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Raveled

Wonder! Marvel! Fantasy! Terror... (IC)

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The waters of the Wading and South Rivers commingled in the wide bay of the Waterfront before flowing out the Century Narrows and into the wide and wooly Atlantic Ocean. Most days they were busy with freighters and pleasure boats, but as night fell they turned black and glassy, reflecting the lights of the city all around. Still, as Crow stood at the end of the pier and stared out across the water, he could almost block out the house lights of Kingston, the North Bay, and Port Regal, and just imagine himself alone on a little rock far, far away.

His reverie was broken when a splash of water against the pier... didn't retreat. In fact, in built up higher with every successive splash, until Crow was staring at a scalloped and frosty surface that rose to his chest. There was a fleeting sense of vertigo and he could suddenly see a face in all that mounded, stop-motion water; not that it had molded into a face exactly, but more like he could suddenly see a way of perceiving it so that the lights shone through there to make eyes and bent just there to make lips and the curve of the water just there could be a pair of round, firm --

The lips opened suddenly and words were in Crow's head without ever having been spoken. Well. This is Mór-Ríoghain's champion, is it? You look young, warrior.

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Crow's thoughts on the water flowing up in front of him could be summed up as follows:

Cac.

The fact that the creature spoke his mother's name, also in the old tongue, didn't help much either. As a matter of fact, it pissed him off quite a bit. His face went stony, and more than a few runes on his coat flared up at once. The rules of etiquette that had been drummed into him took a brief vacation as he nearly snarled at the water fae in front of him.

"Mór-Ríoghain can go kiss Bres the Beautiful's tanned Fomorian arse, for all that I'm her 'champion'. She and I are tied by blood, but solely that. Calling her mother is about the only respect I even consider showing her, and if she sent you here..."

The Earth rune on his cuff flared, and the familiar rumbling energy began to make his fist glow with dim golden light.

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The water continued to build up and the face slowly rose higher, until it was eye to 'eye' with the hero. Indeed? Your mother has quite talked up your achievements in the Courts. In fact, some of our more impetuous warriors have set off for your bastion of liberty, weapons in hand. I dare say that they would attack you on sight. A ripple passed through the immobile water, a sort of fae shrug. Or anyone else, for that matter.

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The runecaster's eye twitched. And the energy glow got considerably brighter.

"You've got to be kidding me. She talks me up now? After all the stick she's given me? That...that..."

A torrent of old Gaelic swear words erupted from Crow's mouth, and he clenched his fists, as if resisting the urge to reach out and grab the water in front of him. Intellectually, he knew it'd do no good, but his anger was getting the better of him. Closing his eyes and taking several breaths, he repeated Red Hand's Rules several times in his head, calming down somewhat. Although he still spoke through nearly clenched teeth.

"My thanks for the warning, lady of the Fair Folk, and for the timeliness in which you bring it. I apologize for my conduct, it is indeed shameful. Yet...I must question it ne'er the less. My...mother...and I have never exactly been on the greatest of terms, and a great deal I do is in defiance to her, regardless of name or status. But apparently her boasting of my deeds has wrought harm upon the place which I reside..."

His voice trailed off, and his eye twitched again.

"Oh, that sneaky bidse. Where, exactly, did these warriors say they would search for me?"

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The water mounded ever higher, until Crow was forced to crane his neck upwards to see the fae's 'face'. You are in luck, young champion! They have alighted in your city in several places, and one is near! Be aware and be wary, warrior, for these are quick and devious foes you face this day. All at once the water broke and splashed over the dock, soaking the runemaster to the bone; though he couldn't feel the cold, he could feel his clothes sticking to him. It shocked him out of the sense of wonder and myth that the conversation had been wrapped in and brought him back to the here-and-now. Come to think of it, since when did fae appear to drop the Morrigon's illegitimate son a head's up?

The hero didn't have long to ponder the notion, as a rumble and a bright light off to the side caught his eye. He turned in time to see a fireball dying in the air above one of the super-freighters docked at the harbor. Fire still raged on deck however, and unless his masked eyes deceived him the fire was moving against the wind.

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Crow blinked water out of his eyes with a somewhat irked expression, then spat a small stream of salty water back into the ocean.

"Okay, that's it. No Mother's Day present this year. And I'm not her bloody champion!""

The fire on the super-freighter caught his attention next, and he facepalmed. While, normally, he didn't have a problem with cracking heads hero-style, whenever the fae and the Morrigan were involved, it always made things a) overly complicated, B) overly annoying, and c) oversexed in some way. Sighing, a rune on one of his shoulders flared up, and his body seemed to shimmer and vanish, as if disappearing behind a veil. A few seconds later, a tell-tale whisper of wind could be heard at one of the highest points of the superfreighter, along with a very quiet clank, as if boots were standing on metal.

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From his vantage point high on the super-freighter, Crow could see that the entire deck wasn't on fire; in fact, it seemed contained to just a few cargo containers. Men in long coats and woolen caps, presumably the ship's crew, kept trying to get close and train water hoses on the fire. However, every time a stream of water connected with the blaze a small figure in glowing robes leapt out of the flames and slashed the water hose with a burning sword, before chasing the crew away with further slashes of his blade. After a few minutes the crew abandoned the ship entirely, and the diminutive duelist began stalking the deck, shooting occasional glances overboard, into the dark water. He seemed oblivious to the hero's presence.

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Whatever thoughts of honor and fair combat the fae might have held were regularly thrown out the window by Crow every time he went into a fight as his alter ego; he actually rather enjoyed it. The fact that these ancient and powerful beings would, more often than not, fold just as fast as a mortal under a sucker-punch was a highly effective tactic, and slightly amusing, and anything that would bring them down faster was perfectly acceptable in his mind, especially when mortals were in their line of fire. And that this hothead had been causing havoc for some poor dockworkers just trying to make an honest living in an attempt to get at the aforementioned hero?

Yeah. Crow was not happy.

His method of expressing said feelings was gratifyingly direct. A silent figure in full black, hood, bandanna, coat, and emblem of a crow in flight upon his chest, appeared with barely a whisper above the fire fae, his foot wreathed in the rumbling energies of the earth that he usually coursed to his fist. The heavy steel-shod boot connected with a crunch to the flamewielder's head, sandwiching it between the hard, unyielding plates of the deck and the earthquake that was the runecaster's foot. Without a word, the hero disappeared again, planning his next move.

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The fire fae didn't have much chance to react to the attack, suddenly finding himself between Crow's rune-enhanced foot and the knurled steel deck. The hero stuck around long enough to hear the creature's skull pop, then he was back atop the bridge. To his surprise, the swordsman bounced to his feet again and started circling the central fire once more, cutting the air with his blade and calling out, "Fiend! Fool! Coward! Face me if you would, Brannagh, but do not strike me in the back and retreat! Or I shall stain your soul yellow with my last, dying breath!"

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"Why should I fight fair?"

The voice came from above the creature's head again, and as he whirled in response, he noticed the hero was a tad further up than he had been when he descended with the boot. And he had an exceptionally large object over his head. It looked an awful lot like an exceptionally large balloon. And it was dripping...water?

Crow amused himself with the look on the fire fae's face for a split second before he hurled the giant water balloon down at him, the thing bursting and flooding the area where the fires were burning with cool, clear water. With that, he ported out again, leaving this time a distorted voice echoing and bouncing off of the crates.

"Rules of the game change here, hothead. You hurt civilians to get to me. Ergo, you don't get a fair fight. Ergo, your ass is mine."

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The fae duelist reacted with inhuman speed, slicing his burning sword through the falling water so it splashed harmlessly onto either side of him. It fell square on the burning cargo container, though, with a chorus of inhuman squeals. The swordsman screamed in rage and slashed another cargo container in half; peering around the side of his hidey-hole, Crow could see him herding what looked like mobile coals, miniature hopping motes of sullen fire, into the cover of the metal container. "You fiend," the swordsman shouted at the air. "You would attack children when their father demands satisfaction!? I shall boil your heart out of your chest! I shall bind your soul to a stone and bury you at the bottom of the oceans! I shall cut out your liver and feed it to the dogs, and make you watch!"

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The voice echoing around abruptly stopped. The silence was deafening, as if an individual had just been hit by a ton of bricks, mentally speaking. A wave of answers crashed into the teen hero's head, and Crow stepped out from behind the cargo container, feeling a distinct sense of chagrin, embarassment, fury, and shame. The runes on his coat winked out, and he held up his hands. For a moment, the two stared at each other, one with smouldering fury. Crow's mind worked furiously for a moment as he waited, then he deliberately bowed at the waist, actually exposing his neck.

"...your vengeance is rightfully demanded, for I have been played for a fool."

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The shrimpish swordsman turned suddenly, elegant weapon poised to strike at Crow -- and hesitated. He peered at the hooded and masked hero, summoning a fire in his free hand to illuminate the teen's face better. "You... You are not Brannagh." The tip of the weapon dipped down for a moment, then it snapped back up, pointing at Crow's exposed neck. The duelist seemed reluctant to strike, but neither did he move from the opening he'd cut in the cargo container. "Who are you? Would the Lady stoop to sending mercenaries after us? Pah! I would hope she would at least send her top lap dog for this trial."

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Crow bent back, wincing below the bandanna at a slight crick in his spine. For a moment, he seemed to bristle at being called a mercenary, but after a moment of reflection the title seemed rather apt. Not that he liked it, however. Taking a moment to reorient his brain, he began speaking in fluent Celtic, tailoring his words to fit the milieu. At least this fae seemed less likely to enjoy the flowery language others used...

"I hight Crow, son of the great warrior Red Hand, descendent of Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster, and..." the teen inwardly cursed, clenching a fist. "...she of the black wings, of blood and battle, Mór-Ríoghain. And I say again, I have been played for a fool."

He looked about at the small battlefield, eyeing the edges of the ship as if expecting something to come over them.

"A water spirit warned me that...she of my blood had been boasting of my prowess, and those who would seek to harm me were coming to this city. That they would brook none in their paths, even the innocent, of which I am sworn to protect as so many others here. My fury blinded me to signs of treachery, and I acted without thinking. You have my sincerest apologies."

And that watery bidse has a world of hurt coming if I ever find her...

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A low crackling rose behind the swordsman at the mention of Crow's mother, but he held up one hand it abruptly cut off. The duelist lowered the point of his blade and stepped out of his stance, though he kept it in hand. "Your mother's name is known," he said, "as is the fact that she had a son in this plane. We were not aware that you were here, however." He paused, then sheathed his blade and stepped forward far enough to slap palms with the hero. "I am called Ignatio. I have come to this place of freedom with my children and wife. We seek asylum here, from the Lady who we served in the lands beyond the mirror." He eyed Crow, then turned to watch the horizon. "I expected the Lady to send her lap-dog, an Autumn Child who goes by Brannagh. He is a cruel and callous warrior who takes great pride in humiliating his opponents before dispatching them."

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Crow cracked his knuckles over the gloves' steel plates, looking at the small embers and feeling, again, a distinct sense of chagrin. Still, the mention of an Autumn Child tweaked something in his brain, and it only took him a few minutes to remember; a child, adopted by the Fair Folk, and trained in the manner of weapons. Steel...and iron weapons. Joy.

"An Autumn Child? Máthair na trócaire, she must really have it in for you. And while I'm not averse to making sure a bad guy knows he's been thoroughly beaten, I haven't reached the point of humiliation and dispatching yet."

The runemaster leaned on a handy cargo container, folding his arms and looking at Ignatio with curiosity. The flowery speech dropped from his tongue, although he continued speaking in the old language.

"Still...no offense, mate, you were causin' no small bit of havoc here. Not exactly the best way to seek asylum."

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Ignatio drew himself as far up as he could. "I could not control where I made my landing in this world. I made a jump and took my family with me, and some of my children and myself landed here. I knew it would be close to the water because that is my Lady's domain, but I could not know where." He glanced around and back at the burning embers, then returned to scanning the horizon. "It pleases me that you will not be attacking anymore, but please. I wish to be away from the water, and to find my wife."

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Crow massaged the point between his eyes and above his nose, not for the first time murmuring several rather rude words in Gaelic towards the world, the Fair Folk in general, and his mother.

"Alright, alright. I'll...I'll...son of a..."

Can't take them back to Claremont, that's just asking for trouble. No local fae lords and ladies to request asylum...and the only place I know where they can hole up is Parkhurst. And I don't think the other tenants'll be happy to be hip-deep in fire spirits. Not to mention that joint's an effing firetrap. Caaaaaaac....

"Alright. Details, we'll work out later. Find your wife, we can do now. What does she look like? And please tell me she won't be so eager to start frying things."

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Ignatio waved his hands wildly. "No, no, no! You do not understand, my beloved is the bedrock of my life. She is the firm foundation that allows my passions to spring forth unbridled." He shook his head. "I am certain that she came through in much better shape than myself and my sons. But I cannot know where she is! I came through the Lady's boat, so I ended up on a boat, but my beloved Ossulus came through the Lady's midden heap."

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Crow blinked.

"Wait. She went through...a garbage dump? A mystical faery...garbage dump."

The resounding sound of palm meeting forehead echoed around the ship, and several rather unkind thoughts filled the teen's head. Not that he vocalized them beyond a mumbled "caaaaaac...". Finally, he put his hand down and sighed, motioning at the little ones.

"Alright, alright. Midden heaps it is. You know where to stash the little ones? Things can get a bit hairy around here, and I don't think dragging kids around's a good idea."

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The swordsman drew himself up again. "I shall not leave my sons unattended," he said. "I do not want to think what Brannagh would do to them, and I cannot place them in another's care." He paused and shifted on his feet, clearly uneasy. "But my wife came through with our daughters, and they too are at risk. Sir Warrior, if you could get my sons and myself to a place where we could hide, would you be willing to search for my dear Ossulus?"

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Morgan's choices were, admittedly, limited. Not to mention he had a slight travel problem. And he didn't know Freedom City near as well as he should. And now he had a pack of fire fae who wanted him to find them a safehouse. The words running through his brain were definitley not for public consumption.

"That's...a hard one. My...uh...usual hideout's not exactly fae-friendly, no offense. Had to pummel a few on occasion, and they'd love to return the favor."

He had to spin something fast, and he had to think fast. Can't take him to Claremont, that'd get me in so much trouble it's not even funny. Where the hell can a magical being crash in this city that's...protected...oh, Nick's going to kill me.

"But...I do know a place. It's on Lantern Hill, but you gotta make me two promises. One, no burning anything at this hideout. I mean anything. If you do, it's my rear in a sling. Second, you tell nobody, and I mean nobody about this location. Especially none of the Fair Folk. If you can do that, I'll track down your better half and then we can beat the tar out of whoever set us up. Grab the kids and keep up, it's no short haul."

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The fire fae clicked his heels together and bowed low. "I swear on my honor," he said, "that my sons and myself will do no harm to your castle -- save what we are required to do in case your home turns out to be not so secure." He winked at Crow and stroked the hilt of his sword.

Promises made and a course of action set, Ignatio stepped away from the container and flapped his arms several times, causing great swaths of fabric to unfurl from his sleeves. Soon enough he was trailing several feet f loose cloth, when he held his arms up to the sky. All of a sudden the ember-children burst forth from the cargo container; moving almost as one they poured into Ignatio's loose cuffs, puffing them out and raising the small man into the air. He hoverer there, using precise motions of his arms and back muscles to stabilize himself, and looked down at Crow expectantly.

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Some time later...

Crow took a running leap off of yet another downtown building, landing with a clean roll on the rooftop opposite. As handy as his wind-walks were, he'd always been very careful not to become overly reliant on magic in and of itself. He'd heard enough stories from his dad about supervillain spellcasters who did that and the consequences thereof. That, and that Disney cartoon with the dancing brooms was good reinforcement.

He'd left Ignatio and his kids in the concrete basement of Parkhurst, thrown up the wards and alerted the ghosts as to their temporary houseguests. The fae warrior had seemed somewhat disconcerted over the prospects of being protected by the (technically) deceased, but an offer to sit on the front lawn and wait had settled him down considerably. That, and a lunch bucket filled with coal.

The hero vanished and reappeared on top of a particularly high building, too high for him to jump to, and he looked over the edge. As far as he could tell, this was the highest point short of heading into the City Centre; any signs of battle (beyond the usual heroic problems), and he could probably see it from here. Probably. The description Ignatio had given him of his wife was still annoyingly vague, but at least he had a general idea of what he was looking for.

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Crow scanned the horizon, moving to different parts of the roof to see different parts of the city. For a long minute he couldn't see anything that would indicate the presence of an angry fae in the city; then his eye was drawn towards a gathering of red and blue flashers on the south side of the river, in Lincoln. He jumped a few more rooftops to get a clearer view and realized the police were surrounding a scrap metal yard. There was what looked like a pile of rough-cut stone sitting next to the river -- at least until it charged a pile of stripped car bodies, flung one into the middle of the river, and retreated back to the shore.

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