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Ecalsneerg

I Don't Drink Wine [IC]

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Midnight, 1st September

The mist flowed up and into the graveyard, looking this way and that with a head-like pseudopod. Grass rustled in its path, as it hissed and slithered between the headstones. It paused to look at one grave, where someone had left a ceramic jar full of daisies. A black gap appeared in the mist which could have even been a smile.

Minutes later, the mist was gone, leaving a shattered jar lying on a fresh grave plot, the daisies torn up. Atop that mess was a small white envelope.


The mist crept around, sniffing the air hungrily. Then it smelt what it was looking for. The magic of the Old Ones. Not a magic to mess with. In the darkness it loomed, after the target it was sent to leave a message for. In a whirl of wind and tossing dust, it left the white envelope at the thing's feet and fled before the tentacled beast could respond.


Then, finally, the mist crept up an apartment's stairway and pushed a white envelope through a letterbox.

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KC saw the mist coming. "What the hell." he said as it approached him. He tried to grab the mist as it ran off, but fell on the ground. He was out in the Freedom Park, taking his usual nightly walk. He stood up, and dusted off his costume. He stared at the letter for a moment, looked around, and opened it. It was already midnight, so he activated his mystic fire on his other hand and read it in the green glow.

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Nick was on his way back to the main gate. He'd just got done talking to a soldier who died at the Bulge, listening to stories about the supers of World War II. The guy was tied to the graveyard, but he'd actually been doing his own patrols of the West End. He'd even managed to fight in the Terminus Invasion, when the sheer overflow of entropy made things weird for the dead. Nick had promised to check on the guy's grandson and provide some good cigars once in a while.

As he walked down the main path, he spotted the vase -- and the white envelope, addressed to him. He looked around, trying to see if he could pick up the delivery boy. When he couldn't, he took a look at the vase for any obvious traps -- a spring mechanism to deliver zombie powder, or anything like that. Once that was done, he pulled up the envelope and -- tentatively -- opened it.

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Siobhan heard the letterbox clatter from her meditative position in the middle of her rug. Opening one eye in irritation, she sighed and got up, picking up the envelope in irritation. She sat down on the sofa, lighting up a cigarette using her magic wand as she cracked open the envelope.

Dear Miss Drake,

We have followed your recent career with some interest, and think you'd be interested in attending our meeting of magical minds on Friday night, at 8pm. Our address is overleaf, and please dress for the occasion.

With regards,

The Lancea Brothers

Siobhan put her face in her hands. Well, the supposed identity is screwed over... Growling in frustration, she picked up the invitation with a flick of the wand, leaving it hanging there in a pale white glow of magical force. Another flick of the wand, and it had ignited in a brief burst of flame, scattering ash over the carpet and stacks of books.

Wait... meeting of mystic minds? I doubt I'm the only one. Perhaps I should get in touch with some of the other mages in town...

Raising her wand for a third time in her right hand, she brought her crystal ball flying across the room, catching it deftly in her left hand. It was then she started whispering into it. "This is Equinox. Those of you who received an invitation to the party on Friday, please contact me, or come to my home. Thank you."

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Honoured Emissary from Beyond,

Your presence in our city intrigues us, although we are obviously much obliged to have you here. As such, we hope you shall join us for a meal on September the 3rd, in two day's time. Please, feel free to show up at 8 PM.

Your, with honour and sincerity,

The Lancea Brothers

KC blinked in surprise. He was already being recognized as an emissary! He made a mental note to find out what the word 'emissary' meant. He smiled in joy and pocketed the letter, unaware of the foreboding aura surrounding the letter. As he walked back home to Claremont, he wondered what he would wear. As much as he liked his costume, he decided to go a little more formal. There would be shopping to do. As he walked along, he felt a mental vibration, as though someone had stuck a tuning fork in his head.

"This is Equinox. Those of you who received an invitation to the party on Friday, please contact me, or come to my home. Thank you."

KC remembered meeting Equinox at the party. He thought she was kind of cute. He grinned, and made his way to her place. Coolness.

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Mr. Cimitiere --

Your recent relocation to Freedom City is a matter of interest among our circle, and we would extend the hand of invitation for a discussion of the magics of the grave. Please meet us on the evening of the 3rd at eight at the address provided below. Dress as seems appropriate.

The Lancea Brothers

Nick looked over the invitation, trying to figure out what it meant. "The Lancea Brothers"? He'd never heard of anyone by that name. Then again, the invitation did discuss "magics of the grave," so maybe they were necromancers, or possibly just practitioners looking for a perspective from a necromancer who wasn't likely to raise a zombie army because he got cut off in traffic. But magicians weren't the only ones interested in necromancy these days...

"This is Equinox. Those of you who received an invitation to the party on Friday, please contact me, or come to my home. Thank you."

Nick had a brief flash of Equinox's residence. He looked back at the invitation. Well, good thing to know I might not be the only one there...

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The Wee Small Hours, 2nd September

Equinox had already changed into costume, black hair billowing and white eyes glowing. She welcomed Nick and Kid Cthulhu into her home, apologising profusely for the state of the room. Stacks of books and half-marked essays lay around the floor, with ash trays adorning the top of a couple of the most impressively tall stacks of books. In one corner, a crystal ball sat on a table, covered with a dirty cloth.

"So," she said. "This invitation doesn't look good. For one, they delivered it to my home, using my real name, so turning it down could be seen as a snub. That'd end badly, for me, or for my family." She pulled out a packet of cigarettes from inside her coat. "Secondly, the note reeked of necromancy and vampires. Vampires whose name is Latin for a type of weapon, not a comforting thought."

"What do you think we should do about this?"

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KC tried to make himself comfortable. "Well, I've never dealt with vampires before. I guess we should try diplomacy first. Then we can break out the floodlights and holy water. That is...if they try anything. Is there a possibility they just want us all over for interesting company?"

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"I agree with KC," Nick said. "We should try for diplomacy first, but be wary. The note called attention to my necromantic talents. Whenever vampires have paid attention to my trade, the reaction usually ranges from 'How can I use this?' to 'Do I need to kill you?' Could be it's an evening for cordial discussion... could be a death trap. Go for the former, prepare for the latter."

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"Agreed," said Equinox, snapping her fingers to create a small burst of flame, just long enough to light up her cigarette. She inhaled deeply, blowing out acrid-smelling smoke into the dimly lit living room. "So the real question is how do we prepare?" She tapped one finger off the side of the sofa in thought.

"I think I could make a ring that renders its wearer immune to a vampire's mental powers, but it'd take some research. Luckily, we have a couple of days to prepare for this, and I think we should use it. Any ideas on how to survive dinner with vampires?"

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"I know for a fact that vampires have a crapload of weaknesses in literature. Garlic, crossing moving water, entering houses without permission, stakes through the heart, sunlight...it would be best to figure out which of these the vampires we're dealing with have and arm ourselves accordingly." KC said in a matter of fact way. "So if they pull something, we can hit 'em where it hurts."

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"I can easily cancel out any of the more 'lasting' powers of the undead," Nick said. "Wonders of necromancy -- means you're rarely unprepared for dealing with the walkers. Problem is, it requires an endeavor of will, which means I can't exactly be pulling off the more flashy stuff at the same time. Still, if you two are on back-up, I should be able to keep 'em from putting any sort of mental whammy on us."

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"That'd work well," nodded Equinox. "Other issues could involve poisons, attempts to bite and infect us, etcetera etcetera. The problem is that we just don't know what's going on." She seemed to have forgotten about her cigarette, which just kept burning even if she wasn't smoking it. "Alright, I'm going to work on something that'll make sure we survive even subtle attempts that we miss. We can't afford to slip up."

She looked at the two other mystics. "Do you think you guys could whip something up?"

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KC cracked his knuckles. "I could give it a whirl. I'll try to make something that involves the very least amount of sacrifices, anyway. What we need is objectives. Like, one of us can make something offensive, one of us can make defense, and one of us can whip up a quick egress, if needed. Never hurts to be prepared. I could make an Elder rune for a good distraction. Basically...you guys'll have to shut your eyes for the duration of the spell, but it makes everyone in visual radius totally lose their marbles. Should be awesome."

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"I can work on the exit route, if need be," Nick said. "I've walked the path of Orpheus before. A simple invocation to Carrefour, a proper sprinkling of gravedust, and voila -- we've got an exit route. Don't suppose anyone here has any enemies in Guinee?"

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"Not that I can think of," said Equinox carefully. "Ok, so we seem to have offense, and escape, so I'll work on defense. I think I can make a ring that'll protect us from the worst of what they throw at us."

At this, she stood up. "So, meet here at 6pm prior to the dinner on Friday night?"

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"Sounds like a plan to me. I'll consult the creepiest magic books I can find. Maybe check out the King in Yellow from my local library. I'll see what I can do. Oh...should I dress up? Even if we may be kicking some vampire ass, I'd like to look good doing it."

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Nick raised an eyebrow. "King in Yellow might be a bit of overkill," he said. "And if we're doing this formal, let me know. I was gonna go in my usual stuff, but last thing I wanna do is stick out like a sore thumb."

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Equinox raised an eyebrow. "I agree. Overkill thinks the King in Yellow is overkill."

Turning to Nick, she continued, trying to hide her discomfort at the possibility of the King even being contacted. "Well, the invite did say formal, but... vampires." She clicked her fingers, her entire outfit altering into a strapless black gown. Another click, her hair was spiked up, green and her clothes torn denim. One final click, and she was back to normal. Throughout the whole thing, her eyes had kept up their eerie glow. "I'll probably go formally, but then switching to something more practical isn't an issue for me."

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"Sounds excellent. Uh...is there any chance I could check out a few books from you? You've got some pretty neat stuff..." KC said, scanning her shelves. "I mean, we mystics gotta stick together, right?" KC shrugged and tried to put on a lovable grin.

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"I'll go formally as well," Nick said, "and duck under the table if I have to get into work clothes. As for books... might be a good idea to work on trading info. I don't know if necromancy's your thing, Equinox -- I'd understand if it wasn't -- but a few good warding and countering charms against dead powers are always useful. At least, I've found they are."

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Equinox gestured at the shelves. "By all means. I'd recommend this one," she pointed. "Here." A book flew off the shelf and into her hand in a corona of white light. "Applied Runes, a fairly recent text. It doesn't have much of Elder runes, but the underlying theory is sound." She then turned to Nick.

"Actual necromancy, I don't mind, necrurgy is obviously a problem," explained Equinox. "Although I can actually do magical wards fairly well. You'll notice I formally invited you both in?" She looked at kid Cthulhu. "Had I not, you would have just walked into an invisible wall. Mortals can get in, mages can get in, metahumans can get in, but anyone supernatural is physically incapable of getting in."

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"Huh. I felt the ward coming in," Nick said. "Should've expected it'd work for most entities. What can I say -- I kinda jump at the opportunity to talk shop."

He looked to the others. "So we meet back here in two days' time before we got to dinner with the vamps," he said. "Got it."

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Equinox nodded. "Yes, I expect it'll let us prepare ourselves more fully." She stood up to show them to the door. "But, until then, I'm going to try and get some sleep, so without wanting to be rude..." She let her words trail off.

"You're welcome to borrow the book, by the way," said Siobhan, turning to Kid Cthulhu.

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"We could bone up on some vampire literature. Not the sparkly kind." KC said with some disgust. "But the classics. Read up on Van Helsing. We don't know what hurts them or what they're immune to, but it's safe to say that they can't follow us into your house without being invited in. Maybe we can make a teleportation device to get to your home? That'd have to be a last resort, of course. But it would prevent us from being extremely dead." KC shrugged. "Or undead. Living impaired. Don't know what the P.C. term for that is."

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