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February 2nd, 2.22AM, 2018

The Stately Faretti Haunted Manor...

 

Outside the world was white. All of Lantern Hill was blanketed in the same piling, driving mass of sub-zero powder. Diamonds glittered in every snowbank, deer driven from the Wharton State Forest to find forage tip-toed gingerly through the yards, leaping fences to nibble at some potted greens. Birds fluttered and shivered as they hunted for scraps to bring back to the nest, keeping an eye out for any night-prowling cats.

 

And Taylor Xiao Chun Faretti did not have to think about any of that, relaxing after an exhausting day, strong walls and a sturdy roof(not to mention a particularly powerful elemental ward) kept the chill at bay.  For all her cares as Heshem's chosen and the newly-minted Master Mage of Earth's dimension and dominions, for the moment such things could wait.

 

Which was about when the familiar, sepulchral voice spoke.

 

Chosen

 

The golden light of the lamp that roiled into being, along with the robed figure whose hands held it aloft on its staff, was unmistakable.

 

There is a crack in the gates. Through it, innocents fall to darkness. My light shields them, but the night is hungry.

 

The light curled, and for a moment Taylor saw eyes hard with anger.

 

Such has never been, it must never be again.

 

With a roar of fire, the image of Heshem vanished.

 

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No rest for the weary. Even if Taylor didn't have the need to sleep, all creatures needed some sort of rest. Without letting the sigh slip past her lips, she rose to her feet. Heshem never expected answers, simply action. The gods of the Cosmic Coil were not ones for long conversation. Still dressed in a jeans and a comfortable sweater, her feet in warm socks, she let the connection to Prime fade enough to turn her body into a ghostly echo as she floated up through the floors to find her spouse and say goodnight to her children before turning towards the heart of the old mansion; her library. 

 

As she ghosted through the door of her Sanctum, additional wards flared up at her passing. It had been a long time since she needed word or gesture to inflict her will on the world and here she was strongest of all. 

 

The comfortable clothes dropped away as shadows twisted into the comforting weight of cloak and cowl; the Eye of Heshem at her throat remained familiar and warm against her skin. Inside her sanctum she let her senses spin outwards to find the disturbance that had so angered Heshem as she braced herself for whatever atrocity would rouse that dread goddess to actual temper. 

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GM

 

The world outside was doing great! Everything was working as it should, without even the usual squabbling of the season spirits as they ebbed and flowed. 

 

At least, at first look, until Phantom saw a man die.

 

He was lying in bed, a mansion up the hill, eyes jerking open and unfocusing as the life left his body. The ephemeral soul slipped free, turning to regard its old form. Then, quick as a flash, the soul was seized as if with a massive hand of shadow lashing out from a crack in reality! before her eyes, and before she would have had time to blink, the soul was pulled bodily into the crack...and a shadow slipped out into the room, looked down at the body, and stepped inside. 

 

The man's eyes opened again. After a moment's labor, they gradually refocused. The body got out of the bed, tugging free of the IV drips inserted into the body's veins, and walked out of the room. On the way out, the body paused by a bonsai tree on shelf. Reaching out a finger, the body touched the tree. It withered almost instantly.

 

Until the arm had appeared, the crack had been invisible. But now Phantom knew where to go. She even had an informant, ready-made. Sometimes the Shadow could be so helpful.

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Phantom slipped through the many layers of wards, leaving behind her Sanctum for the flickers between the world. Between one moment and the next, Phantom vanished and reappeared in the room the shadow had first slipped into. Her baleful gaze traveled over where the crack between worlds had spiderwebbed out and vanished before the ephemeral magician ghosted through bed to take in the drained tree. She let her body fall out of sync enough with Prime that most senses wouldn't find her as she stalked the stolen corpse and its passenger with no more than a whisper to mark her passage. 

 

There was a reason, after all, that before she became the Master Mage, the entities of the other worlds had often called her Heshem's Hound.

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