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Siren Song of The Void (IC)

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Without any particular fanfare Set had adopted her female form in the morning, kohl eye makeup helping a bit to hide the signs that she'd gotten little sleep the night before. The godling tucked her phone away in a manner that improbably failed to ruin the lines of her bandeau and hopped out of the room's armchair to her feet. "Storming!" she voted, reaching one arm across her torso and using the other as a lockbar to deepen the stretch. She turned her head quizzically toward Sekhmet, brick red dreadlocks bouncing with the movement. "Storming?" The taller goddess responded with a preternaturally deep rumble from the back of her throat and a fist thrown into her own palm. Set turned back to the deliberating group and nodded decisively, switching to stretch her other arm. "Storming."

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GM

 

Temperance and Grimalkin both quickly learned that Bedlam City had more than its fair share of occult activity for a metropolis of its size or age. Even a small amount of research, communion with local spirits, and examination of local spiritual residues hinted at unholy rites and crimes against nature going all the way back to the city's founding. Further examination of the graffiti left by the local street gangs revealed that the few truly magical elements were tools for locking spirits out or keeping them away, not inviting them to come in and stay a while.

 

Set's network of online fans pooled their resources, some less legitimate or even legal than others, and established that the young man who had introduced himself to Grimalkin as "Lucien Hawthorne" went by many names. Set's admirers identified him with such monikers as "Vincent d’Amour”, “Claude Raventhorne”, “Vladimir Darque”, and “Kane Blackfyre”. But the only name with any substantial documentation attached to it, documentation in multiple cities and states throughout the Midwest which included pending paternity suits and petty larceny charges for various confidence games, was "Dale King".

 

Once Set had the right hashtags trending, one of their followers, a local clubgoer, uploaded a picture she had snapped just a few minutes prior of King getting a drink thrown in his face by a woman who didn't look old enough to have legally purchased it. She only identified the location publicly as "#ClubNowhere", but in private direct messages she was willing to, after some star-struck gushing, provide the address of an abandoned factory on Industrial Drive, at the edge of Wolverton. Further research established that "Club Nowhere" was a pseudonym for various unlicensed nightclubs which moved around the city.

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"God, I hate this guy so much," Grimalkin groaned. "Not only is he an inhumam monster, but his pseudonyms are so...so...f###ing cliche. He's a monster with bad taste, and he's preying on the goths, who never hurt anyone. Goths and punks and bikers, man; I'll take 'em over yuppies any day."

 

Once Set's squad gave them an address, the changeling smoothly shifted into a young goth girl, with long white hair with blue highlights, blue-grey eyes and black lipstick. She wore a black T-shirt with a blood red pentagram over a long-sleeved stripped top, black jeans with shreaded knees and a well-worn pair of Doc Martens. Grim couldn't glamour up any silver jewellery, so she made do with lots of black onyx, including earlobe plugs, and twisted leather cords around her wrist.

 

"Whaddya think," the goth girl asked in a somewhat raspy voice as she peered down at her look. "Too much or not enough?"

Edited by Heritage

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"It works for you," said Temperance. She fetched her own costume, a mixture of Atomweave armor, pea coat, and Doc Martens. "This should work, though I believe several items are not exactly the right color for any sort of Goth club. I don't suppose 'sea Goth' became a thing when I wasn't looking?" 

 

She looked over the briefing on their quarry as well, studying the names. "This wasn't exactly my scene," she said - though it was maybe half a lie. Between having a boyfriend who was the phrase "Extremely Online" taken a bit too literally and dealing in the mystic arts as a teenager, she had at least brushed elbows with Gothicness to a certain degree. But still... "But even from the outside, don't these names seem a little too desperately Goth? They do speak to that air of teenage rebirth, but like somebody who hasn't talked to teenagers in... well, a very long time."

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"An inhuman monster, aye, yet as well a gift to modern comedy," Set snorted, turning her phone around to reveal a scrolling timeline of the same slightly pixelated photo of their foe repeated over and over, each time superimposed with different text in white block letters. 'Ombre Shadowdark'. 'Mr. Bad Baddington McBadBad.' 'Lacey Blackundewear, Esq.' Evidently the jokes practically wrote themselves and her followers were more than happy to put in the remaining work. "Obviously yesterday was... challenging but I'm decreeing from this moment: today shall be a good day."

 

A snap of the godling's fingers turned her bandeau a matte black with crimson trim while adding a conspicuous level of support. Her shendyt was replaced by a red plaid miniskirt and torn fishnets while sandals became footwear that was more belt and buckle than actual boot. Kohl became a full-on smokey eye, lip colour darkened another few shades and a sleeve tattoo of stylized hieroglyphics traced its way down her right arm. Sekhmet's outfit resolved into a pair of stonewashed black jeans that maintained their hip-hugging shape despite the numerous holes torn in them and an off-shoulder zebra pattern top with a ripped, ab-revealing bottom edge. She cleared her throat meaningfully and a leather jacket with a roaring lion head embroidered in gold was added to the ensemble. Satisfied, the goddess proceed to roll the sleeve up past her elbows.

 

Removing the clasp from her dreadlocks and shaking them out to full volume, Set considered Temperance. "May I...?" Another snap of her fingers transfigured the elementalist's navy pea coat. Jet black now, it draped down to ankle length with an attached hood shrouded the top half of Eliza's face in shadow. Black ribbon laced through silver rings across the small of her back, cinching the coat like a corset. White and ice blue blended across her lips in a striking imitation of rime, contrasting with the light-devouring folds of the coat. "I present... black ice! Shall we?"

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Eliza's hotel voucher turned out to include a car rental, so for the remainder of her stay, she could at least travel under her own power. Mister Strix had once again promised to meet the group at their destination, before jumping out the window of Eliza's room, climbing up the side of the building like a spider, and then jumping to another roof about a hundred feet away, all in complete silence. The sedan her firm had paid for was modest, but clean, and seemingly in good working order, with room for all four women.

 

Their journey took them north and east, through Hardwick Park and across Wolverton. They lost count of how many obvious street gangs they passed, who eyed their car with alternating suspicion and lust. The gangs were starkly divided along racial lines; the most clear indicator of when Hardwick gave way to Wolverton was when the gangsters hanging out on porches and street corners suddenly changed from Latino to African-American. Hardwick had been a sea of apartment blocks, thrift stores, and bodegas, most of which seemed to be thriving in spite of the fact that the buildings which contained them were falling apart around them. Wolverton, meanwhile, was mostly single-story detached houses on tiny lots, broken up only by "convenience" stores and the occasional strip mall, until they reached the northern edge of the neighborhood, a six-lane deathrap signs identified as "Industrial Drive". Once they reached Industrial, they were suddenly surrounded by factories and warehouses in every direction, most of them abandoned. Eliza narrowly avoided several collisions on Industrial. It seemed to have maybe one-third as many traffic lights as it needed, and most of the other drivers treated it more like a racetrack than a road.

 

Without leaving their car, the women could hear the dull roar of voices and music coming from the factory. But there were no signs or lights outside their destination, nothing to distinguish it from the other abandoned buildings around it, save for the two large men in black t-shirts and jeans standing on either side of the door. Their bearing, their mustaches, and their particular brand of swagger suggested less "gangster" and more "off-duty cop". They were also the first Caucasian faces the women had seen since leaving their hotel. They both had semiautomatic pistols brazenly strapped to their belts.

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Still nursing the last painful elements of her hangover, Grim stared balefully out the window as the four heroes drove through Bedlam. With each passing block, she felt a growing despair in her heart; how did a city become so bleak, so doomed? Surely the work of some ancient curse, so horrible historical calamity.

 

In a moment of morbid humor, she conjured up three empty beer bottles on her fingers, and began to rhythmically clink them together. 

 

"Warriors...come out to play-ey-ay!"

 

Goth!Grim's hangover was not looking forward to the brain-pulverizing sound system.

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Sekhmet straightened at Grimalkin's call, tensing as her body readied to pounce despite sitting in the backseat of the car and swivelling her head back and forth looking for the implied thread. "Peace, Sekhmet. Tis merely an outdated reference to the popular culture." Raising a hand to do a comically poor job of covering a stage whisper to Temperance the godling added, "There be immortal, then there be old." She tossed Grim a cheeky wink before opening the car door and sliding outside in a single fluid movement. Checking the nails of one hand and producing and e-cigarette from somewhere to hold in the other she radiated a palpable aura of boredom and disdain that caught the armed bouncers in its splash zone, all the while calling upon the power of the desert sun to gradually, subtly raise the temperature in front of the secret club five degrees, then another ten.

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Temperance may not have been familiar with the scene... but she recognized the aesthetic of the gathering. It wasn't in the thudding base, or the beef gates out front, or the warehouse that looked it came from any number of supernatural thrillers from the Nineties. It was all around her. It was being "dangerous" by going where you never would. Where the "good people" never were. It was dancing into the wasteland, the outlands, the... ghetto. To feel like you were transgressing, and to feel like the baddest bitch in town - while having plenty of protection in case anyone tried to step.

 

Well, you're in real danger, at least.

 

She knew she was both in place and out of place, given the milieu. So... best to lean into that. She slinked out of the car the best she could possibly slink, trying to move like water with long, purposeful strides towards the door, her eyes piercing out with faux-disdain (not entirely faux, to be honest) towards the bouncers. She wanted to project attitude best she could.

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Mister Strix

 

The man in white had taken a more direct route to the warehouse on Industrial Drive, running faster than a car, down the streets and up the walls, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and even clear over some of the shorter buildings, yet never making a sound when his feet hit the ground (or the wall, or the roof). As usual, he focused his will on clouding the minds of any mortals who might see the white blur whizzing by them, forcing them not to see him, not to remember him. When he reached the club, he leaped up onto the roof and found a vent. He dissolved his body into mist, slipped inside, followed the vent to the warehouse interior, then re-solidified, clinging to the ceiling, looking down at the club, scanning the faces in the crowd.

 

They might have to pay to get in. They might have to buy drinks to blend in. Or others might buy drinks for them, hoping to make a friend for the night. But every single dollar they spend is going right into the pockets of thieves and pimps and murderers. It had better be worth it.

 

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GM

 

The cops moonlighting as doormen for The Rock and The Stone knew better than to impede the progress of four attractive young women into any of their underground nightclubs. They were as much a draw as the liquor (or the other drugs they had for sale). The foursome from Freedom weren't even asked to show identification. The doormen simply nodded at them and held the double doors to the warehouse open for them. Inside, hip-hop beats blasted from the speakers, heavy on the bass, while lights in every color of the rainbow flashed in patterns which synced up to the music more often than not. Over a hundred party people, about half of them looking below the legal drinking age, bumped and grinded on the dance floor or hung off of each other at the couches, tables, and bars scattered around the perimeter and at the back. Nothing looked permanent, not the fixtures or the furniture or the equipment. Everything looked modular, hastily assembled and even faster to take apart.

 

As they entered, they caught sight of Dale King, dressed in his usual vaguely 19th-century goth-peacock style, getting another drink thrown in his face by a woman who looked a dozen years younger than him. He pulled a black silk handkerchief out of his long coat to wipe the stinging alcohol from his eyes. The cloth appeared to already be half-soaked.

 

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"Oh man, I knew it," Goth!Grim muttered with a sigh as she looked at the other dancers in the club. "I'm overdressed." She moved into a patch of shadow, and emerged from it in a sleeveless version of her pentagram tee, the top below it gone, and her black jeans now ragged cutoffs; otherwise, her look was unchanged. Now seemingly happy with her sartorial choices, she leaned over to the rest of her party. "So who wants to make first contact with the enemy? It's going to be disgusting no matter what, so if we want to draw straws, I'm all for it." 

 

She held up a handful of straws, conjured up on the spot for the unpleasant task that lay ahead of them.

Edited by Heritage

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Temperance had to suppress a wry smile as she saw Dale desperately try to wipe the 80-proof failure from his face. "I'm probably not the best gambit," she said. "I've met my share of guys who rock the style --"

 

And dated one, even if he came at it from... different angles. And a different world.

 

"--but there's an air to this one. The style, the thirst... he likes exotic, but probably not my exotic. I could try to turn on the 'babe in the woods,' but it'd be a rough fit, and he might see through it."

 

While they discussed strategy, she opened her senses to the spiritual tenor of the area. Getting a read on individual spirits in this warehouse might be tricky, especially over the thumping bass and the shifting crowds. But it would give her the first signal if some of the ritual weirdness that they encountered in the basement was about to repeat itself. 

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Set and Sekhmet looked at the straws then to each other. "Gross," the shorter goddess opined flatly while the taller shorted and rolled her eyes with a shake of her head.

 

With long, purposeful strides Sekhmet stalked toward King, shouldering distracted dancers and dazed party-goers out of the way with all the subtlety of bulldozer. As soon as the ostentatiously dressed man noticed her approach she made direct, unblinking eye contact, the stoney glower of a predator letting her prey know that flight was futile. While the bookseller grappled with uncertainty she closed the distance and seized his throat in preternaturally strong fingers, hauling him off of his feet and choking off his protestations. Without losing momentum the leonine warrior dragged him toward the nearest exit to the warehouse, not far from where King had been licking his proverbial, alcohol soaked wounds.

 

"'Babe in the woods'. Blech," Set reiterated with a shudder. "Anyone desire something from the bar?"

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GM

 

A couple of the obvious gangsters and even more obvious off-duty cops working the club clearly saw Sekhmet stomp up to the guy dressed like a caricature of a stage magician who'd been getting drinks thrown in his face all night. They also saw her drag him out the door. But rather than moving to intervene, they pointed and laughed to each other. They weren't the only ones laughing. Several club kids joined in. King lost both his hat and his cane during his short journey across the warehouse floor. King flailed ineptly at Sekhmet, beating her arm with all the power and fury of a newborn kitten. She couldn't remember having ever met a grown man, even a mortal one, who was such a weakling. She caught snippets of Latin that he'd managed to croak out here and there, but her grip on his throat silenced most of the words he tried to speak. When they got outside, one of those Latin snippets combined with one outstretched hand to briefly lift the lid up off of a steel trash can. The lid hovered a couple inches over the can for a few seconds, then clanged back down. He stared at Sekhmet with eyes full of terror.

 

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Grim waved off Set's offer of libation with a shake of her head. "What, and miss the floor show? No way!" She eagerly followed the lioness outside, watchful for any funny business King might try to pull; just because he appeared weak didn't mean he was weak. Plus he may have allies nearby.

 

The changeling maintained her current appearance, but did conjure up her savage talons for intimidation purposes. "Well, well, well, Mr. King! Read any good books lately?" And with a single swipe of her claws, she sheared off one of his lapels without drawing a drop of blood.

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Eliza strode forward, glad that she got to trade one mask for another, in oh so many senses. In the gap between the club and the doorway, she willed the water out of her container (the flask, in an effort to match the effort) and had it run up her face, forming a thin yet opaque mask to hide her features. The rest of the water swirled in her hand, ready to go. When King had raised his eyes from the ground, she willed it into a sharp series of crystals.

 

"In case you get the idea to do some more conjuring," she said, "note that I can have this around your throat the second you start speaking Latin. Or I can have it down your throat. Many options. She waved her hand, collapsing the ice into a colloidal state that was fluid enough to suggest motion but sharp enough to suggest unpleasant things. "Now. Start talking. And no Latin." 

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