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alderwitch

Trickster's Game [IC]

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To say Phantom was not having a good evening would be a drastic understatement. After calling out 'sick' to work for the third time this week, it would not only be a wonder how she paid all of her bills, but downright amazing if she had a job to go back to. Unfortunately, this was the third time she'd gotten wind of some interdimensional widget that was wreaking havok in some would-be mystic's hands. That would all have been bad enough but she had reason to suspect that these objects were all coming from one source as they all sent her on a merry goose-chase with some sort of misdirection spell.

Tonight she'd gone to the Fens, searched her own Riverside and was now trolling the West End. She'd started the evening with a scowl and now was starting to look downright murderous as she perched on one of the roofs, and scanned the surrounding area once more, sorting through the various mystical signatures as she tried to figure out where the blasted thing was showing up now.

On the streets below, there were occasional nervous glances directed up at the figure as her cloak billowed and snapped with its mistress's irritation. Phantom was not in subtle mode tonight, as her attention was focused on finding first the item, then whoever was responsible for this evening's frustration. She did notice that there was a familiar interdimensional individual, not too far away in her search.

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Lots of things had changed since Grimalkin had joined the Knights of Freedom, but many things had not; for one thing, she still loved to patrol the Fens at night, watching out for folks and doing her bit. Another thing she still enjoyed was a bit of good old-fashioned investigation.

There had been a recent wave of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the West End, especially targeting synagogues; graffiti and other defacement, as well as a few assaults. Grim decided it would be a good idea to stakeout a different schul each night, starting with Temple Ben David, in hopes of catching the bastards in the act.

Across the street on the roof, Grim kept her vigil, invisible to the untrained eye; she sat with her legs crossed, idly tracing the outlines of the shingles with her fingertips.

C'mon, you stupid skinheads; come out where I can see ya.

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Near Grim on the rooftop, Phantom's cloak unfolded into existence slowly, until the mystic was hovering there herself. She couldn't pick out Grim with her eyes, but she tilted her head to one side, confirming the shapeshifter's presence with her other senses before she glanced across the street at the temple.

"Grim?" She questioned, her head cocked slightly to the side. Her hollow voice sounded both tired and frustrated under its echoing tones.

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"Grim?"

Oh great, 'Officer Friendly' is here. :roll:

Grim turns, ready to tear into the dimensional cop with a well-chosen snotty comment, but then she gets a good look at her; she looks like something the cat dragged in, and the young shapeshifter just can't bear make what most be a truly rotten evening even worse. With a furtive look a round, she makes herself visible out of courtesy.

"Hey, Phantom. Uh, do you need something?"

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"I could use a great many things, I imagine," Phantom said, managing something like dour humor, "I was hoping that you might have seen something odd this evening. Someone has sold an individual with too much money and not enough sense a vial of Tears of Crying Chaos but it's proving... difficult. I need to find it before--."

Whatever else Phantom was going to say was cut off as an unearthly wail went up from a throat that hardly sounded human. It was enough to make the hooded mystic start and then curse softly but with great invective in Cantonese.

"Too late. Again. At least it doesn't sound far off."

The wail had stopped and their was the sound of hysterical sobbing echoing in the still night, broken only by jagged bursts of laughter. The sound echoed and bounced around but was likely coming from down one of the windy alleys.

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"Too late. Again. At least it doesn't sound far off."

"What the hell..." :shock:

Grim half-rises from her seated position, her eyes wide with dread, but then her face grows dark and determined.

"What the heck am I so scared of? I'm the scariest thing out here tonight!" She stops to consider that statement. "Well, one of the scariest, at least."

Suddenly her body is surrounded by a familiar pale mist; when it drifts away, she is transformed into a disturbing long-limbed thing with pointed ears and slick blue-black skin. Her eyes glow like jack-o-lanterns as she scans the street below, her body taught with both fear and determination, and when she speaks her voice is a hollow rasp.

"Whatever that was, I'll help you find it."

In a flash, the transformed girl scrambles in the direction of the scream; when she gets to the edge of the roof, she hurls herself across the chasm like some twisted howler monkey from hell, and for a moment, the shape is briefly silhouetted by the moon before it lands on the opposite side.

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The confusing bounce of echoes were no match for Grim's ability to track them down and the duo rounded the corner of one darkened alley, with Phantom trailing Grim. At the end of the alley, the source of the inhuman noises was a very human looking figure. Although she was dressed-up like a Halloween-style witch, she couldn't have been older than thirty. Her eyes were rolled back in her head and in between the horrific noises, she was babbling in a mixture of languages along with what Grim could only assume were nonsense.

At her feet were a couple of frightened looking teens, one attempting to scribble down the words of 'wisdom' that the would-be witch was uttering, the othe was clutching an ornate looking vial of viscuous liquid that seemed to swirl with a dizzying kalidiscope of colors. It was already half empty. The two were too intent at first on the woman to notice the heroes arrival but the one holding the vial let out a choked scream when she noticed Grim.

"A strong enough will, it's said, can conjure powers and visions from the Howling Dream." Phantom explained the scene in a low voice for Grim's ears. Her tone throbbed with a seething rage and Grim was given the feeling that this was one of many similar scenes that had likely caused the mystic's current mood, "The risk for any who attempt it is madness."

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"A strong enough will, it's said, can conjure powers and visions from the Howling Dream."

"The risk for any who attempt it is madness."

There was a lot about magic Grim still didn't get, but she got the feeling that this potion was some sort of drug that made you nuts, and stupid people wrote down the stuff you said and thought it meant something.

God, what a pathetic waste.

When she became Goblin, a creature she'd first seen on the other side of the faerie veil, Grim always felt kind of ornery, like everything was a hassle and she just wanted to get it over with and move on. She also craved very raw (and non-kosher!) meat, one of the reasons she didn't hold the form for very long. However, her pissy mood sort of helped her stay 'in-character'. She decided to give the lil' pinheads a gentle nudge.

"Foolish children, you have no idea what your dealing with; give us the vial now, or there will be grave consequences."

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As the witch continued to cackle and howl, her assistants were easily cowed by Grim's thundering arrivial. This was clearly not what they had signed up for and the one holding the vial quickly fumbled it out to Grim, tears streaking the heavy makeup on her face.

"Here, here! I thought she was gonna do some LSD or shrooms!" the kid sobbed, "Take it!"

The other cowered over her notebook, her voice a shrill and frightened whine. She looked close to passing out from fear. "I just wanted to pass my tests!"

They both started and cringed as a bolt lanced out from Phantom, stunning and silencing the witch who collapsed into a crumpled heap. The mystic solidified and knelt down to turn the woman over with surprisingly gentle hands, trusting Grim to deal with the teens as her gloved fingers checked the woman's rapid pulse and dialated eyes.

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As soon as she has the vial in her hand, the Goblin is gone, melting away into the evening chill; once again Grim is a just a pretty, slightly-built girl in a costume, smiling in a firm yet reassuring manner.

"Hey, it's gonna be okay, alright? I was just a little pissed off earlier, but now everything's cool, you guys are gonna be fine."

She jams the vial into a snug little pocket in her costume that wasn't there a second ago, her eyes never leaving the two teens.

"So who are you guys, and who's your friend here enjoying the bad trip of a lifetime? Where'd you guys score this stuff, and who's bright idea was it in the first place?"

God, I sound like a cop; Phantom is such a bad influence. ;)

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"Uhm, this was all Belladonna's idea," the more talkative one said, gesturing back to the 'witch', "She said she knew a guy with connections for items of real Power and that if we joined her coven, we'd be set! We met her at the Black Cat."

The Black Cat was an occult shop in the district. The teen said the name with disdain, clearly having decided that was all parlor tricks. Her moment of rebellion faded and she clutched at the notebook.

"Is she, uh, gonna be okay?"

Phantom stood, her hands glowing with energy that lifted the 'witch', "I know where she lives. We'll take her home."

The teens eyes widened and they stared at the two heroines, obviously revising their ideas of Power.

"We're not in her coven," Phantom said with exasperation.

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"We're not in her coven," Phantom said with exasperation.

Grim is equally appalled at the girls' reaction.

"Dude, do not even go there; I had to pretty much die to get where I am, and it ain't all fun and games, either. You will see death and horror to last for two lifetimes."

Suddenly her face goes white as a sheet and her eyes turn to blood-red pools of anger.

"Now get out of here before we call your parents! And give me that notebook before you leave!" :twisted:

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They squeaked and thrust the book in question out at Grim, scampering off into the night.

Phantom looked down at the woman, "Belladonna Nightshade although her birth name is Susannah Bennett. She's from one of the upper-crust families of Freedom. Her mother's died when she was very young and she's been fascinated with the occult since her teen years. I've seen her before. The money does tend to get her access to all sorts of trinkets she really shouldn't have. One of these times I'll be returning a corpse rather than her unconcious form to the penthouse."

She sighed, frustrated as the woman disapeared in the folds of her cloak. After the woman vanished in a crackle of eldritch light, Phantom held out a hand to Grim. At first, it looked like she was waiting for the vial until she spoke, "Are you coming?"

Phantom tilted her head to Grim, her expression curious under the cowl. She was solid still, and standing, it was clear that she was perhaps five feet tall, perhaps an inch more. The cloak added volume to her form but she wasn't using any of those tricks at the moment.

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Belladonna Nightshade although her birth name is Susannah Bennett. She's from one of the upper-crust families of Freedom. Her mother's died when she was very young and she's been fascinated with the occult since her teen years. I've seen her before. The money does tend to get her access to all sorts of trinkets she really shouldn't have. One of these times I'll be returning a corpse rather than her unconcious form to the penthouse."

One again a normal shade of pale, Grim idly flips through the notebook, trying to see if there's any cool stuff in it or just boring math problems.

"Ah, rich people are idiots; they never appreciate what they have, they always want more, and then they freak out when their money can't buy their way out of trouble. That's one of the reasons I stay poor; well, that and the fact that I have no degree or marketable skills."

"Are you coming?"

The slender heroine looks up suddenly and her eyes flick between Phantom's eyes and the depths of her cloak, the notebook hanging limply in her hands. "What, go in there again? Not on your life, you mystical psycho! If we need to fly, I can do it my own damn self."

Suddenly there's a rush of air, and Grimalkin collapses in on herself; in her place hovers a small elfin humanoid, barely a foot high, held aloft by a beautiful pair of gossamer wings. She's still holding the notebook, but now just by the binding, since it's the only part she can get a firm grip on.

"So, which way to Witchiepoo's hideout?"

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"I don't usually fly places but I suppose I can make an exception." Phantom said with dark amusement but her hand vanished inside her cloak and she floated aloft, leading the way to a cushly appointed penthouse. Phantom landed on the balcony and walked through the closed door which she opened for Grim. While Grim looked around, Phantom set their captured witch on the couch and actually pulled a cellphone out of her cloak.

Inside the penthouse was tastefully decorated with clean lines and comfortable furniture. They were in a spacious living room, with the lights turned down low. There was a large tv in one corner and two glasses of wine sitting on the low coffee table. One had lipstick on the rim and the other did not although they were both half gone.

Phantom had to push back her cowl to use the phone. Beneath the hood, she still wore a mask that covered her face from nose to brow. Someone took their secret identity seriously. Still, in only the mask, Grim could see thick jet-black hair pulled back in a short ponytail and Phantom's features had a distinct asian-cast to them once you got past the glowing white eyes. Phantom left a curt message for Ace Danger, informing him of the girl's condition and where-abouts before hanging up.

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Once inside, Grim reverted to her normal form. She peered around the room with great interest. "Wow, a genuine crime scene-type environment, just like in the pichers!"

With great care, she tiptoed around the room like a whisper, head cocked this way and that, occasionally smelling items of interest (especially the two glasses), doing her best to give the place a thorough going over while trying to touch nothing. She's also kept her ears sharp for any other inhabitants of the place.

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Once Grim was satisfied that there was no one else in the spacious penthouse, she was able to give her attention to the rooms themselves. Of the most interest that she found was a fresh pad of notepaper next to the answering machine which still had a blinking red light for messages:

"Pumpkin, it's Daddy. Sylvia and I were dissapointed that you missed our little get together. Please try and make it next time. You know how it upsets your stepmother when you're a no show. - BEEP!"

"Hey, 'Nightshade Vervaine', you gonna pick up your books of magic or not? I ain't holding these forever, ya know. - BEEP!"

"45th and Oakleaf. You know the drill. - BEEP!"

The last message was sinister and to the point. There was something about the voice that was familiar to Grim, on the same sort of primative level that let her control her shapeshifting. The voice was dangerous and slick as oil.

Phantom flipped her hood back up and pulled a few objects out of her cloak, laying them on the couch. One was a cracked mirror, with an odd red glass surface, and the other was what looked like a crystal ball.

"This..." Phantom said, tapping the glass with one glove, "Caused a simple rave to turn into an all out blood fest. Three nights ago. The crystal ball, two nights ago, allowed a two-bit hoodlum to rip off his gang-member bosses. Both times, instead of being able to go right to the items, they appeared to bounce all over the city to my scrying.

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"45th and Oakleaf. You know the drill.

Grim's stomach does a little involuntary flip.

And why do I just know I'm going to meet the owner of that creepy-ass voice? :(

"This..." Phantom said, tapping the glass with one glove, "Caused a simple rave to turn into an all out blood fest. Three nights ago. The crystal ball, two nights ago, allowed a two-bit hoodlum to rip off his gang-member bosses. Both times, instead of being able to go right to the items, they appeared to bounce all over the city to my scrying.

She watches the mystic lay out objects, like a cop or a lawyer on one of the those Law & Order shows, and suddenly she gets Phantom; it's not friendship or even respect, just a glimpse of understanding.

"So stuff like this, it's interdimensional contraband or something, right? Black market magical hoodoo that gets people killed, just like crack or Saturday night specials?"

Grim's dark eyes narrow, and she speaks plainly, without malice. "Did you lose somebody to stuff like this? Is that why you're such a hag sometimes, or is it just the badge?" She absently points at the amulet on her throat.

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Phantom looked up, from where her fingers touch the locket, unsure whether to be offended at the 'hag' comment or not.

"Yes, it's something like that and, no, I didn't lose anyone. I think that might be easier, sometimes, if I had." Phantom sat down on the couch, going solid with a thought as her cloak spread around her, "It's not a badge. At least, not one that anyone shares. In all the multiverse, there might be many versions of the girl I was before I took it but I have no real counterpart. There are people who watch the doors but its my job to put everything back and my job, alone."

If Phantom hadn't been so worn down, it was doubtful that Grim would have caught the mystic with her guard down. She toyed with the chain on the locket briefly. "You think I'm cruel. Most people do, but its what I have to be. There are worlds out there... Not everyone can be saved. Not if the balance is to be kept, but it destroys something inside you when you walk away. Every single time."

She lifted her shoulder in a shrug and turned her face away from Grim's judgement to focus on the items, her brow furrowed as she tried to figure out the link.

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"You think I'm cruel. Most people do, but its what I have to be. There are worlds out there... Not everyone can be saved. Not if the balance is to be kept, but it destroys something inside you when you walk away. Every single time."

Grim nods as she takes a seat across from her teammate and starts idly drumming her fingers on the table, before she works up the nerve to say what needs to be said.

"I dunno how sensitive your mystical radar is, but I'm guessing it's good enough that you can that you can tell...I went back. Through the veil, to Avalon."

She rubs her face with her gloved hands.

"I don't plan on going back ever again, because it seriously sucked over there, but I had to understand what I am, why I'm not human anymore. And I'm sorry if that, y'know, damaged the veil some more."

She sighs and looks sincerely apologetic

"It won't happen again, I promise."

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Phantom looked up quizically then blinked once or twice. Of all, things she was not expecting an appology. Honestly, no one had ever appologized for interdimensional travel. Not in the years she'd been performing this particular task. She opened her mouth to respond, but froze with her eyes widening.

Before Grim knew what she was up to, Phantom grabbed Grim's hands and laughed, "Yes, Avalon. Of COURSE! That's the link I was missing. Bless you, Grim."

As Grim probably thought she'd lost her mind, Phantom explained excitedly, "These are all from vastly different dimensions but they're from Primal realms. Like Avalon."

Phantom paused, "I appreciate the appology, Grim. You're the first that's ever offered one, and for that I thank you. I'm sorry that you found it lacking. It can be... very difficult to be not wholy of one world. I can understand a quest for answers."

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"I appreciate the appology, Grim. You're the first that's ever offered one, and for that I thank you. I'm sorry that you found it lacking. It can be... very difficult to be not wholy of one world. I can understand a quest for answers."

The shapeshifter seems a little put off by the sudden display of warmth on Phantom's part.

"Uh, sure, no problem, it's cool. And what you said about the Primal, that makes sense; I got the creepiest feeling from that last message on the machine, like someone was wiggling their fingers in my gut."

She visibly shudders.

"I think whoever left that message came from one of those realms, too."

Grim gets up and starts to nervously pace the room. "So, where to next? Anything we can get from here?" She starts sniffing around the couch and glasses. "I'm pretty good at tracking, though maybe you magical detection system might work better on this."

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"My spells have done little good of late. It's been... more than a little frustrating." Phantom swung back to the table, the objects vanishing in her cloak. The gleam in her eye was downright disturbing as this was the first break she'd had and her intensity, for lack of a better term, was as extreme as any of the other moods she displayed. The woman did nothing half-way.

"I think you're right. I think what I have is a trickster and you may just be my best bet to catch it." Phantom said with a grim sort of pleasure, "If his travel is confined to the primal dimensions, that narrows down what our options are which is excellent. Your heritage will give you a sort of immunity to his games that I lack. It's hard to trick a trickster after all. Let's start at the street corner, that's the easiest place to pick up a trail."

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"If his travel is confined to the primal dimensions, that narrows down what our options are which is excellent. Your heritage will give you a sort of immunity to his games that I lack. It's hard to trick a trickster after all. Let's start at the street corner, that's the easiest place to pick up a trail."

Grim nods uncertainly; sadly, part of her actually preferred classic 'Sullen, Slightly Hostile Phantom' to new 'Friendly, Let's Go Get Killed Phantom', but at least it was something to do on a slow night. She shrinks down to sprite form once again and zips out the window.

"Last one there pays for coffee!"

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Phantom cheated by teleporting to the area in question, not so much to win the coffee bet, but more in the eagerness to follow up on the trail before it grew even colder. She waited patiently for Grim to catch up, as she gave the scene a once-over glance from beneath her hood.

'Where are you hiding? And why? Is it just the money? What are you after...

Phantom wasn't stalking back and forth but she did manage to bristle with an ambient sort of energy that had replaced her formerly flagging strength. Friendly 'lets go die' Phantom was still Phantom after all and she was lurking in the shadows in a not-so-subtle way, having scared off any random passer-bys. It was a poorly lit alley - worse than most - and she was holed up in one back corner of it. She turned curious eyes to Grim as the other woman appeared, hoping that she might have a lead when Phantom's usual skills had failed thus far.

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