horrors it could unleash.

Today, the current Aurelius is Doctor Steven O. White… and his apprentice… is Coup Field.

“So, we’re not, like, related too closely, right?”

The Aurelius sighed as he stalked the halls of the Chapel. Doctor White’s body phased through a woman, kneeling at the altar, muttering prayers that her husband’s pancreatic cancer would cease to cripple him as it did… and thanking God they had been given the fifty years that they had.

The pair of magi lived in the basement of a great cathedral in San Francisco. They moved unnoticed by the parishioners because they were not in the same plane of existence. In order to enter the home of the Aurelius, one had to first arrive at the Chapel and then traverse to the Astral Plane. It was a curious thing really- the Astral Plane was a veil suspended over the material world. From it, one could see and hear anything and everything as if they were a specter that haunted the real world. What many had perceived to be ghosts were simply those with the ability to freely traverse.

It was not a Neo-Sapien ability to do so. Doctor White had concluded that there were many people born with incredible psychic abilities stemming from a perplexing force of will. Those with such talents often found themselves in strange situations- subconsciously traversing to this realm. Helping such people was one of the Aurelius’ sworn duties.

Still, there were those who could not be helped. The Astral Plane existed as a mirror of earth… save for one difference. All hallowed ground was but a void ripped into the veil- a column of darkness that traveled on for infinity. Graveyards and churches did not exist within this fantastic plane and those who traversed within them were beyond anyone’s help.

That they lived in a church found in the astral plane was hardly an anomaly- the church had been built long ago, by the Aurelius who trained the man who had trained Doctor White. It was not hallowed ground… it was a cover.

Doctor White had paused, uttering the incantation that would allow him to peer into the woman’s mind and gleam where her husband was. He made a mental note to visit the man later- his magic could remove the cancer and leave both praising God for the miracle. It was one aspect about him Coup failed to understand.

“Coup? She is only seventeen.”

“So? We live in California… isn’t the age of consent seventeen here? All I’m sayin’ is, if Atlanta and I were to bump uglies- we wouldn’t have super retard babies right?”

“You- you’re aware I could evaporate you with a single word, aren’t you?”

“We can do that? The BOG’s got a Power Word: Kill in it!? Doctor Dubuya… you’ve been holdin’ out on me!”

The Aurelius sighed and calmed himself. Their bloodline had thinned over the years. To his knowledge, he had but two options for an apprentice- his daughter and this distant relation his magical search had turned up. He was sure he could find others if he pushed… but at the moment, it was down to one of the two of them fulfilling the role of the Aurelius. Atlanta Jane White seemed not to want anything to do with the dark arts he practiced, which only helped his decision…

…however much he regretted it.

It was twenty years ago that his master passed on… the day the Wanderer fully embraced him as the next Aurelius. He had opted to use such a responsibility by creating a new team of Vindicators. To that end he had gathered together new heroes. Rosa Freeman was an athlete who dreamed of being the world’s first gold medalist in women’s boxing. Her status as a Neo-Sapien was exposed and many argued her powers gave her an unfair advantage in sports. Her ability was to transform her flesh into super-strong rock resembling onyx; there was no way for her to use her powers without others noticing.

He also recruited Alexander Higgins, a human who had acted as a costumed vigilante in his home of New Jersey. As the archer, Nock, he had faced many petty thugs- some instilled with Neo-Sapien abilities. Armed only with his bow and arrows, he had experienced a successful career fighting crime- one that drew him the Aurelius’ eye as he drafted the sixth incarnation of Vindicators.

He also recruited ten-year-old Natalie Styles, a Neo-Sapien able to manipulate light. His master had been able to use his magic to heal, although Doctor White had yet to decipher that bit of the Book of the Grigori. As such, he felt her healing abilities would benefit their new team. He also called upon Jacob Loder, the grandson of the original Lodestone.

Last, but not least, he had brought in Scarlett Clementine, the southern belle with uncanny physical abilities. As the two adventured together and fought together, they fell in love together. They would eventually marry and see their one-and-only daughter born. With Atlanta’s birth, Phenomena had retired from the Vindicators and begged the Aurelius to do the same. He had given the reigns of leadership to Onyx, but he couldn’t pull himself away completely. He was too dedicated to his role as a protector- to his job as Earth’s Master Mage.

And when she felt that his job was more important to him than his family was- Scarlett White left her husband, taking their daughter with her.

He never contested custody.

Still, his emotional distance wasn’t the only thing that had driven a wedge between him and Atlanta. Her mother had eventually returned to the life of a superhero and placed Atlanta with an all girl’s school in Georgia. Atlanta was raised by the clergy at Bethel Baptist Bible Academy for Young Girls. She had an exuberant amount of faith and that clashed with the energies he commanded. Her religion taught her that magic was a dark art… an affront against God. Her father was the purveyor of such talents.

Almost as if on cue she appeared inside the Chapel. It had been weeks since her last visit- she spent every spring and winter vacation and summer break with her father. After this summer, she would begin her first term at a new school. She had argued with her mother that she was old enough to decide for herself- she wanted to spend her senior year at the New Vindicators Academy of America.

“She’s so hot,” Coup whispered to the doctor. The Aurelius sighed and crossed the room, phasing through his daughter’s body to stand behind her. With a simple incantation he crossed dimensions- becoming another ghost to his apprentice. Atlanta hardly seemed surprised to find his touch on her shoulder, nor to hear the words that would transport her into their realm. “So hot…”

“Ah heard that,” Atlanta grumbled, crossing the auditorium with her father. “Enhanced hearin’ and all. How’re y’doin’, cuz?”

Coup shuddered at her chosen nickname for him. There was no telling just how they were related- if at all. They were simple descended from the same man. Still, Atlanta insisted that they were cousins and called him as such. Such titles hindered his fantasies.

‘Then again,’ he mused to himself, carefully not to voice his thoughts out of fear for her Neo-Sapien abilities, ‘she is from the south…’

“Pumpkin,” the Aurelius said, gesturing to the woman, “this is Missus Caldwell and her husband is not long for this world. She had been praying that God will end his pain soon… I thought perhaps we could go visit him. Daddy could heal him- take away his cancer… They would both be so happy. What do you think?”

And suddenly, Coup understood why a man who’s power was spitting in God’s eye tried to use it to do the Lord’s work. Atlanta blushed as she fought to contain the grin. Her father extended an arm and she wrapped hers around it. That girl could bench press a Buick- yet she was refined enough that she could control her strength and keep from disintegrating the bones in his appendage. “Coup? We’re heading out for a bit… be sure to watch the Chapel for me? We shouldn’t be long.”

They made their way out of the church and out of the Astral Plane and Coup knew immediately what he wanted to do.

Hurrying into the basement of the church, he arrived at the fixtures Doctor White had brought over from the material plane. Down here in their library were a great many things the Aurelius was charged with protecting. The slumbering form of King Arthur- the man historically known as Ambrosius Aurelianus rested peacefully on a gilded bed. Excalibur would be with Nimue, the Lady in the Lake. His hands held Caladbolg though- the sword that could cut through anything.

At the Battle of Camlann, Arthur had slain Mordred… but had been fatally wounded. As the Aurelius of the period, he spirited himself to Avalon- the mystical island had long served as the realm of the Aurelius. When everything held on the island had been brought to San Francisco, King Arthur’s body had been brought over too. According to legend, he would slumber until the once-and-future king was needed again…

Coup Field passed the king’s slumbering form and stalked past the golden statue of a man weeping from atop his throne. He held his face in his hands and sorrow emanated from him. King Midas was just another fixture in the home of the Aurelius.

Pandora’s Box was bound in chains and secured away inside the Arc of the Covenant. That item in particular Coup was careful to steer away from. He had never seen it, though his master had told him those who touched it died instantly. The Mask of Agamemnon and the Holy Grail sat on shelves not far off- propping up tomes of lore. The color-changing sword, Joyuse, rested nearby and the Durandel leaned sheathed against the very shelf.

Coup’s eyes fell on the Lost Dutchman’s Gold and a grin spread like wildfire across his face. Each coin was harmless enough, unless pressed into someone else’s palm. The head of each coin depicted a man laughing or weeping, terrified or swooning… once pressed into the palm of someone, that person would experience those emotions. Fear, despair, hope, hate… Coup’s eyes settled on one in particular- the Love Coin. If he pressed it into Atlanta’s hand, she would be his loyal servant, bound to do anything he asked.

He looked up to the top shelf, to a small, ornate urn bound with twine. Something was shaking inside of it… something was trapped within.

Reaching up, Coup plucked it up into his hand and brought it down to his level. It seemed harmless enough and his curiosity often got the better of him. Coup opened the urn… and out he flew.

The sprite appeared like a small tiger- barely six inches in height, with large, angelic wings adorning its back. The strange being rotated in the air, scanning his new-found surroundings and finally settled on the fridge. “Sugar!” he exclaimed, rocketing through the air and wrapping his appendages around the handle. Try as he might, he lacked the strength to open the apparatus. “Sugar! Sugarsugarsugarsugar!”

“Um… hi?”

The creature leaned back his head, regarding Coup coolly. “Hey, big fella… open this up.”

“Are you hungry?”

“… Are you retarded? Honestly, kid… what was your first clue? Was it my screaming ‘sugar’ repeatedly, doing my best to open this door or… throw me a bone here, Einstein.”

“What are you?”

“At the moment I’m hungry and tired of stupid questions. Open the freaking door!”

Coup complied easily enough, though he preferred to avoid mundane movements whenever possible. Why walk when you could levitate? Why talk when you could psionically project your voice into another’s skull? Why open a door when you could use telekinesis to do so. He had hardly mastered much in the way of mental spells, but telekinesis was like second nature to him. An accomplished street magician, he referred to it as prestidigitation.

The strange creature seemed hardly impressed- much to Coup’s chagrin. He merely rolled his eyes at the young man’s excessive use of magic and launched himself into a bowl of pudding. “So… what exactly are you?”

“Neophlyte,” the diminutive beast managed around a mouthful of tapioca.

“Are there others like you?”

“Whole island where I’m from.”

“Where’s that?”

“Avalon,” the winged beast groaned as he wiped his mouth on the back of his paw. “Mmm, whipped cream!”

“So, do you have a name?”

“Oafeon.”

“I’m Coup.”

“And I thought I had a stupid sounding name.”

While Oafeon gorged himself, the telephone began to ring. The ear-splitting ringing forced the Apprentice to abandon any further inquires and make his way to the receiver. “Yo,” he said, picking up the archaic telephone. “Santa’s Secret Workshop, Complaint Department… did your child lose an eye?”

Silence answered him. The simple truth was, their number was unlisted; the services the Aurelius offered were hardly anything to advertise. If someone had dialed their number, they either knew who they were or they had the wrong number. The caller took a chance and a deep breath and dove in headfirst. “I- I need to talk to the Aurelius.”

Coup looked over his shoulder cautiously. “Speaking,” he said wearily.

“M-my name is Tom McMertree,” the man said, a hint of terror mingled with urgency in his voice. “I- I’m the mayor of Point Pleasant, West Virginia and… well… we, uh…”

“You what?”

“We’re sort of having a problem with… with the dead.”

“What kind of problem?” Coup asked, peering around the corner to Oafeon. The creature was laying on the floor before the open fridge, stroking his engorged tummy.

“Well… they’re- they’re not exactly acting like the dead anymore.”

“How so?”

“They’re up and about?”

“Ooo… Tell ya what, William-”

“Tom.”

“-I’ll go ahead and clear my schedule. I mean, I did have a two o’clock battle with Popo Bawa but… I can prolly bump him to tomorrow.”

“P-Popo Bawa?”

“Popo Bawa is a lesser demon that attacks Zanzaibar during election years. He has huge bat wings and a penchant for sodomizing men. Plus, if you don’t tell your family and friends about him, he’ll come back and do it again.” Silence responded to such a revelation. “Seriously, he really exists. Go WikiPedia him or something. Anyway, just for you, I’ll go ahead and give you a group rate on these zombies. I normally charge by the head but…”

“Just- just please… hurry.”

Coup hung up the phone and cracked his knuckles. “Hey, Oafeon! I gotta go make a quick buck over in West Virginia. You gunna be okay here?”

“You can’t charge people for their services!” Oafeon bellowed from the kitchen. “You’re the Aurelius! It’s your sworn duty to protect mankind from that which goes bump!”

“Yeah… you keep your mouth shut about that and I’ll buy donuts.”

A wide grin spread over Oafeon’s face. “Shotgun.”

The Phial of Aa’ron amplified the distance anyone teleported, allowing Coup and Oafeon to traverse the country in a matter of seconds. They soon found just what Tom McMertree had called them about. The dead had risen from a murky grave and freely roamed the town, panicking the simple denizens of the peaceful eastern hamlet. Yet still, they were not unmolested as they meandered through the city. Coup’s attention was pulled to one spot where an explosion of force cast the animated corpses aside.

His lower face was hidden under an orange scarf- the ends of which trailed behind him as he ran through the smoke. Shuriken flashed in his hands as he barreled through the melee. Against the undead, his knives had no effect; the flesh was long gone from their bodies- only dark green vegetation clung from their ribs now. Still, with a flick of the wrist, the ninja let the daggers fly… and they exploded on impact.

“How do you suppose he did that?” Coup asked; though he had voiced his inquiry aloud, he was merely asking himself. Still, Oafeon provided the answer.

“He’s able to manipulate kinetic energy,” the sprite said, his eyes glowing as he watched the young man explode forward at incredible speeds. “He charges energy into the throwing knives and they explode when they impact.”

“And how do you know that?”

“The Sight. I- I was the Neophlyte chosen by the Order of Nature this last cycle. I can see magic and identify it…”

“Then he’s not a Neo-Sapien,” Coup mused. “He’s magical in nature?”

“It’s an old magic, yes… but…” Oafeon narrowed his glowing eyes on the Japanese man engrossed in the melee below them. “…He- he’s an immortal and he’s not alone.” Oafeon’s paw pointed out towards another engaging the skeletons. There seemed to be nothing special about the man wildly swinging a club about, doing whatever he could to obliterate the undead. Yet, as Coup watched, he began to understand. Any wound the man received began healing almost instantly. “It’s weak but there’s something magical about his abilities…” Oafeon mused.

A third hammered at his foes, harnessing the power of the wind for his weapon. Oafeon scanned him as well, revealing the trick to how he performed the uncanny acts he performed. “It’s his bracelet,” Oafeon explained. “He’s a normal human but his wrist is giving off arcane energy… he’s manipulating the element of air.”

It suddenly dawned on Coup what he was doing. “Wait a minute! If I sit up here and watch them fight… I can’t collect for this job!” With a quick incantation he was on the ground, slinging spells into the undead and obliterating them one by one. The trio seemed not to mind the newcomer to their fight. They seemed to wish he was more capable, however. The horde of undead was still too much for the four of them, fight all they would. Magical spells, kinetic force, the wind and regeneration were hardly the most suitable weapons for dealing with an army.

And then… they all fell.

“W-what?” asked Coup, looking around him at the lifeless remains of the dead. Each and every skeleton had been dispatched quicker than Coup had been able to see. He looked over his shoulder, to the aghast Oafeon. The Neophlyte shook his head, unable to comprehend himself what had just happened.

“Forty-six people,” a young man said from behind them. He wore a black and white jogging suit with a stopwatch suspended from around his neck. In his hand was an acquired copy of “the History of Point Pleasant”, pilfered from the town’s museum. “Forty-six zombies. Can’t be too much of a coincidence, ey?”

“Who- who are you?” Coup thundered. If there was one thing he couldn’t stomach, it was being shown up. “Did you do this?”

“S’aboot time somebody did, ey?”

“What did you do?”

“I took out the rest. Name’s Joseph Higgins.”

“Did you say there were forty-six?” the young man with the bracelet asked. He removed his cowboy hat to wipe his brow and slick back his long, slightly greasy hair. Dirty and unshaven, he appeared to have been traveling for days. The wrinkled appearance of his clothes only hinted at the nights he had spent sleeping in them. The single six-shooter on his side and machete on his back appeared to be his only other possessions. “You know, forty-six people died here about forty-years-ago.”

“Did they drown?” asked the regenerator. He appeared to be the eldest, his chin accented by the dark goatee he stroked thoughtfully. “Some of these bones show signs that fish may have picked the flesh clean off of them. They appear to have been submerged for some time. Given that we’re on a river…”

“Oi,” Joseph said as he flipped through the book at blinding speeds. “Point Pleasant is most famous for a series of local legends centered on the 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge, which killed 46 people.”

“Wait a sec,” said Coup, throwing up his hands to silence the others. “This- this all sounds kind of familiar. Why does this sound kind of familiar?”

“The Mothman Prophesies? It was a Richard Gere movie.”

Coup’s eyes widened at the goateed man’s response. “Yeah! It had the chick from Will & Grace in it, right? Huzzah!”

Joseph Higgins stared blankly at the Apprentice. The others followed suit. “So, you mind tellin’ us who you are, ey?”

The Apprentice blinked in surprise, slightly wounded that his reputation had not preceded him. “Me? I’m Coup Field, the Aurelius.”

“I thought Steven White was the Aurelius,” Joseph corrected.

“Indeed,” came the muffled response from the scarf-clad shinobi.

“Has he passed on?” asked Joseph. “Did he retire?”

“Yeah, that. The- the second one!” Coup shared a look with Oafeon for a moment, as if threatening the small creature to keep his tongue stilled. “Th-this is Oafeon. He has magic eyes. Not like those posters that you look at cross-eyed and see sailboats but really magical eyes.”

Joseph and Coup stared at the other three. Removing his cowboy hat, the shaggy-looking man took the initiative to introduce himself. “My name is William Benson. I’m an archeologist. I’m pleased to meet you all.”

The man with the goatee looked to the man in the scarf, as if waiting for him to introduce himself. The man in the scarf seemed hardly willing to offer anything about himself voluntarily. “Fine… I’m John.”

Joseph’s eyes ran over the man and a grin flashed across his face. “You’re modest. He’s Doctor John O’Reilly, considered one of the best surgeons in the world today. I’ve read your journals, Doctor.” Joseph’s face contorted into a pained look then as if he further offered, “I am sorry for your loss.”

“Whatever,” growled the Doctor, intent to keep any further personal details of his life from these people. “So what’s your story, scarf-boy?”

“Unno Rokuro,” the man offered, his eyes scanning the horizon of the quiet village.

The Doctor appeared to be waiting to hear the rest.

Will looked at his five new cohorts in turn. “So, any of you have any idea what would make the dead crawl their way out of the Ohio River and rampage through the city?”

“Sure,” offered Joseph, “just as soon as you explain what an archeologist is doing in West Virginia.”

Will’s jaw dropped. “I, uh- well, you- I mean…”

“You knew aboot the area- knew aboot the incident that happened here nearly forty-years ago. Logic dictates that you’re here for something.” A knowing grin moved across Joseph Higgins’ face. “Odds are that whatever brings you here is tied to the skeletons. You probably knew this… and you’re attempting to test us to see how much we know. Am I right?”

William Benson could hardly form words to justify what was running through his head.

“I’m guessing this is aboot the shard, ey?”

William’s eyes weren’t the only ones that widened. The Doctor turned around- his interest peeked by this sudden turn of things. Even Unno Rokuro seemed captivated by Joseph’s words. “Aboot a week ago, I had a client come into my shop. I’m a clockmaker- I run a little shop back home in Quebec. I don’t think he was a local, given his accent… he sounded British. By his appearance and demeanor, I’d say he was a rabbi. He dropped off a grandfather clock to be fixed. Normally, I work quick enough that I have it done the next morning… but before he could get out the door, this other man appeared- commanding a golem.”

“A golem?” asked Coup, not sure what Joseph was talking about.

“A golem!?” asked William, his interest peeked.

“He came in, went to the clock the man dropped off and pulled this stone shard out of it.”

“He was an old man, wasn’t he?” asked Doctor O’Reilly. “Tattered robes, leaning on a walking stick?”

“You met him too, ey?”

“He attacked the lab I’ve been working out of. A- a colleague and I have been researching a strain of bacteria, a new virus or sorts. My colleague is something of a… a collector of oddities. He had this shard of a stone tablet, with some runes carved on it. The same old man, with the same golem, just made their way in. My colleague attempted to fight them both off but… the man practices dark magic.”

“He attacked a shrine in Japan,” Rokuro explained. “He was spat from the earth and easily took the shard given to the gods for protection.”

“He took one from you too, ey?” asked Joseph.

William nodded in response and with his confirmation, the air around Joseph distorted for a split second. Suddenly Joseph was holding a shard of stone- unintelligible runes etched into it. “Did they look anything like this?” he asked.

“Wait… how did you-”

“Museum,” offered Joseph.

Coup shook his head. “No, not that… the- the- what did you do?”

Joseph blinked. “I… got the shard?”

“How!?”

“I… walked?”

“Super-speed,” grumbled the Doctor.

Joseph shook his head. “Not really. I change the proportional relationship with time- slowing it to a crawl for you whilst speeding it up for me.”

“Wait- you… you control time!?” Coup’s eyes echoed his infinite surprise that Joseph was capable of such a staggering feat. “Why don’t you just go backwards and get the shards before this guy does?”

“Because I can’t travel through time, I just manipulate it. Truth, I’m not even sure how I do that…”

“Well, are you a Neo-Sapien?” asked the Doctor.

“I’m not sure. I don’t remember my parents. I- I’m not sure if I even have them to be honest.” Joseph gave them a nervous laugh, half to put them at ease- half to put himself there. “It’s just… it’s just something I’ve always been able to do. I’m not sure how I do it but… I do so… you know.”

William Benson cleared his throat and stepped into the middle of their odd group. “Okay… so I think it’s safe to say that this guy has been coming after the shards. They must be pieces of something. Joseph and John had one- myself, Rokuro… wait- Coup? Mister Aurelius, sir? Did- did he take one from you?”

“I ain’t got one,” Coup said with a pout. He was sorely disappointed that he didn’t actually.

“Okay then… we can assume he has at least four of these things. No clue how many there are.”

“Wait… there’s something on this!” Joseph turned it over and traced an engraving around the edge of the shard. “It says… ‘Gevurah.’ What’s that mean?”

Coup shrugged. “I didn’t take ‘Gibberish’ in high school.”

Joseph ignored the intellectually inferior young man and continued to study the artifact he had pilfered from the community museum. “I think the odds of that man coming for this are fairly good,” he mused.

The ground trembled beneath their feet and was torn asunder as a great arm rose from the soil. The fingers flexed and reached for the would-be heroes. Rokuro easily leapt out of the way, while Joseph’s abilities pulled the Doctor easily to safety. The hand grabbed William Benson and pulled him back into the earth, his screams trailing behind him.

From behind them, the earth split open and out he rose. The listless mage wore the very tattered robes Doctor O’Reilly had identified him with. Pointing with his gnarled walking stick, he commanded the golem he had animated, sending it to fetch that which he sought above all else. “If you value your lives,” he said slowly, having an awkward time communicating in English, “give me the shard.”

Joseph grinned, easily seeing the advantage he held over the man. “You want this shard, ey? You’ll have to catch me first.”

An unforgiving wind beat down on the collected forces and Coup Field was forced to turn away to shield his eyes against the barrage.

The old man was mildly unaffected by the wind. The tattered robes Doctor O’Reilly had identified him as wearing rippled before him like so much a king’s banner waving on the fields of a glorious battle. The long, frayed, coarse hairs jutting from his jaw moved ever so slightly; the density his beard had gained in its tangled mess allowed it some resistance against the cool summer gale. No, the wind affected him to be true- but he was not bothered by it.

“Give me the key,” he intoned, his voice delivering the hoarse command. He leaned easily on that gnarled walking stick, unconcerned with whatever challenge these united heroes may have posed.

“Let go of Billy!” Coup thundered dramatically, thrusting his hand forward and pointing for the old man.

“In but a day, all of reality will finally be purged. What matters if he dies here and now than during the deluge?”

“De-what?”

Unno Rokuro sighed and hid his face in his raised hand, his eyes peeking out from between his fingers. The Doctor moved to explain things for their young companion’s benefit. “Deluge is a fancy name for flood,” the Doctor intoned, not taking his eyes off of the old man.

“Give me the shard and I will permit your companion to live for the time remaining.”

Joseph Higgins still held the shard, ready to run if necessary. With a mere thought he could slow down time for them while speeding it up for himself. It made him appear to move at uncanny speeds… but things were still different for him. He had run hundreds of miles in what seemed like a few scant seconds to mortals; for Joseph, weeks had passed.

Weeks more of his life would be lost should he speed away again- but if it meant preventing a catastrophe the old man predicted there was no question as to the justification.

Could he justify abandoning William Benson to the old man’s mercies though? None of their group appeared capable of freeing him from an earthly prison. If they cooperated, there was the off-chance the old man would let William live… together they could still prevent this man’s dark ambitions.

“How many of these are there?” Joseph asked, shaking the shard and reigning in the old man’s attention.

The old man chuckled at their ignorance. “Ten,” he admitted. “One in the hands of each member of the Illuminati. Only two were not entrusted with such power.”

“What do they do?”

“Ask the Illuminati.”

Joseph calmed himself… and asked what he was hesitant to ask. The question would give the old man too much power… but he had to know. “If we give this to you, you’ll release our friend?”

“Whoa!” exclaimed Coup. “Let’s not go makin’ friendship bracelets right now! He’s not our friend! Nobody is anybody’s friend and I resist such accusations! In fact, I’m fairly certain my attorney, from Field, Oafeon and Weinstein would dispute such allegations!”

“Yeah!” the flying fey pronounced with a paw punch into the air.

Rokuro’s eyes shifted to take the pair in from between his fingers. “Just say the word,” he mumbled to the Doctor, “and I’ll have them both dead.”

“Enough!” thundered the old man impatiently. “I will keep my word- no matter how futile it is on your part to insist on purchasing more time for the oaf, it is infinitely better than I agree to such a trade than to waste precious energies in expending your sorry essences!”

“Everyone talks funny today,” Coup said to Oafeon. Oafeon only nodded.

The old man raised his hand and the ground shook. William Benson’s head broke the surface, his face covered in dirt and his hair now the home to worms and bugs. He breathed deeply, drinking in the air and flailing his head to rid himself of the infestation. “Give the shard to me!” ordered the old man.

Joseph moved slowly- a difficult task for him -and hesitantly offered out the shard.

“Don’t!” bellowed William Benson. “Don’t give it to him!”

“It’s either you or it,” the Doctor muttered around an unlit cigarette. He rummaged through his pockets, digging for his trusty lighter and fumbled with it once he had it. “You got a gripe with us savin’ your sorry hide?”

“If it means destroying all creation? Kind of!”

“Hold up!” Coup howled. “What the frig does this thing do?”

The old man turned towards William’s head, poking just barely from the earth. “I should have killed you when I had the chance,” he snarled. Then, his hand opened and his palm was facing William. William’s eyes widened in horror as the old man’s fingers snapped shut and knew what was about to happen.

He had seen Perenelle die in the very same manner. Her husband’s cries still echoed in his head. “Take the shard!” he screamed, throwing the bag to William and urging him to run. “Don’t let him complete the Sephirot!”

William had left Nicolas, one of the few people on this earth he genuinely looked up to, and fled with the small, velvet pouch. Inside was one of the ten shards of the Sephirot- the most dangerous artifact known to man.

One of the twelve- one of the Illuminati -had betrayed the others. Who knew how many shards the Wanderer had already absconded? The others had to be warned.

Leaving the Alchemist’s side, William telephoned Japan, attempting to warn the next of the guard. The Samurai claimed The Wanderer had already come and stolen the shard in his protection; he had dispatched Unno Rokuro to find the renegade and stop him at any cost.

The Scrivener and the Mirabilis had also lost their shards to the man. The Astronomer and the Dodger, the Soldier and the Weaver… six still held their shards and those five had been warned to keep their shards close. The Bard claimed he had long ago put his where few would be able to find it and the Physician claimed his would be almost impossible to find.

Of the Illuminati, the Collector and the Wanderer were the only two members of the Illuminati who had not been named as guardians… and now the Wanderer was gathering them… to end his wanderings.

As the earth cascaded over William and moved to crush his body and grind his bones to dust, the Wanderer turned and cast a spell on the Roach statue.

Standing at twelve feet tall, the stainless steel sculpture of the legendary Mothman who had plagued Point Pleasant so many years had been brought to life in Robert Roach’s exquisite piece of art. Now, the Wanderer brought it to life with his exquisite magic.

Wings flapped and legs began to work in locomotion. Inch by inch the statue familiarized itself with the alien process that was walking.

“Every man for himself!” Coup screamed, turning and running as fast as his legs could carry him.

“You’re the Aurelius!” the Doctor thundered. “Can’t you blast it with fire or something?”

Rokuro had already moved, placing himself between his companions and the steel beast. He flourished and suddenly, steel danced beautifully between his fingertips. “That’ll never penetrate-” Coup’s words were cut off by the blades flying for the monster. Each was charged with kinetic energy and exploded upon impact. Through the smoke and debris, the monster sauntered forward, though his pace had noticeably been slowed.

“Hickabickaboo!” Coup exclaimed, whirling around and flinging his arms out for the beast. “Fulmenos venite!”

Lightning tore from his fingertips and struck the metal monster. “How do you like that!?” Coup laughed, turning to find himself met by a pair of Wanderers.

Joseph Higgins sped through the field of earthen decoys, occasionally his fist rupturing one and reducing it to a pile of sand. He grumbled at the sight of the walls of stone and earth rising up around the battlefield. The Wanderer had managed to keep him close- nullifying the benefits of his quasi-speed. Without the benefit his chronal manipulations gave him, he was just a man… and a man couldn’t hope to keep the shard of the Sephirot from the Wanderer.

Waves of sand cascaded over Joseph’s feet and cemented him to the spot. In his struggle to speed away he collided with the ground and watched as the shard was expelled from his fingertips.

The ground beneath the shard began to rise as a decorative column ascended from under it. One of the Wanderer’s reached out and gently hefted it from the stone creation. Without another word, he began to sink into the ground- swallowed by a patch of quicksand. Moments later, the walls came tumbling down and his earthen doppelgangers were dispelled.

“Did we win!?” exclaimed Coup happily.

“Not at all,” Joseph grumbled, getting to his feet. He fixed the submerged William Benson an angry look. “You knew what that did, didn’t you?”

“No!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know anything! Can- can you just get me out of here?”

Blades flashed in Rokuro’s hand and he eyed them apathetically. “Talk,” he muttered.

“Is your name even William Benson?” asked the Doctor.

“Yes!” Joseph knelt down, picking up William’s forgotten cowboy hat and dusting it off casually before he rested it on the man’s head, the brim pulled low over William’s face. “All right!” came his muffled exclamation. He sighed as he shook his head, throwing the hat off. “To be fair… I never actually lied to you. I just held back some information. My name really is William Benson and I really am an archaeologist. I’m employed by a group in Germany… the Thule Society.”

“Then what?” Coup asked.

“What he said,” declared Oafeon, equally confused.

“About ninety years ago, there was this group…” Joseph sighed and shook his head. “You’re s’posed to be the Aurelius, ey! You should know this!”

“Pretend I don’t,” Coup said, attempting to sound more intelligent than he actually was.

“The Studiengruppe fur Germanishes Altertum,” offered William, was founded by Rudolf von Sebottendorff. He was a German occultist obsessed with antiquity and legends. The dabbler in the occult that he was, Adolf Hitler took a keen interest-”

“You’re a Nazi!” exclaimed Coup, pointing an accusing finger at William.

“I’m not a Nazi! Granted… the early society was sponsored by what would become the Nazi party… but the Thule Society has no affiliation of the sort today.”

“You USED TO BE a Nazi!”

“I could tear out his larynx,” suggested Rokuro, his voice muffled by the scarf he wore wrapped around his lower face. “That might shut him up…”

“Continue,” Doctor O’Reilly said, inclining his head at the submerged man.

“The name comes from the capitol of Hyperborea- the eighth continent. Millennia ago it- sank into the ocean. The Hyperboreans dispersed around the world… became legends of their own right. However, they left behind a lot of their artifacts- implements of tremendous power. The Thule Society is dedicated to working in the shadows- gathering these artifacts and ensuring they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

“There are twelve men at the top of the organization. Twelve men who live around the world. They’re renown for being the men who took the Study Group for German Antiquity and turned it around…

“They are the Illuminati.”

“Now THEM I’ve heard of!” Coup declared. “They’re trying to rule the world. Ronald Reagan was one of them…”

“Considering that Illuminati would translate to ‘illuminated ones’, I strongly doubt that.” William Benson shook his head. “A former priest in the Thule Society, Father Ortega, was always like a father to me. He introduced me to the Alchemist- one of the twelve. Rumor has it, the twelve were planning to retire and introduce a new Illuminati.”

“The Alchemist?” asked Doctor O’Reilly. “Great name.”

“All the twelve took similar names,” William explained. “Their true names carry too much weight. In any case, ten of the twelve were entrusted as guardians of the Sephirot. Ten shards that come together to form the most devastating artifact known to man. The Wanderer decided to betray the order and he’s been targeting the guardians. If you witnessed him taking the shards, then you’ve been in contact with other members of the Illuminati.”

Unno Rokuro nodded- his master had made no secret of his involvement with the Thule Society. Those who served Sanada Yukimura were denied nothing he could offer. Still, though he knew of his lord’s involvement, he knew nothing about the other eleven… only that his master went by the name ‘The Samurai’.

Doctor John O’Reilly could only imagine what his colleague was involved in if what Benson was saying was true. He had seen the Wanderer steal the shard from his acquaintance’s hand.

What was Doctor Bacon involved in?

“So what happens if all ten shards come together?”

“Well… the Sephirot is supposed to be the ten ways in which God reveals himself to man… Bringing all ten together will open a door.”

“To God?”

“To Atziluth.”

“Gestundheit,” offered Oafeon.

Joseph took a moment to reel in what he had just heard. “This guy wants to open a door into the Realm of Emanations?”

“What about it?” asked Coup.

“Atziluth is the highest of the four worlds in Kabbalah. The World of Causes is a world of pure divinity- it- it’s where Ein Sof’s light burns brightest.”

“Back the crazy train up and start speakin’ American!” thundered the magician’s apprentice, flashing the Canadian a stern look.

“If Atziluth and this world were connected…”

Joseph looked down at William, as if fearing what he already knew to be true.

“It would unmake all of creation. Reality wouldn’t just cease to be… it would never have been.”
Last edited by Michuru81 on Tue Oct 02, 2007 3:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by smashed247 » Fri Mar 30, 2007 11:15 pm

I sense another hit beginning Michuru81!

Yay!

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Post by calonnau » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:40 am

You can’t charge people for their services!” Oafeon bellowed from the kitchen. “You’re the Aurelius! It’s your sworn duty to protect mankind from that which goes bump!”

“Yeah… you keep your mouth shut about that and I’ll buy donuts.”

A wide grin spread over Oafeon’s face. “Shotgun.”
:D :twisted:
Okay I like both characters so far.

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Post by Michuru81 » Sun Apr 01, 2007 6:04 pm

After numerous months of nothing new, I merged all the pieces of the first session into one big post. Hence this message which used to be half the story.

Hopefully, from now on, I'll be posting each session as one big post... That's if I can get my act together and actually work on this narrative.
Last edited by Michuru81 on Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by teleportingbassist » Sun May 06, 2007 7:07 am

Interesting, very interesting, can't wait to see where it's going.

316 cookies for you!
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"Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why" Slaughterhouse-Five

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Post by Michuru81 » Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:45 pm

ILLUMINATI #2: The Circle Chase [Part II of V]
Coup Field let out another dejected sigh once the odd band rematerialized in the heart of Trenton, New Jersey. “Funny,” William Benson said, eyeing the bystanders eyeing them oddly. A few detoured themselves from walking past the group while some steered their children back from the collective they perceived as Neo-Sapiens. “This doesn’t look like the Pine Barrens.”

“That’s because it isn’t, Sherlock,” Coup muttered. “You’re nuts if you think I’m just going to teleporting into the middle of a forest.”

“What part of ‘the Astronomer hid his shard of the Sephirot in the New Jersey Pine Barrens’ didn’t you get?”

“The part where I teleport into the middle of a forest.” Coup gestured wildly to Doctor John O’Reilly, a native of New Jersey. It was here that he had raised his wife’s nephew Jeremy- up until the day she had been claimed by a car bomb. “Did you not hear what that guy said!? The Pine Barrens are huge! He said MILLIONS of acres- millions as in LOTS, okay?” Oafeon sat on Coup’s shoulder, nodding along to the young man’s ranting. “Now, you expect us to find this thing… how!?!”

“I- I don’t…” William hadn’t considered that. The Pine Barrens covered over four-thousand square kilometers of undeveloped land. Rivers, lakes and bogs covered the terrain and played host to orchids and carnivorous plants. According to the Doctor, the Barrens was even home to a rare breed of plant that depended on fire to reproduce. That the man had concluded by telling them fires were frequent in the acidic forest didn’t help matters.

While William sputtered, Tick-tock’s stomach growled. He slowed time down for the rest of the world, while speeding it up around himself. In an instant he had blazed through the streets, finding the nearest store and grabbing a quick snack to subside his aches. With the gallon of Gatorade and the cans of Pringles in hand, he let the normal flow of time return as he neared the checkout of the grocery store.

It was there that he spotted them.

Three dwarves, each blessed with Neo-Sapien powers, collectively known as Triple Threat. Since 9/11, more and more Neo-Sapiens had turned to a life of crime. There were no Vindicators to stop them- no heroes to stand in their way. In the wake of Atlas’ defeat five years prior, dime store villains like Triple Threat reigned supreme at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted SPBs List. To date, the trio had made off with one-hundred and thirty-seven billion dollars- absconded from grocery stores across the United States.

Their logic was simple- banks typically had security, but grocery stores were often lax in that department. Grocery stores often had a branch finance office where people could cash their paychecks. They were like tiny, unsecured banks scattered across the United States. That was the prey for Triple Threat- randomly attacking the stores, they came without warning and left without a trace.

Until now.

“Nobody-”

As the words left Scissors’ mouth, Tick-tock manipulated the flow of time once more. He raced to return to his new companions, grabbing them one by one and dragging them into the store. For Joseph Higgins it had taken twenty-three minutes to leave, go around the block, and drag the other heroes back individually. However, he had also spent too much time during the battle hours ago with the Wanderer and the skeletons he had animated. Slowing down the passage of time allowed him to accomplish more in what seemed to only be the span of a few seconds… but it still exhausted him all the same.

Exhausted from the day’s work, Tick-tock fell to the ground and slipped into a deep sleep.

“-move!” announced Scissors, a Neo-Sapien of Puerto Rican heritage.

Coup immediately threw up his arms in surrender, while Unno Rokuro ducked down behind a rack of discount DVDs. William Benson and the Doctor played it cool- Triple Threat seemed not to notice their sudden appearance and the pair were dressed fairly normal and could slightly blend in with the crowd. “Isn’t that Triple Threat?” the Doctor asked, hiding his mouth behind his hand.

William Benson nodded, though he only saw the two. The Luchador mask announced the craggy dwarf as Rock. Carlos Espinosa’s father had been a masked wrestler before his knee injury ended his career. The man left Mexico for America and married a young Patricia Goodman- the kid sister to the Vindicator better known as Coach Crag. The young showboat was hard to miss… but the third member of their triad was less easy to pinpoint.

Paper was undoubtedly lurking nearby.

“Ideas?” the Doctor asked.

William Benson looked down to the slumbering Tick-tock. The quasi-speedster was one of the few amongst them with powers. Unno Rokuro was an immortal ninja who could energize objects with kinetic energy and Coup Field was a magus versed in the mystical arts. William Benson was a mere archeologist however and John O’Reilly was a surgeon. They would be no use against the three Neo-Sapiens and with Tick-tock sleeping his fatigue off and Coup already surrendered…

…Everything was in Rokuro’s hands.

The Doctor ducked down and began gathering items from the checkout aisle, shoving them into the pockets of his lab coat. “You can’t steal!” William protested. “Not when we’re trying to stop them from stealing!”

“Yeah,” hissed Coup. “Swiper, no swiping!”

“You do realize that an over whelming majority of check-out line items can be used in developing an incendiary?”

Rokuro hurriedly charged himself with his own kinetic manipulations. With a surge of energy he rocketed forward. The members of Triple Threat saw only a blur of motion speed through their area. The results of his ninja training had spotted what his companions’ eyes had not; he had seen the third member of this triad and he moved to attack and reveal his location to the others.

As he ran forward, kunai whirled between his fingertips. Scissors spun around, his liquid metal arms morphing to transfigure his fingertips into deadly-sharp claws. He back-handed the shinobi in the face and spun to deliver a kick to the man’s ribs- a kick powerful enough to throw the lithe man back several feet.

Unno Rokuro skidded to the ground and Rock advanced with uncanny speed. The shinobi righted himself and narrowly avoided a downward slam that pulverized the tile floor of the grocery store.

A jet of flame pierced the air, striking against Rock. The dwarf turned and was surprised to see Doctor John O’Reilly with a pilfered cigarette lighter and a can of bodyspray. The two made for a deadly combination; the surgeon smiled sweetly before sending out another spray of flames that only enraged the man more.

Scissors leapt into the air and began to spin, throwing his arms out to the side. His claw-like appendages were dodged easily by Rokuro- though his scarf was caught in the shrapnel storm. Rokuro’s wrist flicked, launching a handful of kunai for his opponent. Scissors dodged those effortlessly, tucking and rolling across the floor, reappearing behind Rokuro and stabbing him the lower back with his finger-blades.

The immortal ninja cried out in pain and the dwarf kept his claws buried in the man’s flesh. As Rokuro turned to face him, so did Scissors move- keeping himself at the man’s back and poised for another strike.

Paper took the initiative and an elongated finger- like a razor-thin whip –slashed across Rokuro’s chest. Rokuro applied his kinetic force through his body and suddenly Scissors rocketed away from him and through the glass holding pen where the carts were kept.

Rokuro’s hand flung the remaining kunai for Rock then. The tiny man braced against the jet of flames spewing out from Doctor O’Reilly but an explosion of pure force from behind hurled him aside.

The shinobi reached into his pouches for more kunai and hurriedly charged them with kinetic force. Then suddenly he felt the familiar sting of Scissors’ claws. He turned to face his opponent, only to watch as a gale force wind carried the man back.

Scissors slammed against the farthest wall- victim of William Benson’s assault. The man’s bracelet pulsated with a white light- there was something unnatural about that artifact. He rode a current of air upward and sent gusts of wind to force Paper out of hiding. Sure enough, the two-dimensional man appeared and ran for another hiding place. It was then that a lint roller fell before his feet, the tip of it set aflame by the doctor’s ingenuity. Doctor O’Reilly held the can of bodyspray level and trained on the flame. Paper’s lip upturned in a snarl and he turned to flee the scene.

At the sight of their leader’s retreat, Rock and Scissors hurried to follow. Still, the would-be heroes were not about to let them escape. The trio hurried after them and watched in astonishment as arrows rained down on Triple Threat from a nearby roof.

There their eyes fell upon a hero- a familiar face, not only to them but to the world. In the early nineties, when the world thought the Vindicators dead, a young man known as the Aurelius recruited several brave heroes to his cause and take up the mantle of the Vindicators.

Rosa Freeman, better known as Onyx, was capable of transforming her flesh into a super-dense gemstone. A natural athlete and would-be boxer, she left her dreams of becoming an Olympic champion to save the world.

The southern bell known as Phenomena was originally known as Scarlett Clementine. The woman’s body was in a constant state of fight-or-flight response and as such she had tremendous strength and endurance, as well as astounding physical abilities and uncanny senses.

The teenaged Natalie Styles, known to the world as Halogen, grew up on the team. She used her powers to bend light in fantastic ways. Typically she used her powers to cloak herself as an invisible healer.

Jacob Loder, the third man to claim the name of the Lodestone, had also served with them- using his magnetic abilities to protect the world his son would grow up in.

And then there was the human of their team. Alexander Higgins had no special powers- only a keen eye and sharp aim. The bowman known as Nock was simply an exceptionally gifted archer with a slew of arrows at his disposal. The bulb-like head of an arrow impacted against Rock’s dense body, exploding into a net to snare the man. Paper had vanished from sight, but still Scissors was spotted. Another arrow was pulled back and fired for his retreating form- showing the area with a blinding light that dazzled the criminal and allowed the heroes to quickly intercept him.

Nock slipped down on a grapple built into his bow and smiled warmly at the heroes in turn. Soon enough, Coup had emerged, struggling to carry a slumbering Joseph Higgins with him. “Uncle Joe?” Nock exclaimed, surprised to see the slumbering speedster. “What- what happened to him?”

“You know him?” William Benson asked. Doctor John O’Reilly raised an eyebrow quizzically as well. Squad cars came a screeching halt and Nock excused himself for a moment, explaining the situation to the authorities and handing off the two captured villains.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said when he returned to the heroes’ side. “Can I ask you to come back to my apartment? We can talk there.”

The small band followed the hero through back alleys and up a fire escape. On the roof he slipped into the stair well to change into his civilian clothes- not wanting to alert his neighbors to his comings and goings as Nock. Accompanied by Alex Higgins, the odd group made their way down through the halls of the small apartment building and stopped at Apartment 137.

“That you, Alex?” came a woman’s voice from deeper into the home. “Everything all right?”

“We have guests, Sheila,” the man intoned. “My uncle Joe is with them.”

“Okay… your uncle Joe?” Coup dropped Joseph on the couch and fixed Alex with a strange look. “How can he be your uncle? He looks like he’s thirteen!”

“We- we always thought it was part of his powers. He can warp time so… it would make sense that he doesn’t age.”

Doctor O’Reilly stared at the slumbering man oddly. “Exactly how old is he?”

“He’s a year younger than my dad,” Alex offered. “Dad was born in fifty-six so… I guess Uncle Joe would be forty-nine this September.”

William’s jaw dropped in astonishment. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Nope. My dad said that one day, my uncle just sort of realized he had these powers… He can speed up or slow down time. Since then… he’s just stopped aging. We always thought he was a Neo-Sapien but… neither gramma or grandpa had that kind of an ability.”

“It’s possible your gramma slept around,” Coup offered.

“There’s a great way to make friends,” said Alex sarcastically. “Calling someone’s gramma a whore before you even introduce yourself… I should start doing that. I’d be twelve shades of popular.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Coup said. “I was just pointing out… I mean, it’s a possibility.”

“In this life, there are nothing but possibilities,” offered the somber Rokuro. He walked forward and bowed before Alex. “My name is Unno Rokuro. I thank you for permitting us into your domicile.”

“N-no problem,” Alex said, obviously a little put off by the man’s demeanor.

“I’m William Benson.”

“Doctor John O’Reilly.” The surgeon nodded to Coup then. “This is the Aurelius, Coup Field.”

Alex’s eyes widened in shock. “What happened to Doctor White?”

“He’s retarded now.” Oafeon shook his head in exasperation and whispered into Coup’s ear. Alex’s eyes widened even more at the sight of the small creature. “I mean retired. I meant to say retired. Sorry. Sorry, everybody.”

“What- what is that?” Alex asked, pointing at the winged creature on Coup’s shoulder.

“This is Oafeon. He likes donuts.”

“Don’t ask,” Rokuro said softly, his back to his companions as he scanned the alley below them from the windows. It was as if he expected the Wanderer to burst through the apartment wall and attack them again. “We are not entirely sure what Oafeon is either, save that he is the product of one of the items in the protection of the Aurelius.” The Japanese man turned then and fixed the party with a cold and determined look. “I do not mean to be rude, but our need is great. I will be brief: a madman has taken it upon himself to collect the shards of a very powerful artifact known as the Sephirot. If he brings all ten together-”

“It’ll summon a dragon who will grant him one wish…”

Unno Rukuro continued as if he had not heard Coup’s interruption. “-he will open a gateway into another dimension and flood this world with a light that will unmake existence. We are each charged with stopping this man and our information tells us that one such piece is hidden within the New Jersey Pine Barrens. You are a local of this place so… tell me- have you any information that might help us?”

“Shard? Sephirot?”

“It would be a stone shard…” Rokuro cut off as Joseph Higgins handed his nephew a precise sketch he had only just now composed. “Yes, the one we momentarily possessed looked like that…”

“I- I’m sorry. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Unno Rokuro’s voice did not change. “That is a shame,” he intoned darkly.

“If it’s in the Pine Barrens though… I dunno, it’s a long-shot but, hey… you’re dealing with something magical in nature, right? Back when we were both in the Vindicators, Doctor White used to tell us about Hyperborean artifacts and the dangerous effects they could have if they fell into unsuspecting hands… I guess my point is… if this do-dad is something magical then… well, the Pine Barrens kind of have their own legend. They might be connected. Maybe?”

“It is possible,” Rokuro said, stroking his chin. He was determined to stop the Wanderer from opening the door to Atziluth. He didn’t want to be unmade. “Tell me more.”

“Us,” William Benson corrected. “Tell US more.”

“How humorous: you did not appear eager to consider us a team prior when you withheld information on the shards.” Rokuro shook his head. “My apologies. My agitation is uncalled for. Our mission is most urgent and we do not have the time for fighting.”

The group settled in around Alex Higgins and gratefully accepted the drinks his wife offered. “All right,” Alex began, “it all began back in the seventeen-hundreds. A proper English girl by the name of Deborah Smith left her motherland behind her and set sail to marry a very wealthy barrister, Mister Nathaniel Leeds.

“Mister Leeds was a very vain man who wanted numerous heirs to continue his family name and ensure that he imprinted a legacy in the new history that would be written on American shorelines. The two married and just months later, the newly-named Missus Leeds found herself with child.”

“A spooky child!” proclaimed Coup dramatically. An agitated glare from the Doctor silenced him and Sheila Higgins did her best to keep from laughing at her guests.

“Actually,” said Alex as he continued, smirking at Coup’s outburst, “that child was completely normal, as were the next eleven children the Leeds had.”

“Eleven?”

“Twelve, counting the first,” muttered William. “Never a good number…”

“Well, the thirteenth child was not truly a Leeds,” explained Alex. “The legend goes on, saying that one day, the eldest boy- the first born of the Leeds’ children –had an argument with his father and ran away. Missus Leeds pursued the boy, following him deep into the barrens. That was where she found the serpent.”

“A serpent, huh?” asked Coup as he yawned. “Wait- lemme guess… he came barring apples?”

“Missus Leeds was enchanted by the coiled snake’s sinuous movements and… and by it’s glowing blue eyes. Then and there she disrobed and gave herself to the serpent.”

Coup’s jaw dropped as a confused expression floundered across his face. “Wait- what? She- she did the nasty with a snake?”

Alex could only nod and hold his wife closer to him- as if afraid the same serpent were about to descend on her now. “Deborah Leeds had sex with the snake and when it slithered off into the shadows of the barrens, her son emerged from where it had vanished. Together, the two returned-”

“So he found his mommy nekkid in the woods? Kid must have been scarred for life.”

Alex cleared his throat. “Together, the two returned and soon after Missus Leeds found herself pregnant again. Unbeknownst to her, she didn’t carry her husband’s seed but the seed of the twisted reptile. The night the thirteenth child was born, she cursed her fortune and she cursed her husband… She even cursed her unborn child. She proclaimed she would rather have the Devil’s babe than another Leeds and… like that, the midwife gasped.

“Apparently, her wish was granted. Missus Leeds’ thirteen child had wings like a bat and the face of a dog. It had a tail marking it kin to the snakes and its tiny, under-developed hands were tipped with talons like a bird. Still, what marked it as most terrifying were the cloven hooves- a sure sign of the spawn of Satan himself as their fragile eighteenth century minds could comprehend.

“In that moment, the newborn baby gobbled up the other twelve children and the adult Leeds… leaving the midwife as the lone witness to the terrible events. The woman claimed that she was chased into the barrens by the beast and managed to hid herself in a copse of trees. From her shelter she watched as it breathed blue flames into the ground- creating the Blue Hole and opening a gateway into Hell itself.”

“Gateway to Hell?” asked a skeptical Doctor O’Reilly.

“Blue Hole?” asked Unno Rokuro.

“Yeah… they’re… vertical caves.” Sheila thought hard, summoning everything she knew about the quasi-tourist attraction. “They’re submarine sinkholes- circular depressions submerged with anoxic water.”

“There’s a Blue Hole in Winslow, down in the Pine Barrens.” Alex smiled knowingly then- if a shard of an item capable of unraveling the fabric of reality were in New Jersey, it may very well have been there. “It has something of a whirlpool effect and… legend says it’s a doorway to hell and home to Damien Leeds… the Jersey Devil.”

Unno Rokuro rose up then and nodded to his companions. “We should head there. It is the best lead we thus far have.”

“I hafta agree,” muttered an obviously unsettled Joseph Higgins. He seemed most disturbed by Alex’s tale. “Sooner we get this shard, sooner we get to continue existing, ey?”

Oafeon nodded and turned to Coup; it seemed the only thing left to do was to wait for the young man to teleport them to their destination.

An incantation later and Sheila Higgins found herself alone once more…

The Doctor looked to Unno Rokuro- the shinobi had taken the initiative on this mission; he yielded to him now. “Lead the way, Mister Higgins.”

And lead he did. The heroes marched through the growth for hours, slowly losing sight of the sun as they proceeded. Every so often, Coup would groan, “Are we there yet?” and Oafeon would grumble about being hungry.

“How can we even be sure the shard is out here?” Oafeon finally complained. “I mean, while we’re on a nature hike, the Wanderer could have snagged it and moved on to the next!”

“We have to try,” Joseph offered.

William Benson bit his lip- still holding back what information he had on the Sephirot. He touched at his hip, to the object barely concealed in his pocket. The shape gave it away, but few of his accomplices now suspected that he was still carrying a shard of the Sephirot…

The Alchemist had given him that.

Nicolas had trusted him with one of the most precious instruments in all of creation.

It was a sign; the Illuminati were retiring- they were choosing a new group to safeguard mankind from the things the human psyche could not hope to comprehend. He was one of them… but had the others been chosen as replacements as well?

“Ten of the twelve members of the Illuminati were chosen to guard the Sephirot,” William said then, closing his eyes as he mentally berated himself for trusting them with what he was about to say, “and it was the Astrologer who hid his shard in the Pine Barrens. He would not- NOT –have simply buried it; he would have ensured that there was something to protect it… to defend it if needed. The shard will be here… and it will be guarded by something. The Jersey Devil’s Blue Hole is our best chance…”

It was then that a great cry tore itself from the deepest pit of Coup’s stomach and spun the rest of the heroes around to face him. Nock had already drawn back the string of his bow and swung the arrowhead about, looking for a target. Unno Rokuro had drawn steel- numerous shuriken were held between his fingertips. Doctor O’Reilly had drawn his garrote and Tick-tock gave an exasperated sigh: he seemed to be the only one unarmed in their collective.

“What?” asked Nock, still scanning the terrain. “What? Did- did you see the Jersey Devil?”

“I think I saw a ghost!” sputtered Coup. “A woman…” The others followed his trembling, outstretched hand and saw nothing but the ruins of a cabin. It had likely been there for years. Still, they saw no specter. “I swear to Susanoo I saw a ghost…”

“You’re supposed to be the Aurelius,” William Benson grumbled. “You should know there are no such things as ghosts.”

Doctor O’Reilly blinked at such a statement. “What? Really?”

“The Thule Society has determined that, while the body does indeed possess a field of energy we can conclude to be akin to a soul- such a phenomena cannot manifest itself in this plane. When we die, the energy departs- maybe it is recycled or maybe it goes elsewhere… perhaps to the afterlife?”

The Doctor shrugged. “Maybe it just disperses into nothingness. There’s no Heaven or Hell. No reincarnation. We’re just husks.”

“Energy can neither be created or destroyed,” offered Joseph Higgins. “It has to go somewhere…”

Doctor John O’Reilly fought to keep back the bitterness swelling in him. He couldn’t accept that. All of his research- everything he had done to try and bring back his beloved wife… it had been all for nothing. To admit that she had moved on to another plane or that her essence had been reborn would be the same as admitting defeat. If her soul had become nothingness, then he had not failed her… science had.

“My point is, what people believe to be ghosts are actually beings called tulpa.”

“Gesundheit,” said Oafeon.

“Tulpa are thoughtforms- beings created through sheer willpower. They are materialized thought in a physical form. The theory is that… all of existence was thought up by God. The universe itself is a tulpa that, on occasion, the strongest of minds taps into and manipulates just enough…”

“God,” muttered the Doctor as he rolled his eyes. “Bah…”

“If you don’t believe in God, we are you even here?” asked William Benson. “I mean… we’re trying to stop a madman from opening a door into God’s realm and unmaking existence by drowning reality in his light. If you don’t believe in God, you shouldn’t really believe in our cause…”

Coup Field and Unno Rokuro grow uncomfortably silent then. While they didn’t share the Doctor’s adamant view of things, they didn’t necessarily believe in the existence of an intelligent creator.

Yet still, they were trying to stop God’s light from destroying reality.

“I’m here because my friend and colleague was attacked. Doctor Bacon and I were researching… we were researching a virus, I guess… Our lab was attacked by that old man- the Wanderer? He took one of those shards from Doctor Bacon and… Doctor Bacon said it was crucial to our research. I left to find the man and bring it back.”

“Doctor Bacon?” William Benson thought on what little he knew about the twelve most powerful members of the Illuminati. “The Mirabilis. I see…” And then, something he had not noticed before struck him. “Wait a minute… you- you just took off after the Wanderer?”

The Doctor nodded and confusion set in…

“You knew what he could do- you had to have seen his power! What made you think you stood a chance!?”

John didn’t seem ready to tell them what he felt gave him an edge in battle… but Coup had noticed it when he and Oafeon had arrived in Point Pleasant. “He’s a regenerator,” Coup offered. “During the fight with the skeletons, any injury he received healed almost instantly.”

“So you’re a Neo-Sapien, ey?” asked Joseph.

“Hardy,” scoffed the Doctor.

Coup nodded in confirmation. “He’s not… It’s… it’s something magical. Oafeon’s eyes see magic- identifies magical properties.” He took in Unno, William and the Doctor with one sweeping look. “I know about all of you… well, partly. I know that Unno has something that lets him charge his shuriken with kinetic energy…” Unno showed no expression as Coup Field told the others his ability. “…and William Benson’s got some kind of fancy bracelet that lets him control the wind.”

William seized his wrist then and stared down at the odd bracelet dangling from his wrist. “It’s an artifact from Hyperborea- one in a set of four that lets man control the elements.” He looked to his companions, expecting to see envious looks on their face.

“Whoopty-freaking-do!” laughed Coup. “I’m the Aurelius; I’ve got a room full of useless crap like that…” He trailed off as he turned his attention to the Doctor then. “So… you gunna tell us what you are, Johnny-Boy?”

“Not on your life.”

“Oh, c’mon! How are we s’posed to trust each other if we don’t have ourselves a little pow-wow and reveal our secret origins!?”

The Doctor spun around then, ready to remind the imbecile of a magus just what was at stake for them, when he was distracted by the odd glow coming off of Coup’s flying companion. “O-Oafeon?” he asked, unsure what was happening to the tiny tiger.

The Neophlyte gawked at his paws, unsure himself just why he was beginning to pulse with the strange purple light. “Guh-Guh-Guys!?!” he whimpered. Suddenly the light exploded outward, illuminating the barrens and temporarily depriving the heroes of their sight.

A woman’s voice called out to them. “His book of lies!”

“Who’s there?” William cried out. “Who are you? What did you do to Oafeon?”

“You gotta get the book!”

“Shards, books… someone tell me the truth, we’re on a big scavenger hunt, aren’t we?”

“Be serious, Coup!” snapped Unno, blinking as his vision began to adjust to the radiance. In the nexus of that flash was Oafeon, floating in midair now- his wings had ceased to flap. That purple light was bleeding from his eyes and from his mouth and nostrils.

It was a phenomena similar to one the immortal shinobi had seen before…

“Who are you?” he asked. “Tell us your name.”

“Deborah-” Her voice faded then and the heroes were reminded of Nock’s story. Deborah had been the name of the woman who gave birth to the Jersey Devil.

Her voice faded away… but the glowing energy remained. “Who are you?” Unno demanded of the infernal well Oafeon now tapped into. “Show yourself?”

“Dude,” Coup grumbled, feeling out ahead of him with his hand, “she already said her name is-”

“Cold.”

The voice was unlike any the heroes had ever before heard. It sounded somewhat mechanical and as cold as word it had spoken. The voice was like an engine’s whirl- the hum of a motor married with the whiney of a horse. It was shrill and nasally and it sent chills through all present.

“There are some who call me Cold. Indrid Cold.”

Joseph blinked in surprise- it was another connection to the events from Point Pleasant’s past.

“Why have you brought this woman to us?” Unno asked. His voice was more pleading and less demanding than it had been- now that he knew the true scope of the presence he was basking in.

“To fulfill your purpose,” answered Indrid Cold. “You seek the shard. He seeks the shard. Your purposes are different and I can see through to the hand that guides your enemy. I see the envious one’s taint and I will move to guide you. Seek not the Blue Hole, but seek the Kallikak home.”

“What’s going on!?” thundered Coup. “Who are you!? What did you do to my little buddy?”

“Coup!” barked Unno. “You don’t know who you’re talking to-”

“No dip! That’s why I asked who he is! I want answers pal, so start talking!”

“You want answers?” asked Indrid Cold then, his voice rolling from the open maw of the possessed Oafeon. “You believe your feeble human mind capable of comprehending the truth that I exhume?”

Coup made no move to back down and Indrid Cold continued. “I see your destiny- one of the synod who obeys the son of the usurper. I see your sister surpassing you in your master’s eyes. I see your hunt for your mentor. I see your failure in Berlin. I see the archeologist- William Benson –bringing his sword down and taking your head clean off your shoulders.” The apprentice sorcerer turned to stare wide-eyed at the archeologist in his company- his eyes trailing down the machete that hung from the man’s belt. “He will shudder in the dark shadow Tyrfing casts.”

“Who do you think you are!?” snapped Coup then. “Wait- no… I don’t care… I just want Oafeon back!”

“Take him then, you ignorant child. Take him and hurry. Find the shard and stop Semyazza’s puppet at all cost!”

Then the energy dissipated and Oafeon fell to the ground. Joseph could only stare wildly in disbelief. William seemed embarrassed by the prophesy Indrid Cold has spoken of. Nock appeared the most unsettled, though Doctor O’Reilly’s expression was close.

“That energy…” Nock managed. “It’s a different color but… Pandora…”

“My nephew…” the Doctor said, having seen that effect before as well. “Jeremy…”

“The Jersey Devil!” snapped Joseph.

“You think the Jersey Devil capable of a similar ability?” Unno asked. He looked up and noticed Tick-tock’s outstretched hand and he followed those pointing phalanges to the trees… and to the vicious beast crouching in them.

The ageless Nephilim had sensed the power pouring from Oafeon and registered it as akin to his own abilities. The outpouring of purple hellfire had called to him and the Jersey Devil had answered.

In no time Joseph Higgins had made contact. His temporal abilities let him react faster than a normal human but they gave him other abilities as well. While time seemed so sluggishly slow to his eyes, with a look he made the Jersey Devil move even more slowly. It spread leather wings and kicked up off the thick branch, swimming through the air and wrenching open its jaws. There, Tick-tock watched as a blue light sparked into existence in the being’s mouth. It built up into a steady stream that it rained down on Tick-tock’s ill-prepared teammates. He watched as Unno Rokuro leapt clear of the blast line, but the others suffered the full effect of the hellfire.

He watched as his nephew pulled back the bowstring and let one of his many trick arrows fly true. The arrow exploded against the ragged hide of the beast and flexed around him- binding its wings and bringing it to the ground. “Go!” he heard Coup chant in excitement. Unno Rokuro was screaming for everyone to get clear as he let his shuriken fly for the beast. A series of explosions bombarded the Nephilim- kicking up debris with their force.

Still, that bracelet William wore allowed him to command the winds and contain the cloud the explosions summoned. Through that storm flew the Jersey Devil, still moving sluggishly due to the effects of Joseph’s temporal assault. Still, Joseph made no move- not yet. He watched the beast fly for his nephew- it had enough intelligence to know who had managed to bind it however temporarily.

Once more, Nock pulled back his bow and let an arrow fly. The beast swooped and dodged the blow and Joseph took his chance. He smiled then, looking around him at the frozen dimension he had created.

The Jersey Devil hung in mid-air, spiraling out of the way of Nock’s arrow. Coup was on the ground, scooping an unconscious Oafeon into his hands while Unno moved to produce more blades.

Of them all, Coup appeared to be the lightest of the group and thus the easiest to move. Joseph hurried across the area and grabbed the magus by the collar of his shirt. It took a few moments but he was able to drag Coup Field into the heart of the fray- placing him under the Jersey Devil.

Standing on Coup’s back, Joseph set his hands on the beast and moved it back and slightly higher- putting it in prime striking position for Alexander’s arrow. He leapt down then and moved to get a good view of the attack. Satisfied with his meddling he allowed the natural flow of time to return over the Pine Barrens and watched as the Jersey Devil was struck true by the bolt.

Once more wires ensnared the beast and pulled it to the ground. Coup cried out in surprise as the writhing monster landed on his back; he looked about in confusion, unsure how he and Oafeon had arrived at their present place.

Suddenly, he understood and he sought out Joseph. “Did- did you just stop…” He trailed off as Joseph thrust an accusing finger the Doctor’s way, letting him take the blame for the temporal freezing.

Seeing the Nephilim downed again, William Benson wasted no time. He drew his machete and hurried forward- raising the blade to slash through the wriggling monster. Then, he caught sight of Coup’s expressionless face and he knew what the young mage was thinking. Instead he sat down on the creature and swung his left fist into its maw.

The Jersery Devil stopped writhing.

“We- we just took down the Jersey Devil!” laughed Coup. “Next stop: Chupacabra!”

“Maybe we should concern ourselves with this shard first,” suggested Unno.

“Which way to that Brown Hole?” asked Coup.

“No,” said Unno. “Lu- Indrid Cold said the shard was not entrusted to the Jersey Devil. He said to seek out the Kilak- Kilik-”

“Kallikak,” offered an exasperated Nock. “DEBORAH Kallikak.”

“How many Debbies does this story have?” Coup asked. “More importantly, are any of them hotties?”

“Deborah Kallikak was… well, she was a very famous resident of the Pine Barrens. It was after the turn of the century…”

“So, like, six years ago?” Coup asked.

“Twentieth century,” grumbled Nock. “I- I don’t remember everything but she… was was a girl in this… institution. Back then, people with mental illness, retardation or the simply ignorant were all lumped into one big category: they were called feebleminded.”

“What does that have to do with-”

Nock ignored the magician’s outburst and continued his explanation. “The guy who ran the asylum where Deborah Kallikak was committed… he tried to prove a theory that being feebleminded was hereditary- like Neo-Sapien powers, I guess. He tried to prove that Kallikak’s ancestor spawned two children with two different women… Deborah’s side was presented as being criminally insane, mentally handicapped… It toured out that he doctored up his research.”

“But William said that the shard would have been placed some place magical for protection, ey?” asked Joseph. “What does a girl in an asylum have anything to do with it all?”

And then William understood. He hurried for the dilapidated cabin they had seen earlier and rushed through its warping threshold. He began rummaging through anything- looking for what he knew would be safeguarding the next shard of the Sephirot.

“What’s this all aboot now?” Joseph asked, the first to catch up to the zealous archeologist.

“The book of lies… Deborah Kallikak’s doctor wrote a book filled with unsubstantiated research, right?” And then he produced the book- the lone book found in the cabin. “The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness… Henry H. Goddard, right?”

Nock nodded as the rest of the heroes slipped in. Nock was dragging the entangled and unconscious body of the Jersey Devil behind him. As William flipped through the warped journal he froze on a picture. “Coup? Is this the girl you saw?”

Coup crossed the room to gaze down on the page and a shiver ran up his spine. “Tulpas can only be created by the most powerful minds,” William said as he watched the visible reaction the magus had to the woman’s visage. “It looks like Miss Kallikak wasn’t as feeble-minded as Doctor Goddard believed her to be.”

“So where’s the shard?” Unno asked, unmoved by any of the revelations. Only their current mission appealed to him.

William Benson grabbed the book in both hands and tore the binding apart. From the spine fell a shard of the Sephirot.

The heroes had succeeded… and were ready to pursue the next piece of the puzzle…
OUBLIETTE - NVAE: IC | OOC

Brennus
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Post by Brennus » Wed May 07, 2008 12:48 pm

Two sessions in and Satan is showing up to chat. I predict great things for this story.

Michuru81
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Post by Michuru81 » Wed May 07, 2008 3:29 pm

Brennus wrote:Two sessions in and Satan is showing up to chat. I predict great things for this story.
Thanks for the kind words. Sadly, I've really neglected this side of my universe. Hopefully I'll rectify that soon.
OUBLIETTE - NVAE: IC | OOC

Michuru81
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Post by Michuru81 » Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:35 am

ILLUMINATI #3: The Circle Chase [Part III]
Coup Field slipped out of the motel room, closing the door softly behind him before he began to strut down the hall towards the vending area he had passed on his way to his room.

According to William Benson, all the shards of the Sephirot had been entrusted to the members of the Illuminati. One such member was believed to be cloistered in his mansion in Canada, thus necessitating their trip to the north.

No matter how urgent their mission was, they were all tired. Their minds were put to ease by William pointing out that while they traversed the globe courtesy of Coup’s teleportation magic, their enemy was burrowing through the earth and moving much more slowly than they were.

The five men had paid for two rooms for the night, determined to take the chance to rest their weary bodies while they had it. Almost immediately after being given their keys, Coup had declared Joseph Higgins his roommate, leaving Unno Rokuro, Doctor O’Reilly and William Benson to bed down together.

Of them, Joseph was the only one Coup could bring himself to trust. The others were so secretive; each was hiding something and it bothered him that they were so set against trusting anyone.

All of that worry melted away as the magician’s apprentice slipped into the vending machine-filled alcove. There his eyes fell on a young woman, rocking back and forth on her heels as she inserted coin after coin. His gaze slithered up bare legs and over short-cut, tight-fitting jean shorts. He was forced to physically restrain himself from tracing what of her lower back was exposed by the baby doll T-shirt adorning her lithe frame. “Midnight snack?” he asked as she tapped the buttons that released a Twix bar.

He startled her, causing her to nearly jump out of her sandals. “Sorry,” he said, putting on his most suave smile. “Did I frighten you?”

The young woman began to blush and tucked her short, mouse-brown hair behind her ear. “Kinda,” she said timidly. “I didn’t hear you come up.”

“Let me make it up to you by buying you a drink.” He began dropping quarters into a nearby Coke machine and then his finger hovered over the buttons. “What’s your poison, m’lady?”

She grinned and steeled herself to admit: “Cherry Coke.”

“Cherry?” he asked, pressing the button and bending down to save her can from the tray. He offered it out and watched her tap the top before pulling back the tab. “So, what’s your name?”

“Abigail,” she offered.

“From around here?”

She shook her head. “I’m from Ontario. My family and I are just visiting my mom’s sister, here in British Columbia.”

Coup nodded. “That’s cool… So, how old are you then?”

“Seventeen.”

Again he nodded. “And the age of consent in Canada is what?”

Abigail blinked in surprise as Coup leaned against the soda machine. “I’m a wizard, you know?” he said, subtly winking. “Care to see my magic wand?”

Abigail began moving sideways, careful to keep her eyes on him and to put a safe distance between herself and the young magus. “I’ll see you in my dreams, beautiful,” he called after her. Turning his back, to the threshold, Coup knelt before the vending machine and rolled up the leg of his pants. There, clinging pitifully to his sock, was Oafeon. “Hopefully they’ll be wet ones…” he added, smiling at the tiny fey.

“You only said all that to get her to leave, right?”

Coup shrugged. “I could have left you here and nailed that. I mean… wow. I’d love to play squirrel with her.”

“Squirrel?” asked Oafeon as Coup held open the tray at the base of the machine. His tiny wings flapped, carrying him up and in moments he was inside the vending machine.

“Yeah,” Coup said as Oafeon climbed the racks of candy bars, “you know… squirrel. Gotta store your nuts in a hole for winter-”

“You have problems.”

“Says the talking, winged tiger who isn’t even a foot tall.” Coup watched as Oafeon tore open a bag of M&M’s and began to empty the pack into his mouth. “Don’t you worry about diabetes?”

“Wassat?” asked Oafeon around a mouthful of peanuts imprisoned in chocolate and a thin candy shell.

“A disease where eating sugar makes your foot fall off.”

Oafeon seemed genuinely startled by such a revelation and gazed down at his own foot-less leg. “Eh, that’s why God gave me wings, I guess…”

“You believe in God?”

“You don’t?”

Coup shook his head.

“You should,” Oafeon muttered. “He believes in you.”

Coup rolled his eyes.

“I’m serious!” declared the tiny fey. “God is an awesome guy! He has the best stories too. He should – he created words.” Oafeon grunted as he fought to tear open a Snickers bar; the magician’s apprentice found watching Oafeon open wrappers to be a humorous sight: the tiny fey wrapped his phalange-less appendages around the bar and bit into the plastic with his miniscule teeth, grunting and jerking about as he fought to expose the chocolate prison that housed nougat, caramel and peanuts. He went through such trouble to open it and then failed to savor the taste, opting instead to inhale the confectionary and then look up the rack for his next treat.

“Exactly where do you put all of that?” Coup asked.

“Before being caught in the gate, my choir was assigned to the Astral Plane. The realm is tended by the Purgatory, a class of angels who are pretty much gigantic voids of nothingness. Neophlytes tend to the Purgatory. Anything they devour they contain. Anything we devour is… well… kind of gone.”

“What do you mean ‘kind of’?”

“Well, your kind found a way to undo our devouring.”

“My kind? Humans?”

“Mages. They developed this spell that forces us to regurgitate everything we ever devoured… but it causes us to turn inside out.”

“So… it kills you?”

Oafeon nodded.

“That sucks.”

“You don’t know the half of it. Most of my kind? Gone because of you people. Then along comes this old guy who shoves something down my throat and sticks me in an urn ‘for my own protection’. It’s like, ‘hey, buddy! You know they invented zoos for a reason, right!?’ Unbe-freakin-lievable. Thanks for springin’ me, by the way.”

“No problem.”

Suddenly Unno and Joseph rushed past the vending area, followed by William Benson, guiding along on the wind. “What’s going on?” Coup asked, stepping into the hall and watching as Doctor O’Reilly was hurrying to catch up. “What’s everyone in a hurry for? Is it the old Jewish guy again?”

“Giant statue is rampaging downtown,” muttered the Doctor as he rushed past Coup.

“Another one?” mused Coup. “What is it with this guy and animating giant statues?”

“Try to keep up,” John called back to him.

“Try and keep up, he says!” Coup said, reaching into the vending machine and seizing Oafeon with one hand, the Phial of Aa’ron with his other. “Tropelet!” Coup said, focusing the arcane energies through him and utilizing them to transport himself and his companion ahead of his newfound cohorts.

When they reappeared in the street outside the hotel, Coup was surprised to find himself with his arm still inside the vending machine. Immediately a giant hatchet, ironically made of wood, swung down and smashed in the vending machine. Coup leapt clear, hugging Oafeon to his chest; Oafeon was hugging a bag of M&M’s to his. “Holy crap!” Oafeon declared, taking in the sight of the massive statue. “What is that!?!”

“Paul Bunyon?” asked Coup, gazing on a giant, wooden statue of a lumberjack.

“Hardly,” said Joseph, a native Canadian. “That’s Big Joe Montferrand, a folk hero legendary for paddling to Mattawa from Ottawa in a single day and for having a horse-sized frog that barked like a dog.”

Coup could only stare perplexed at the Canadian time controller. “Dude, what is wrong with Canada?”

“An’ they say Big Joe drank a bucket of Gin,” sang Joseph as he sped out of the path of the statue’s axe swing, “and he beat the livin’ tar outta twenty-nine men. And high on the ceiling of the Pembroke pub, there’s twenty-nine boot marks and they’re signed with love.”

“No wonder you’re America’s hat.”

Joseph shrugged at Coup’s slam at Canada and replied with a casual, “And America is Canada’s Mexico.”

“Oh, now that’s just low!” Rounding on Joseph Higgins, Coup caught a slam from the axe and was flung back and into the wall of a local pub where he crumbled into an unconscious heap.

“Man down!” cried Oafeon.

“Good,” muttered John. “Now we don’t have to deal with his mouth.” In his hands was a can of hair spray pilfered from a nearby convenience store and his trusty cigarette lighter. He moved to immerse the wooden threat in flames, reducing an opponent to kindling with barely any effort. Joseph appeared before him, arms spread to protect the massive attacker.

“You can’t!” exclaimed Joseph. “This is a national landmark!”

“You have got to be kidding me…” grumbled the Doctor.

“It’s the last statue Peter Cianafrani made before his death!”

On the other side of the statue, William Benson was pelting the monstrocity with gale force winds while Unno Rokuro was hurling shuriken charged with kinetic force into the golem. At the sound of the explosion Unno generated, Joseph Higgins displaced himself, appearing before the shinobi and wearing a serious expression. “We can’t destroy the statue.”

Unno simply pointed to the statue behind Joseph and the time controller turned to see Doctor O’Reilly engulfing the legs of the statue in flames. “What did I just say!?!” Joseph barked at him. “I told you not to destroy the statue!”

“Sorry,” said John, halting his attack long enough to light the cigarette dangling from his lips. “I swore you said ‘destroy the statue.’ My bad.”

Joseph’s arms sagged as he watched the flames crawl up Big Joe Montferrand’s body. Viscid, black smoke snaked its way into the sky and soon embers from what remained of the massive axe began to rain down on the would-be heroes. Satisfied with his work, Doctor John O’Reilly took a long drag from his cigarette and flashed a challenging look Joseph’s way. The Canadian simply made his way to their fallen comrade, moving to revive the magus now that the threat was dealt with…

All around them were the denizens of Mattawa. Despite that none of them were Neo-Sapiens, they were identifying their saviors as such. “We don’t want your kind here!” one man shouted. “Damn NS’s!” another man screamed. “Get out of our city!”

“Get up, Coup,” Joseph was saying, trying to rouse the mage by shaking him and lightly slapping at his face. “The natives are aboot to get violent…”
Coup slowly opened his eyes, weakly muttering, “Atlanta?”

“Georgia?” Joseph asked. “Nah… we’re still in Canada.”

“It’d be great if we could be someplace else,” said William Benson, casting anxious looks to the crowd as he encroached on his comrades. “This is going to get ugly soon.”

Unno Rokuro shrugged. “If they want to come at us, we’ll have no choice but to defend ourselves.”

“Any ideas on where to go?” asked Doctor John O’Reilly, puffing at his cigarette as he gazed, unconcerned, at the townspeople.

William Benson’s face lit up, an idea suddenly sparking in his mind. “Lake Okanagan.”

“Gesundheit,” offered Coup. Suddenly his face contorted into an expression of deep thought. “Why does that sound so familiar?”

“It’s a lake in British Columbia,” said the Archeologist. “One of the higher ups in the Thule Society has a lab there. He might be able to help us.”

“How high are we talking?” asked the Doctor. “We know that the Illuminati are the big boys in your club and they’re the ones who were supposed to be holding onto the shards, right? If your friend is as high as you say he is… he might be a target.”

“Suck,” said Coup.

“We’d better go,” said Joseph. “Get us there, Coup.”

Coup nodded and the others all leaned in to touch the young magus as he began weaving his hands through the air. “Tropelet,” he intoned before causing the band of heroes to vanish from the streets of Mattawa, Ontario and reappear on the shores of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia.

“Okay… the coast is clear,” said Joseph, relieved that their spontaneous appearance had not been viewed by other civilians who would interpret their arrival as a Neo-Sapien attack. “Will… tell us everything about this guy. How high in the Thule Society is he?”

“Is he in the Illuminati?” asked the Doctor.

William Benson threw up his hands, determined to halt further inquires. “Okay… it’s like this: the Thule Society is made up of various people dedicated to finding Hyperborean artifacts and protecting mankind from them.”

“That’s the job of the Aurelius,” said Coup, interrupting William’s explanation. “The Aurelius is sworn to defend humanity from that which they wouldn’t understand.”

William Benson nodded to him. “My friend in the Thule Society, Father Ortega, told me about meeting one of your predecessors. He was like me once; he was a hunter.

“When Hyperborea sank into the seas, the noble families escaped on ships and migrated to Egypt, Greece… They were careful about where they left their possessions but a few commoners escaped and ended up in various cities around the world. For instance, in the Shinto religion Izanagi’s wife died in childbirth and he went into the Underworld to retrieve her. When he returned he washed his face clean of Yomi and Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi were born from him washing out his eyes… Susanoo was manifested after he washed his nose.

“Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi and Susanoo were real people though. Like most of the refugees from Hyperborea, the truth became muddled in myth. Their ship was ravaged by a storm and the siblings washed ashore. Their arrival was witnessed and… the myths began to circulate.

“After the siblings died, the powerful items they carried from their homeland were left behind in Japan. The Imperial Regalia are kept in various shrines across Japan, with fakes kept to deter any from going after them. The Aurelius was the one who came up with this idea… to allow the Japanese to keep their beloved treasures and to keep us from claiming them.

“I know it sounds like we’re greedy and power-hungry but the truth is… artifacts like these don’t belong in the hands of mortal men. Kusanagi is so wound into Japanese history because it helped to MAKE Japanese history. We also disagree with the idea that the Aurelius be allowed to horde such items. The Aurelius is one man… and what happens if a man with… less sensibility and a thirst for glory is promoted?

“The Thule Society consists of people like me who scour the world for artifacts and scholars who study them. The artifacts are kept by the Illuminati, a council of twelve who balance each other and prevent any one person from abusing the power these items promise.

“The Illuminati’s real names are kept from us but… they’re known as the Collector, the Alchemist, the Mirabilis, the Astronomer, the Physician, the Soldier, the Samurai…” He paused and began counting out on his fingers, trying to recall the rest. “The Scrivener, the Weaver, the Dodger… The Soldier…”

“You already said ‘the Soldier’,” offered Coup.

William ignored him. “The Bard and the Wanderer. Right now, the man we’re fighting… he’s the Wanderer. He’s one of the Illuminati.”

“Okay,” said Coup, trying to make sense of everything William had told them, “so… your club has twelve guys at the top… and all but two were given these shards?” William nodded and Coup continued. “The old man wasn’t given one… but now he’s going around, attacking the others to try and get all the shards.” Again William nodded. “And if all ten pieces come together… reality is destroyed?”

“We believe so,” said William Benson. “Obviously no one ever tested the Sephirot.”

“Why not?” asked Coup.

“You’re kidding.” William took in the serious expression on Coup’s face and sighed. “Because if our theory was correct all of reality would be destroyed.”

“Oh…” said Coup.

“Moron,” grumbled Doctor O’Reilly.

“I can’t believe you’re the Aurelius,” muttered Unno Rokuro. “Doctor White was a great man.”

“Emphasis on was,” growled Coup.

“You’ve said before that these people were thinking about retiring,” Joseph said. “They were going to pick a new Illuminati and… you mentioned working with the Alchemist. Doctor O’Reilly was with the Mirabilis. Does that mean we’ve all been chosen?”

“The Samurai sent me,” said Unno Rokuro.

“Someone entrusted a shard to you too, Joseph,” said William. “Someone picked you too.”

All eyes turned to Coup then, wondering just how it was that he had been pulled along on this mad quest. None of them could perceive any organization that called themselves ‘the enlightened ones’ as devising a group that consisted of Coup Field and Oafeon. The duo’s presence here had to be a fluke…

William pointed out across the lake, fighting to keep his cowboy hat on against the breeze that pelted the heroes. “Out there somewhere is Grant Island. The Collector has a lab there.”

Unno Rokuro immediately began walking towards the lake. As his companions began scanning the shore for a useable craft to traverse the waters he walked into the lake and began swimming ahead with no regard for the chill night had delivered over the water.

“Lovely,” said the Doctor, lighting up another cigarette after flicking the other away. “A late night swim is just what I wanted.”

“Coup’s magic,” said Joseph, “can’t he make a boat?”

Oafeon began to glide over the waters. “I can fly,” he announced in gloating.

Doctor John O’Reilly rolled his eyes at the creature’s chidings. “That can be rectified,” he growled. He patted himself down, taking a quick inventory of everything he was carrying. Soon he stripped off his coat and sat it down; the jacket bulged from the items he had stealthy shifted from his pockets to the coat. “Guess we’re swimming it then…”

“It’s a long swim,” grumbled William Benson, trying to make out the island through the fog descending over the lake. “I think I’ll go around and try to find a boat…”

Coup began to undress, stripping down to his underwear and then running giddily towards the water’s edge. Joseph walked into the water, fully dressed, and then disappeared. “Infernal time control,” growled the Doctor as he stepped into the water. Coup raced ahead of him and then pounced into the air to come down into the water with a splash. “I hate every one of these idiots…”

“I know just what you mean,” muttered Oafeon darkly. The Doctor turned and fixed him with a hate-filled glare and immediately the fey took off into the night after Coup.

Doctor John O’Reilly began swimming out and after a few minutes he could feel fatigue wash over his body. He paused, bobbing in the water, and watched as Coup merely floated on his back with no real direction in mind; Oafeon napped on his chest. William they had left behind but the other two members were nowhere in sight; Joseph Higgins had obviously frozen time, leaving the others behind while he swam the entire pond, but what had Unno Rokuro done to cross with such speed?

The man gazed down at the dark depths of Lake Okanagan and wondered if Unno had safely crossed. It was a long swim and a cold one and fatigue was even pulling down on the Doctor’s body; had the shinobi been claimed by drowning?

“One less annoyance,” the Doctor muttered as he continue to swim again. He didn’t mean it however; Coup was annoying, Joseph was exhausting, William was infuriating – Unno Rokuro was the only one of his temporary cohorts that the Doctor could stomach being in the presence of. He was quiet. He kept to himself. He was a mirror of the Doctor.

Suddenly the surface of the water broke and the Doctor had a new theory on what could have happened to Unno Rokuro: water fell from the head of the serpent who lifted its head out of the waters. The Doctor estimated that it towered forty feet above the surface before it ceased climbing. A hump from its wide body appeared soon after and suddenly the Doctor found himself gazing upon a creature of legends. “It’s Nessie!” he screamed.

“It’s Ogopogo!” Coup corrected, screaming to be heard over the hissing roar of the sea serpent. “That’s why Okanagan sounded familiar! The Aurelius told me about this! He’s one of the few left of his kind!”

The Doctor merely bobbed about in the water, staring perplexedly at the beast before him. “So… that thing is actually real?”

“It’s an endangered species,” said Coup.

One of its fins lifted from the murky depths and hammered down on the surface, targeting the magus and the fey. “COUP!” Oafeon and John screamed in unison. The fey flew out of the path of Ogopogo’s attack but the mage had not been as fortunate.

“One less annoyance…” muttered the Doctor before taking a deep breath and then plunging himself under the water, swimming through the darkness to try and reach Coup before the monster did.

Ogopogo dove as well, sensing that it had sent one of its intruders into its domain. As it maneuvered its scaly body brushed the Doctor and he reacted to save his teammate. He plunged his hand into his pocket and drew out a scalpel then buried it deep in the creature’s hide.

The water rippled at the monster howled in pain and through the dark water the Doctor made out Coup helplessly floundering, trying to make it back to the surface. He needed to be able to weave his hands through the air to form the somatic components of his spells but he also needed to utter the incantation: underwater and denied the ability to speak, Coup Field was useless.

Retching the scalpel free of Ogopogo, the Doctor began to swim for Coup. The magus seemed to notice him and quickly registered that the fates had granted them a respite. He had to take advantage of Ogopogo’s surprise and make a break for the surface.

The Doctor’s head was the first to emerge and Oafeon held his breath in hopes that Coup were following him. Soon enough Coup also appeared and the tiny fey let out a triumphant cry. “Suck on that, Ogopogo!”

“Get close!” Coup yelled, as much for Oafeon as it was the Doctor. “I’m going to teleport us to the island!”

The Doctor stared at him blankly. “You… you what?”

Oafeon landed on Coup’s head and called out to the Doctor. “He said he’s going to teleport us to the island!”

“I heard him!” barked the Doctor. “I just… why didn’t you do that to begin with!?!”

Coup shrugged. “I forgot.”

“You forgot!?! YOU FORGOT!?! It’s one of the only spells I’ve actually seen you cast and you FORGOT that you could do it!?!” Suddenly the water’s surface broke as Ogopogo emerged, jaw wide open and lifting up to imprison Doctor O’Reilly in a cage of teeth. “I hate you so much!” he screamed as the beast clamped its jaw shut and submerged once again.

“JOHN!” Coup screamed.

“Teleport!” demanded Oafeon.

“We can still save him!”

“By becoming its dessert?”

Coup closed his eyes, mentally berating himself for what he was about to do. “Tropelet.”

The two reappeared on the island, laying next to a soaking wet Unno Rokuro and a completely dry Joseph Higgins.

“You could have just done that from the beginning…” said Joseph, pointing out the obvious.

“We gotta go back!” Coup declared as Oafeon leapt off of his head, taking flight once more. “Ogogpogo ate John!”

“What’s an ‘Ogopogo’?” asked Unno.

“A sea serpent!” spat Coup, spreading his arms out to emulate the sheer girth of the monster they had encountered. His hands swung together then, in imitation of Ogopogo’s mouth closing around the Doctor. “It ate John!”

“Fine,” said Unno, ready to launch himself back into the water if it meant saving a comrade. “Where is it?”

Coup turned and looked out to the lake, unable to believe how massive the monster’s territory was.

“It could be anywhere…” said Joseph Higgins morosely. He didn’t want to vocalize what they were all thinking: there was nothing they could do for the Doctor now.

“We’ll mourn his passing after we stop the Wanderer,” said Unno gruffly, setting off up the island and on towards the lab the Collector kept.

Coup wrapped his near-naked body in his arms and shuddered; more than he missed his clothes, he missed the Doctor and hesitated in following Unno and Joseph up the slight slope – he paused to look back to the watery grave that had claimed their brooding member.

The four navigated through the sparse thicket and soon came across a slab of stone that could only be the Collector’s laboratory. The only breech in the armor was a single door, sealed shut to protect the antiquities inside from the possibility of flooding. Standing beside that door was William Benson, casually leaning against the wall in wait for the rest of his group.

“How did you-”

William cut Coup off with a raised hand. “I told you I was going to look for a boat.”

“There is no way you beat us here though,” said Joseph.

“I didn’t – I only just got here.”

“But you don’t even look tired!” argued Coup. “How did you get here? Does your club have some sort of backdoor?”

Unno Rokuro pushed past the magus and began to examine the door intently. “Need I remind everyone that time is of the essence? Our battle with an animated statue is a sure sign that the Wanderer is nearby and he may be coming here.” His hands felt over the smooth slab that he presumed to function as a door. “How do you open this?” Then he understood: William Benson was one who kept secrets. He avoided answering all of their questions and could he have slipped inside and been rid of them, he would have. “You can’t open it,” he said, nodding in understanding. “But you that and still brought us here… meaning that one of us can.”

“The Collector dabbles in arcana,” admitted William Benson. “His lairs are sealed magically. Only magic can open them.”

All eyes moved then to Coup. Oafeon registered their glances as being directed at him, as he was sitting on Coup’s shoulder, and immediately began to panic. “Me!?!” he gasped. “I don’t know the first thing about magic!”

“I think they mean me,” said Coup, walking towards the door wearily. He put his hand to it and felt out for the wild energy he wielded. With his free hand he began to weave a complex gesture in the air and soon the door began to glow and fade into nothingness. “I also have a spell that opens jars of pickles.”

“Do you have one that summons bags of Doritos?” asked Oafeon, holding his stomach. “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s!”

“You ate like, an hour ago…”

“Do you or don’t you!?!”

“Sure… but only Cool Ranch.”

Oafeon gagged. “Nevermind.” He looked to the others in their group, already descending into the Collector’s lair. Coup strode past the tiny creature and Oafeon hurried after him, landing once more on his friend’s shoulder.

The two hurried after the dancing light provided from a torch William Benson had lit using his own lighter. He took the lead of their silent procession as they marched through the silence halls of the museum.

Here they passed through the assorted artifacts the Collector had collected. First they came across a crown, ancient in its making and yet still holding an unearthly radiance. Behind where it rested was a map of the ancient world and an island country marked as Tyre. Though the reference was lost on his companions, William Benson remembered it as a seaport city of the Phoenicians. It had been a prosperous city until it crumbled beneath two separate attacks.

The first had come from Babylon, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Then, many years later, Alexander the Great had conquered it and transformed the kingdom into a causeway.

Beyond the crown their eyes flitted over a robe of unparalleled splendor. Their torchlight caused the garment to glitter and Coup’s eyes to bulge at the sight. “Dude… what is this made of?” he asked as he began to stroke the coat.

Joseph turned to examine the coat’s touch himself and was equally shocked. “It’s malleable, like fabric, but hard as rock…” The man’s eyes ran over the threads and shook his head. “It’s like someone took gemstones and transformed them into thread! Look at this! It’s like emerald and diamond and ruby and… how is this possible?”

“I could ask the same for this.” The startled tone in Unno Rokuro’s voice brought the others around and they took in the sight of a glass bowl filled with what appeared to be liquid metal. The shinobi skimmed the surface with his fingers and the heroes were stunned to see the silvery metal part and then slosh back together to level out again. “I have never seen anything like it!”

“I have,” said Coup. “That’s Mithral. My master has some.”

William Benson had found a heavy chest resting against the wall and opened it up to a startling discovery. “This is… bone.”

“Bones?” asked Joseph Higgins. “Like a full skeleton? Michael Jackson has the Elephant Man – who does your boss have?”

“It’s… not human,” said William, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.

Coup reached in and took out the bones, holding the long, slender bones up to better examine them. “They’re light, almost like they’re-”

“Hollow.” Unno Rokuro gazed into the chest and understood. “They’re wing bones.”

“Of what?” asked Coup, eyeing the length. “This is way too long to be any bird I’ve ever seen.”

Unno produced two of the bones and noted the jagged ends. “They were cleaved off whatever they were,” he said.

Joseph was gazing into the chest, counting the bones that had similar ends. “Fourteen,” he said. “That’s enough for seven sets of two. Whatever they used to be, someone hacked the wings off of seven things and tossed them in here.”

“Your boss is really creeping me out,” Coup said, dropping the bones back into the chest.

“Sir!?” called William Benson. “Are you here!?! It’s me – William Benson!”

“Oh, sure…” said Coup, shuddering even more now, despite being out of the cold. “Let’s get him out here! Maybe he has a chest for our bones…”

William Benson continued down the hall and found the passage erupted into a great library with a massive table and twelve chairs surrounding it. “Sir?” he called out. “Sir?”

“Let’s just go,” Coup pleaded. “Before he comes home.”

William sighed dejectedly and shook his head in frustration. “I thought if we talked to him he might be able to tell us where the other shards were. Maybe he has an idea on how to keep them safe. There has to be something we can do to keep them out of the Wanderer’s hands.”

As if on cue the wall beside them erupted and a stone golem wrapped its strong arms around the Archeologist.

“It seems like every time we get into a fight, William gets held by something, John blows things up…” Coup frowned nostalgically. “I miss the good old days.”

“We’ve known each other a day,” grumbled Joseph.

Unno ignored them and instead launched himself into battle. He failed to charge his kunai with kinetic energy, opting instead to just unleash the projectiles with deadly force. Still, his weapons had little effect on the stone warrior.

“My weapons don’t hurt it!” the shinobi growled. “That means Joseph’s fists won’t dent it and Coup… I don’t think Coup has anything remotely resembling offensive abilities!”

“That’s because my niece is illusion!”

“You mean niche,” offered Joseph.

“Niche? You mean that philosopher guy who declared that God was dead?”

“Nietzsche?”

“Who?”

“The philosopher who declared that God was dead!” barked Joseph.

Coup appeared confused. “Wait – what were we talking about?”

“Guys!?!” asked a panicked William Benson, still being squeezed by the golem.

“All right!” declared Coup, rolling up the sleeves he wasn’t wearing, thanks to his stripping prior to his swim. “Let’s get dangerous!” His hands swept through the air, forming the signs he needed to cast his magical spell. “Nulliosi!”

And suddenly there appeared a golem, identical to the first only wearing a frilly pink skirt, a blonde wig, long eyelashes and red lipstick.

“You have got to be kidding me,” mused William Benson.

“It suddenly makes sense,” said Joseph Higgins. “Your parents were related, weren’t they?”

The illusory golem charged the tangible one and swung its mighty fist. Coup grinned at the golem dodged the blow, dropping William Benson so that it could engage itself in battle with what it perceived to be the strongest threat: itself.

“It… it worked?” asked William, unable to believe his eyes.

“Naturally!” laughed Coup. “I am the Aurelius after all!”

William drew his machete and hurried in to do what he could to put the golem down. Though Coup’s illusion was apparently convincing, it was hardly a threat and couldn’t put the actual golem down for good.

Unno Rokuro charged his shuriken and hurled them with deadly accuracy. As the tiny blades impacted they exploded with kinetic force, weakening the structure of the monster and allowing William’s strike to count.

Joseph Higgins hurried between his comrades, watching them move at a snail’s pace, and landed his own blow to the softened construct they now faced. With his reaction time at uncanny levels he took in the sight of Unno ready to let another barrage of blades fly and the personification of time threw himself into the archeologist, dropping the pair to the ground and shielding him from the explosion that obliterated their opposition.

A hand seized Joseph’s ankle from below and the hero screamed as he was pulled into the floor. Buried up to his waist he struggled to free himself as the Wanderer rose up from the ground. “Now that one threat is detained,” he said, taking in the remaining heroes. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”

“I think that’s code for ‘I want your body’,” Coup said, whispering to Unno. The shinobi glared at the Wanderer and brandished his blades threateningly.

“Which of you has the shard?” he asked.

Coup laughed. “You’re out of luck!” he declared. “I had the shard and I left it back on the shore with… my…”

Unno turned and glared at the magus with more animosity than he had shown the Wanderer. “You. Did. What?”

Even the Wanderer couldn’t help but stare perplexedly at the young magus.

Coup slapped himself in the face and slowly dragged his hand down the surface of his visage. “I just messed up pretty big, didn’t I?”

The Wanderer sank back into the earth and Coup’s hands frantically began weaving through the air. “Tropelet!” he declared, teleporting back to where he had disrobed… and left the shard they had acquired in New Jersey unprotected.

Coup reappeared on the shore and frantically began going through the pockets of his clothes. “Come on!” he barked, pulling out his wallet, a few of the artifacts he had brought with him, William Benson’s wallet, a condom, a Hello Kitty PEZ dispenser Oafeon had bled dry, a Mountain Dew cap that would warrant a free twenty ounce bottle and the card key from the hotel room they had rented back in Mattawa. He found everything but the shard of the Sephirot he had found in the Pine Barrens. “Where is it!?”

“Lose something?” asked Doctor John O’Reilly.

Coup looked up, startled to see the Doctor standing before him, holding up the shard. “I thought I would hang onto it.”

“You’re alive!”

“I had to cut my way out of Nessie’s gut,” the Doctor said. “It’s not an experience I want to repeat any time soon.”

“You have to give me the shard!” exclaimed Coup. “That old man is here and he knows where it’s at!”

The Doctor glared at Coup. “You could have teleported us to the island from the beginning.”

“Sheesh, I said I was sorry. How many times are you going to bring that up? It’s in the past! Let go of it!”

“One: you never said you were sorry. Two: it happened just a few minutes ago. Three: you’re an idiot.”

“No, I am rubber and you are glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you so I guess that makes YOU an idiot.” Coup grinned and began to nod. “Now who looks stupid?”

Doctor John O’Reilly took in the sight of Coup, stripped to his underwear, soaking wet from his swim, smirking madly. “Do you really want me to answer that?”

The ground began to rumble and soon vomited the Wanderer out and into their midst. “Give me the shard!” he demanded.

“Nulliosi!” exclaimed Coup, casting another spell. This time he proceeded to coat the shore in numerous copies of Doctor John O’Reilly, each holding the shard. “Pick a doctor, any doctor!” laughed the apprentice mage.

“Even without the ability to dispel your magic, I could see through such an illusion.” The ground rose up around the real Doctor O’Reilly, binding him but for his head and his hands. In the left hand was the shard and in the right was the scalpel he had used to free himself from Ogopogo. “You neglected to recreate the water dripping off of your companion,” the elder wizard explained. “I noticed immediately.”

The Wanderer began to approach the struggling Doctor, ready to merely take the shard. Coup still had fight left in him and rushed forward, taking both the shard and scalpel from the Doctor and brandishing the small knife dangerously. “If you want this you’ll have to get through me.”

“Child’s play.” The Wanderer advanced and Coup stabbed the scalpel down into the Wanderer’s chest. The man never once cried out in pain. He simply tore the blade free from his body and returned the favor, stabbing Coup in the chest and watching as Coup screamed and toppled to the ground.

The shard spilled from his fingers and the ground shifted under it. It began to rise, lifting the shard of the Sephirot to the Wanderer and then suddenly the shard was gone.

“Chronos Aeon,” said the Wanderer familiarly. “It has been a while. I see you’re taking care of yourself.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Joseph, clutching the shard to his chest. He looked past the Wanderer, to the sight of Unno Rokuro using his kinetic energy to propel himself through the water at staggering speeds.

Joseph moved to run away and was startled to see the ground turned to quicksand. Already it had swallowed him up to the ankles. “Unno!” he screamed, hurling the shard across the shore.

The shinobi had landed on dry land once more and moved to catch the shard. Behind him William Benson was flying across the water, utilizing the wind to bring him back to the battle. With their companions incapacitated it fell on them to protect the shard.

“You must be Yukimura’s champion,” the Wanderer growled. “One of his Ten Brave, I suppose?”

Unno’s eyes widened above his scarf as he took in the sight of the beach spitting itself into the air around him. He turned and realized he was trapped in a ring that was stretching onward towards the sky. Immediately he used his kinetic energy to leap straight up, attempting to vault over the high wall. The Wanderer seemed to anticipate such a move and hurriedly added a ceiling to the earthen prison the ninja had been sealed in.

As Unno Rokuro dropped to the floor he looked up and saw only darkness. Still, the rumbling along the walls told him that the ceiling was lowering. Unno drew one of his kunai and charged it with energy before stabbing it into the wall.

The explosion flung Unno through the adjacent side of the prison and across the beach. He collapsed into an unconscious heap and the shard rolled from his limp grip. With a wave of his hand the Wanderer caused the earth to heft the shard and carry it towards him but William Benson soon glided past the palanquin and seized the artifact. “Thank you!” he declared as he sailed past.

“Insolent child…” growled the Wanderer. He raised his hands and in mimicry of his motions the earth itself began to reach for him, forming into a pair of sand-forged arms that climbed upwards and groped to grab the Archeologist.

William looked back and took in the sight of his pursuers and immediately began to climb. “Run and flee, coward!” snarled the Wanderer. “Abandon your friends to their deaths!”

William hovered far over the battlefield and took in the sight of the Wanderer in the midst of the others. Coup Field lay at his feet, crying in pain with a scalpel buried in his chest. Doctor John O’Reilly was bound by a stone hand while Joseph Higgins was buried up to his waist in quicksand. An unconscious Unno Rokuro was being carried on a cloud of sand towards them; the Archeologist could only guess at the fate the wizard had in store for the fallen shinobi.

“I’m not as weak as they are!” cried William. “If you bring the shards together we’ll all be dead! What good is trading this to merely buy them a little more time!?”

The Wanderer chuckled. “Because you and I both know that I can continue to come after the shard. Where on Earth can you run to, William Benson? Where can you hide from my power? Inevitability is on your side and if you leave them to me now, who will help you secure the two shards that remain to be gathered?”

William Benson wondered if the Wanderer had made a mistake: three shards should still have been hidden.

“There is one in London and one in Rome. You can’t possibly protect either from me, Will… let alone both.”

William sighed and tossed the shard to the ground.

The Wanderer walked to it and picked it up. He lifted his face to the Heavens and smiled at the man who had put him once step closer to his goals. “You truly are your father’s son.” The Wanderer sank into the earth and the hand that bound the Doctor dissolved into sand; Joseph dug his way out of the beach.

William Benson landed and rushed to Coup’s side: everyone else was fine, though their pride was a bit broken. “He needs help,” William said.

“Stand back,” John said gruffly. “I’m a doctor.” He dug into his coat and pulled out the items he would need to patch Coup up. “Aren’t you glad at least one of us can remember what he’s capable of?” he asked, grinning down at the young magi.

“He said there was one in London,” Joseph said to William, “and one in Rome. Which one are we going after?”

“London,” William said without pause. He didn’t tell them that he was a wanted man in Rome. He didn’t tell them that there would be further complications than the Wanderer in protecting that shard. “As soon as Coup is ready… we’re headed for London.”
Last edited by Michuru81 on Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Alanshpeal
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Post by Alanshpeal » Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:19 pm

Coup had my wallet...?
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Michuru81
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Post by Michuru81 » Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:42 pm

Alanshpeal wrote:Coup had my wallet...?
If you only knew how often I got notes from Aaron saying, "I pick pocket Tribe - what do I find?"

Sometimes, to change it up, he would steal something from Kelly. After the first time he took anything from Kelly, Kelly insisted his character made sure he had everything in his possession the minute Aaron handed me a note.

But yeah... part of Coup's character background was that he was a street magician and pick pocket who reguarly took random things from your characters.
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Post by NateDogg5257 » Sat Oct 18, 2008 11:06 am

Heh, I had a player in my group do something like that. It was a DnD campaign and whenever the PCs went to a tavern he would find the biggest person in the bar and throw a mug at him from the other side of the room.....and immediatly blame it on the wizard. The wizard would recieve many a beatings because he was a prick and instead of trying to calm the situation down he would insult the large angry drunk man.
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Post by Michuru81 » Sat Oct 18, 2008 1:23 pm

NateDogg5257 wrote:Heh, I had a player in my group do something like that. It was a DnD campaign and whenever the PCs went to a tavern he would find the biggest person in the bar and throw a mug at him from the other side of the room.....and immediatly blame it on the wizard. The wizard would recieve many a beatings because he was a prick and instead of trying to calm the situation down he would insult the large angry drunk man.
I will do things like that if it's in the RP for my character. When it comes to RPGs my primary concerns are always: 1) telling a good story, 2) portraying my character honestly and 3) having fun. I've played a battery of characters the party wanted to kill for his RP: lecherous monks, pathological fighters, over-zealous paladins who insist very strongly that you convert, manipulative clerics, and any enchanter I've ever touched (if left to my own devices I gravitate towards elven enchanter more oft than not).

The thing is I vary it up. When it comes down to it, the player in question (Aaron is the player behind Coup, Fathom and Gabrielle Farouk) generally allows his personal feelings towards respective players to influence how he interacts with their characters.

Another player, Kelly (Doctor John O'Reilly, Deimos, Gabriel Farouk) would employ OOC knowledge frequently. "I know the guy has 10 ranks of impervious, so I'm not going to waste my time fighting him. I tell Frostbite to switch targets so that he can snare him," wouldn't be uncommonly heard from his mouth. Other times he would insist that his character would have nothing to do with the others - Gabriel might refuse to go with the others to the mall until he learns that the other players end up fighting in which case he's quick to deside something like, "Gabriel will start to come with them, changing his mind about going."
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