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Et In Arcadia Ego

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Content Notice: Character Death, Cursing

Date: November 6, 2017


All across the prime dimension, it was a day much like any other. There were dangers, both large and small. The third planet from the sun continued to spin, with all its many denizens busy with their lives. Some might have been recovering from a long weekend, while others might be looking forward to a holiday season. Many of the planet's costumed defenders were busy with the usual threats to the populaces they defended. Time progressed...


Until it didn't. 


Between the tick of a second hand, for just a moment, the prime dimension... hiccuped. It was as if all of creation was a ball spinning wildly in the air, uncertain if it would actually be caught. Those with the sort of mystical senses might feel it in a myriad of ways, pressure in their ears or perhaps a flicker in the corner or their eyes.


For those with their eyes truly opened to the vast eternity of the cosmic coil, for one heart stopping microsecond, all the barriers that kept prime safe flickered, with all the myriad possibilities superimposed. It was a moment of utter madness before sanity and order were restored. 

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To lose concentration for any time could be dangerous in a city like Bedlam, and now was not a good time at all for Liam Conner. Seeing a woman standing beside you wasn't anything that shocking, except that it was the woman he'd been sharing a body with for almost a year. The thug with the pool cue didn't seem bothered by this momentary blip of a soul separation as he bought the cue down on Liam's head, luckily for Liam, his magical protection wasn't affected and the pool cue shattered into millions of pieces.


The stream of expletives from Rosa, now thankfully back, suggested that he wouldn't get anything useful for a few minutes, which helpful was the time it took to subdue the thug.


What just happened? Liam asked when Rosa had calmed down enough


I don't know but it was very, very bad. We need to get back to the Agency I need to find out what going on.


Liam knew better than argue so dropped the thug and went to leave the Pool Hall, he wasn't going to provide anything useful anyhow.


You do know that we were actually going to get paid this time...

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"Ah, jeez!" 


Alone with Bryant and Holly while Paige got some well-deserved girl time, Richard Cline watched as the Book (as he'd taken to calling it in his head) dropped back down into his lap. It had all of a sudden ascended into the air and begun glowing in the sort of eldritch light that usually meant something bad had happened somewhere. The Book, the product of a Master Mage who'd died some seventy years before Richard's own birth in the 1960s, tended to report on magical doings of great import. 


Richard read the words, seeming sketched on the page by the same spidery penciled hand that had written the book's various magical rituals, and said a bad word that had him getting up to put a dollar in the swear jar before he took out his phone and (for lack of a better idea) tried texting a woman he knew from PTA. Texting was a new thing for him. Evidently there were lots of new things these days. 


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The espresso ran over and onto the floor.


Despite the assumptions about how attuned to death he might be, Eric LaCroix did not go through life in a major metropolis in a state of perpetual angst. The pinging he typically felt on his death senses was like a cold breeze, when it did go off. Some more harrowing passings might result in a traumatized death scream, but it wasn't like he had all of Freedom City's freshly deceased screaming in his ear day in and day out.


So when this death came, it said a lot that he it caused him to freeze. Not a momentary pause, but as if every muscle and nerve in his body had turned to pure ice. Worse, it came with absolute, crystal clarity. He knew the direction, he knew the distance, and he knew the tenor of this death. 


Oh, f----.


He ran from behind the counter at the Black Petal. He was able to mumble something out about "horrible nausea" to the manager. He thought. He didn't care. He was tearing through the personal void to Duat, changing into his armor and face. Nick Cimitiere ran out the other side, dashing to confirm the last thing he wanted to confirm. 

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"No cheating!"  Huang faux scolded his divine partner in hijinks as they lay back on the beach towel.  The few clam diggers and beachcombers bundled against the chill autumn air largely ignored the pair and their unseasonal beach picnic.  "Looks like a castle indeed."  he groused with a smile at Sets mischief, "Well that'll teach me to play cloud bingo with a storm gooo-uuuuh"  He lurched forward sitting bolt upright as the worlds for a fraction of a second blended together his eyes unfocused as he sought out something stable in the sudden if brief chaos.  Flinging out a hand to grasp Set's leg trying to root hte god in the here and now with him despite the flicker of the pact ceasing to be before it slammed back into place with the rest of reality.


He starad downward at the sands, "No, it can't be it's too soon."  he murmured and shook his head in confusion for a moment, "No it isn't... is it?"  he questioned as time and space wound themselves around his looping timeline.  Shaking his head slightly he stood offering a hand to the god at his side, "Eldrich is dead."  he murmured, "That means ..."  he trailed off as he realized and remembered who would take on the mantle of Master Mage now.

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Set's entire rippled and cracked like the surface of a frozen lake broken by the fall of a boulder. Shaggy black fur and glossy ruby scales sprouted and fell away to be replaced by leathery green carapace and coppery feathers. Too many limbs, too many eyes, too many teeth. A sound escaped the shapeshifter's throat - throats - throat that was more surprised than pained, unsure if it was a growl or hiss or screech.


The riot of forms stopped after no more than a heartbeat and once again human by all appearances the godling collapsed against the towel, dazed. "Tis unfortunate for him," she observed absently, making no immediate move to take Huang's hand. "He ought to see someone about that. Unrelated, how many legs do I have? I wish to say... two? Two seems as though tis the correct number."

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Raina leaned in close to the bathroom mirror, studying herself from inches away as she applied the brilliantly red lipstick that Fred wanted to try out this week. She wasn't sure it was entirely her color, but the texture and saturation were just fine and- 


Her train of thought was rudely interrupted as the whole universe seemed to brace for a sudden sneeze, then relax. She looked around the bathroom for a minute, waiting for something to happen, then extended her senses. Next to her, Merlin looked up from his phone with a confused chirrup. 


"Yeah, I don't know either," Raina agreed. "Something is changing though, something big." She put the makeup away hastily, then headed back towards her room. "If we still had magic friends, I'd check with them about it. As it is, let's go find Talya and Eric." They would know what to do. 

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In her occult library, it hadn't taken long for Rosa to find out what was happening, there were echoes of the death of Master Mage throughout the magical sphere. That meant the focus of everything must be where he made his home in this dimension.


"It's always bloody Freedom City, I swear sometimes it seems that everything happens in that city."


Technically it wasn't her problem, it wasn't Bedlam and she could be powerless all the way over in the East Coast. But rarely did something this big happen totally peacefully and they might have need of their non-magical skills. And besides, the scholar in her wanted to view first hand the transfer of the position of Master Mage little to none had been written on the subject and she'd like to view it all first hand.


It took a little effort and the spending of a few mystical favours but she managed to conjure up, literally and metaphorically, a portal to take them to Freedom City. Without much pause, she stepped through.


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Lights flickered and motors whirred feebly back to life, systems sounding green and operational down her interface, and Nicole stirred awake.


Her body ached and so did her mind expressed within the whiteness of her psyche. She remembered the walls tearing down from this plane, pushing past her sensory breakers, overwhelming them with the force of reality unchecked. Colors and non-colors, a million images from a million planes and times and she saw them all, knew them as intimately as if she lived her whole life in repeat.


A hand goes up in self-defence, red in blood that was not but was precious nonetheless, so much color in the dark of a moonless alley... She cackles madly. Three deadborn and one live to act as the host of multiple souls, and somewhere a mother howls in childbirth-agony... The smell of perfume is sharp, almost painful to her nose that had known nothing but the manure of camels and the slop she would feed the farm animals.... His wife lays her fingers on his shoulders, massaging away the tense muscles. There is too little time in the world for simple pleasures like this and so he relaxed, fully immersed... Bile rises, sickly acidic and bitter of stomach acid. The last of her dinner was was already coloring the carpet an unsightly green, but she could still taste the traces of nachos...


Nicole started, fully cognizant of where she was and who she was.


She was Nicole Whitfield-Hall and as Salvo she had crashed within the outskirts of Freedom City, leaving a deep furrow of tossed earth behind her when she crashed. Her eyes hurt but she could see the aftereffects, feel it too.


"Run diagnostics," she muttered as she materialized her form, systems booting up fully, and she looked around. Something, somewhere was wrong. Things had changed but nothing within her could hint as to what.


Father was still there, hands cupping his face and looking as bad as she felt though a smile graced his thin lips. As if feeling her gaze on him, he opened his eyes, meeting hers. "You felt it too didn't you?"

She cocked her head. Normally she wouldn't acknowledge him, but this wasn't normal and he took that as encouragement to continue.


"You've studied the histories as well as I, better even. The causal aftershocks manifested usually with the shifts of realm breakage." Father smile grew wider. Nicole knew he only smiled like that when he was pleasingly surprised, and he was rarely surprised or pleased. "That blasted rat's been a thorn in my and your mother's side for a very long time. I'm glad to know he's dead now."


Nicole glared at him as her thrusters flared to life, startling the bystanders surrounding her prone form.


Someone beside her was shouting but she ignored them and picked herself up, bits of grass and soil on her armor. Things were urgent and she knew people would be moving fast to hedge their plays. There were others like her, practitioners who if everyone pooled together could best know the next course of action.


She rocketed straight into the sky. "There'll be a new one."


"Oh, I know. It was merely Adrian Eldrich who irked me."

"Then I'll make sure the next one pisses you off even more."


She pushed her father from her thoughts and closed her eyes, focusing even as the air outside screamed.

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"Two indeed and if anything perhaps even more shapely than before."  Huang complemented though his gaze was somewhat unfocused and his heart wasn't in the flirty banter for once.  "Adri- The Master Mage was a good man."  he paused briefly shaking his head slightly, "I don't remember,"  Huang closed his eyes and tried to focus, "what he looks like."  he trailed off uncertainly, "I don't think I've met him, why does that sound wrong?"


He looked down at Set confusion plain on his face as the shifts and changes of the timeline rewrote his personal reality ever so slightly.  His phone bleated an Alert from his father held limply in his hand as he struggled to hold onto memories of a world that no longer had been.  "I -I should go."  he mumbled and focused on Set once more, "Are you ok?"  he asked coming somewhat out of his fugue as he lost the battle with his own shifting history.  "The master Mage is the keystone of the Pact, his death without an heir apparent would be,"  he sought the words, "Perhaps unsettling to one with your, ties."

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  • 3 weeks later...

"I think... yes? Yes." Set made her way to her feet without her usual grace or aplomb, blinking owlishly. "Quite tis chaos bit a--" The godling pursed her lips and raised both index fingers in front of her face, sliding them away from each other as though drawing a line in the air. "Ahem. You take my meaning, I expect." She looked intently down at one hand, fingers clenching slightly. Whatever she thought might happen evidently failed to, a confusing mix of disappointment and relief washing over her regal features.


With a measure of composure returning she was able to focus on Huang's own expression. "You changed, sweet, just a touch. Your timeline?" she inferred, frowning and reaching out to place a hand against his forehead like she was checking for a fever. "Do you feel rightly corporeal? Does causality continue to flow downstream? I shan't have you unravelling into could-have-beens on me! Tis an order." Her voice cracked almost imperceptibly over the last word and she tried to play it off as an aftereffect of the shapeshifting spasm even as she fussed over the disoriented dhampir.

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Huang slowly came back to himself focused once more and looking about for a moment to ensure nothing dangerous had crept through in the chaos.  Returning his attention to Set he slowly nodded, "Possibly yes."  he agreed with a practiced carefree shrug, "The death of a Master Mage certainly could trigger ripples in the timeline that would change my past."  he acknowledged but assured her quietly, "But this sort of time loop is, hmmm, elastic."  the dhampir explained succinctly, "things may shift and change but it can't be so easily wholly undone."  he left out the rather dire potential consequences of such paradox.  It would probably involve the time keepers at that point which no one really wanted.


He leaned in to place a quick kiss to her lips, "Suffice to say I'm not in the habit of disobeying vengeful deities of shadow and storm."  he promised with a wink and looked down at his phone finally with a slight crease of worry to his brow, "I need to get home,"  he explained hastily gesturing with the phone, "Other wise there is a good chance my father will come looking for me and no one wants that right now."  he shrugged and took a step back, "I imagine your fearsome keeper will be on her way shortly as well."  he teased lightly as if there was one thing he knew it was that Sekhmets first response to all this Chaos would be to suspect her oft wayward charge.

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