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Low Places

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Start Date: February 4th, 2009

Continued from here.

The Blood Brotherhood turned out to have a huge, lushly appointed mansion set aside for themselves and Belphegor. Though the decor was all "new money", nothing but cheesy modern art and paintings suitable for a hotel room near you, there had at least been a lot of "new money" spent on the process. There were Porsches in the parking garage and gold plate on the faucets in the hot tubs, not to mention a lushly-appointed wine cellar in the basement, wet bar in the den, and surprising quantity of cocaine in the attic. "The house belongs to Mr. Allard's cousin; you remember, the one that took the long vacation to Mexico after that incident with that teenaged prostitute?" The cult leader, who had introduced himself as Rocheambeau on the way there, had given Belphegor the grand tour of the four-story mansion.

"His groundskeeper, the late Mr. Ghuliman, was something of a sympathizer. After his untimely passing, we took the liberty of taking over the estate." Man and demon stood together in the lounge, nearby a gold candleabra left unmolested even after months of cult-squatting in the house. The house itself was oddly clean despite the months the cultists had spent there, though it certainly had a lived-in feel. "May I offer you something to drink, Dark One?" Rocheambeau inquired of his guest. "We have a fine selection of wines, along with a smaller, but still choice selection of human and animal blood. If you prefer physical company, I ask only that you inflict no physical harm on my people. We will need all we can for the great ritual, even with your august help."

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Note to self: burn this place down when I'm done here. Egad, is that actually a piece of Ikea furniture?!

"Well, business before pleasure, Friend of Fiends. Though, in our business, they are often one and the same, eh?" the demon jabbed. "The folks 'downstairs' neglected to fill me in on all the details for my mission here. Time was short, what with the brief and transitory nature of passages between Hell and Earth, so I wasn't told much, aside from 'help these mortal cultists in their summoning'. So just who or what are you summoning up?" He winked at one of the comelier females present, "I mean, if it's some manner of Lust Demon, then I should conserve my energies for any sexual activities which would surely be a part of the summoning ritual, for maximum effectiveness."

I hope they're trying to summon a Lust Demon. That would be awesome. Oh, wait -- what if I get stage fright and can't perform? Damnit!

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"Dark One, we are engaged in the summoning of a minor blood-demon by the name of Varney Orloff." Rochambeau frowned at the mention of the name. "Orloff allowed himself to serve as minion and lackey for various mortal occultists and even...nation-states in the middle of the century," the cult leader filled in, a look of naked disgust on his face. "With your help, we seek to punish him for his disrespect for his unholy nature, and make of him a sacrifice to the Red King."

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"Ah, yes, Orloff -- he is known to me," the demon said with a sneer. Jos did remember tales of a vampire named Orloff, who stalked the Netherlands at the behest of Hitler, and who supposedly met his Final Death at the hands of Bowman. But if they're resurrecting him in order to offer him up as a sacrifice to this 'Red King,' what manner of being was the Red King?

"A mildly impressive creature, made less so by the scope of his ambitions, tied as they were to a cadre of deluded mortals. I should like to see what punishments you have in store for him. And honored, of course, to meet the Red King."

"Now," he said, clapping and rubbing his taloned hands together, "I believe you said something about refreshments, yes? I'm sure you'll be needing all the human blood for the rituals, so I'll waive those, though I will take some of your brandy. Calvados or Slivovitz, if you have it. Also, that one," he pointed to a blonde, then to a redhead "and that one."

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The redhead was quite interested in what Belphegor had to offer, but the blonde needed a quick private conversation with her leader to go along with what the demon wanted. Afterwards she was all smiles, though, as if determined to make up for her earlier reluctance. The redhead turned out to be named Anita, while the blonde went by Bella. The cultists even took the precaution of clearing out of the basement while Belphegor enjoyed the wine and women, He was mostly uninterrupted that entire evening, though the occasional loud noise did earn him an occasional check downstairs. Between the women, the wine, and the many luxury items down in the fully-appointed basement, Belphegor had many of the things a demon could want.

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Let us draw a gentlemanly veil over the events of the subsequent night and day at the house occupied by the Blood Brotherhood. Suffice it to say that the cultists are accommodating to the vast majority of Belphegor's demands, and are happy to violate all seven deadly sins with him in a variety of combinations. They speak often of the imminent rise of the Red King, and the coming sacrifice that will render them all into living gods.

Outside of the house, though, a great deal happened in Freedom City. Over the course of that day and night, telephones rang and phone messages were left, a famliar, gravely voice in everyone's ear. "Need you to fight a demon and friends. Empty house at corner of Warren and Kramer, sundown, Avenger said, naming one of the finer neighborhoods in Freedom City, perched just at the edge of North Bay. "Others will explain." With that, he continued to earn his reputation for frustrating taciturnity by simply hanging up.

Heroes without phones had the same message placed where they could see it, sometimes tucked away in corners, often in places where it seemed almost certain no person could have gotten. The important thing was, several heroes had the same message, to come at sundown to the house at the corner of Warren and Kramer. Dark Star and Scarab got easier messages, letting them know to meet there to discuss their plans for the fight against the cult at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile, at nearly the same time, Scarab was finally able to partially break through the psychic haze around North Bay and narrow down the location of the cult's safehouse to a single block of tony homes near the edge of the water. It won't be that hard to find the house inside...hopefully.

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"... Uncle Leo?" A groggy Hellbound muttered into the phone. "Who is this?"

But by then the mysterious caller had disconnected. Hellbound was getting ready to roll back into sleep when the actual words of the message penetrated his brain.

Demons? Why would anyone call him to fight demons and their friends? Must have been some kind of Freedom City brand Jerky Boys making a crank call. That voice had been familiar, though. Not just in how it sounded but also in how it talked. Kind of a clipped, hurried tone as if the guy was perpetually in a rush to be somewhere else. It like some gravelly voiced delivery guy behind on his route and calling from the wrong side of a grave.

That thought snapped Hellbound's eyes open and his mind to full awareness, or at least as close as it ever got on its own. Memories of a fight beneath the streets of Freedom against a demonic monster came back to him along with the recollection of a deadly serious cape who had a penchant for the shadows.

Damn. Were there more of those things running around? Had Avenger come across its master? Its brother? Or were there simply more threats in the city than one story arc could contain on its own? Not that it really mattered. The important bit was that there was a fight waiting for him out there someplace. The ghost of a throbbing pain in Hellbound's leg reminded him that it was bound to be a good one.

"Where was that?" Hellbound said to himself, looking out the window of his cheep hotel room into the harsh daylight beyond. "The corner of Newman and Kramer? No... Warren and Kramer. That's right..."

Flash forward to later that evening and Hellbound was found speeding towards his destination, sitting uncomfortably in the worn and gently rocking plastic seat of a Freedom City bus. He could gaze around at the faces of his fellow travelers, damned to the humiliating hell of public transportation, but he was too mortified. What sort of way was this for a superhero to get to an epic battle? He HAD to do something about this crap...

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There's one person on the list that we don't have a phone number for. We're not even sure if he has a phone yet. Or if he's even on this planet right now.

DarkStar, this is The Scarab. I've narrowed the location of the cult safehouse down to a single block in North Bay, right on the water. We're meeting Avenger at an empty house on the corner of Warren and Kramer, at sundown tonight. He'll be bringing backup. Some new talent he's recruited. We're going to give them a try-out before we bring them home for dinner.

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In high orbit around the Earth, Dark Star fiddled with the satellite, nudging it into exactly the right orbit. It was a minor thing for the SCC just sending up a repair board for the thing. He had just started doing favors for them and they hadn't had anything major for him yet. This was just a minor repair and one that would have likely waited until the next shuttle mission. But it was only a few minutes worth of work for him.

He lifted his head as Scarab's voice echoed in his mind. He wasn't sure if she was still reading him but he gave a mental affirmation. Just finishing up here. I'll be there shortly. And shortly for him was only a few moments given the minimal distance he needed to go. He finished the satellite, nodded to himself and turned back toward Earth.

Making sure his powers were fully concealing him, he flashed forward and down towards Freedom City. Getting to the general area took no ime at all. Finding the right house took him several long minutes. He floated down and sank through the house, to wait hidden and concealed off to one side as he looked for whoever was arriving. Not Avenger of course. Dark Star had about as much chance of seeing the Avenger arrive as Dark Star had of eating a cupcake in his current form.

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It had been a long night for Wesley, but he was happy to stay up all night if it meant getting a regular customer and possibly more customers. Plus he got paid double for his feat of stamina. Thus he will be able to eat and gas up the car for a while, and maybe have some left over for some extra supplies. Life is good. He pulls into a drivethru fast food place that serves breakfast and orders a few beakfast burritos. By the time he pulls into the parking lot to consume his food the weight of sleep has caught up with him and he zonks out. When he comes to it is mid-afternoon and there is a note on his face. He wonders how it got there when the doors were locked and the windows were rolled up. Getting a cold breakfast burrito out of the wrapper and taking a bite, he reads the note. "Demons," he thinks aloud, "Well I can't ignore that cryptic message." He wastes some time making a few calls for business, having to cancel an appointment he made for tonight. A little bit before sundown he pulls into his intended destination. Sitting on thhood of his car, he waits for arrivals.

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Moira rolled over to the bedside table as her cellphone buzzed a folk rock cover tune by The Vigilantes. When she answered the growling voice stunned her. It took a second to notice the growling voice, but she remembered the voice from the sewer a couple weeks ago. It was a friend of Jack's, Avenger. By the time she said something, the voice disappeared.

She hung up the phone and looked at the clock, it was noon. Picking herself out of bed and grabbing a robe, she headed to the restroom to get a shower and get ready to face the day (or what was left of it).

When she got to her destination, she saw that Stephanie had already occupied the shower. She yawned and leaned against the wall, grabbing a towel off the rack. When Stephanie exited the shower she handed her the towel, "Morning, sunshine."

Stephanie greeted her with a smile as she took the towel to cover herself, "Glad you could join us in the land of the living. You up for the afternoon breakfast?"

After her shower, Moira got the rest of her grooming done and quickly headed for the kitchen. Wafting through the house was the smell of chop suey.

"You got plans for today," Stephanie asked as she handed Moira a box from Yashida's Garden and some chopsticks.

"Something came up," Moira answered, "I got business to attend to in a few hours. I took my dress you borrowed a few weeks back." She modeled the dark green wrap-around dress by slowly turning around in a circle.

Stephanie smiled and nodded her approval.

After lunch, Moira made her exit. The first thing she did was make a call to Jack, but all she got was voicemail. "Hey Jack, it's Moira. I was wondering if you got your friend's message about fighting demons or something. Gimme a call before sunset, or maybe I'll see you there."

As the sun was beginning to set, she made her way over to the meeting area. She saw that at least one had arrived, a face unfamiliar to her. She wondered who else would show up.

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Divine arrives at the luxurious North Bay house as the sun finally sinks fully below the horizon, leaving only echoes of light in its wake. She sees Wesley leaning against his car in the driveway.

Some unseen hand turns the front doorknob. The door swings open, seeming to take on a life of its own.

Wesley and Divine both hear an unfamiliar voice. They don't hear it with their ears, so much as with their minds.

He left it unlocked. No need to wait outside.

Shielded from prying eyes, The Scarab flew up to the house and floated through the open door.

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DS waited patiently inside the house and finally was rewarded with the arrival of several individuals. The first was unknown to him, but the second he knew quite well. After all, he had just dropped her off this morning, VERY early, after their travels through space. He had expected to see her again of course; he had promised her more sight-seeing if she wanted. He just hadn't expected it to be so soon.

When the door opened by itself, he raised an eyebrow, wondering if it was Avenger somehow sneaking in. He focused and managed to see Scarab as she flew through the door. He allowed himself to become visible after she entered, knowing for certain she was here for the same purpose. "Good evening Scarab. Do we know what we're facing and who else is coming?"

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He nodded as she came in. "Greetings Divine! Long time no see. Get any sleep?" He had gotten to know the women pretty well during their adventure and trip. It might have been a short trip, relatively speaking, but it had been eventful. He knew she didn't necessarily need sleep but she might have. He had only slept once in a while over the last few years, just for the fun of dreaming really....


"So you know Avenger too huh?"

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"No, I am The Scarab." The voice came from behind Divine. When she turned around, she was standing next to a figure clad head-to-toe in crimson and gold armor, her cape fluttering behind her despite the lack of wind blowing through the house. A closer look revealed that her feet weren't actually touching the floor, but hovering a couple inches above it. "Thank you for answering the call of duty. We're still waiting on a few late arrivals. Then the briefing can begin."

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"Not all of us can fly, Samus. It aint our fault."

The voice came from the doorway and, unlike both Scarab and Avenger, it was never hard to spot Hellbound. He stood there in all his grubby glory with unkempt hair and clothes from the discount bin. Deciding to go all out for this, his first 'official' mission with other heroes, he was dressed in a faded leather jacket over t-shirt and jeans.

The shirt possessed a faded picture of Jim Morrison and the jeans were only artfully torn in a few places, but for the most part Hellbound still looked like he belonged on the wrong side of this whole superhero/brainless thug dynamic.

"But that don't make it any less of a party when we do get here. Hey, Red..." He shifted his attention to Moira, "Lookin' divine as ever."

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In a shocking swerve for those familiar with Avenger's methods, the dark champion of the night actually entered through the front door of the house some twenty minutes after sunset, greeting the others with a "Good. Not owner. Please don't touch." With a peremptory gesture that suggested he hadn't actually gained new people skills in the days since his colleagues had seen him last, Avenger led the others into an empty conference room. "This way. Will explain."Taking a seat at the dusty table, he looked up at the others, emotions hard to read in his icy blue eyes. "Monster threatening the city. Needs to be dealt with. Did you bring holy items?"

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Wesley shakes Divine's hand when she offers it to him, "Nice to meet you. My name is," he has to pause for a second to remember he is in the presence of people with fake names, "Knight." He looks around to see more faces he doesn't know, but a familiar name. "Wait, THE Scarab," he questions as he looks around. He gets his answer sooner than he expected as Scarab pops into full view. "Well, it was bound to happen sometime," he smiles as thoughts of working with The Scarab or at least his replacement would definitely be something to remember. He makes mental note to get an picture or autograph or both. When the scruffier-than-he person enters, Wesley is glad he was able to take a shower and shave before he left his new customer's place this morning. Finally, Avenger enters. Gathering around with the others, he listens to the fragmented sentences the man in the hockey mask speaks. "Wait, we were supposed to bring stuff? My note didnt say anything like that, but I do got a bible in the car if that'll help."

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Though Moira stood in awe of meeting a living legend, that was quickly changed when Hellbound walked in the door. "O'Ren," she quickly bounced over to him to give him a hug, "how's it been?" Before the question could be answered, Avenger walked in.

While Avenger was explaining his plan, Moira noted, "I thought holy items only worked on vampires."

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Avenger didn't blink. "The unholy are hurt by the holy. Of all kinds." He steepled his hands before him. "Assumed you would be aware of this. Likely too late to deal with the matter now. Bible may help." He looked from one to the other. "Short version. Tracking a cult. Have stolen variety of holy and unholy magical items. Believe they have plans to resurrect at least one dead entity. Very powerful. Risk is significant. Need to know if you are all willing to risk it."

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Dark Star nodded to everyone as the introductions were made. "I don't know anything about vampires, monsters, mystical things and whatnot. More science oriented I suppose. But if you know where such an object is that would help, I can just zip over and back with it. Assuming it's not more than a couple dozen lightyears from here, it shouldn't take me more than a few minutes." He shrugged. "But even if we have nothing like that, if this thing is a danger like Avenger says, then it must be stopped. Preferably before these people bring it back. Of course I'm in. No question or hesitation."

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Hellbound welcomed Moira's approach with a mutual embrace and a light kiss on her forehead.

"'Sides, where am I going to get anything holy? The last time I've even seen the inside of a church was catholic school. Once they shut the door on my butt they seemed pretty happy to get rid of me. Haven't been invited back since.

"But, hey, you got any 'spears of destiny' or 'swords of the centurion' you want me to get in close with, just let me know. Risk, smhisk, I was starting to get worried all the fun had been kicked out of this town."

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"We did in passing," Wesley speaks up, "but I guess more formal introductions are in order." He tries to put on his best Kevin Conroy as The Raven voice, "My name is Knight, by day (and sometimes night) I am a freelance tattoo artist, but by night (and sometimes day) I am a defender of Freedom City. I am a master of the forces of the human body. I can heal you or give you a cold, depending on who's side of the law you are on." Clearing his throat, his voice returns to normal, "So, yeah."

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