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trollthumper

You're a Wizard, Harry

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Friday, April 20th
9:52 PM


Greenbank was, as always, a place of bones. The bones of old railways. The bones of abandoned factories. The bones of prosperity. Unlike The Fens, known for its vice and its depravity, Greenbank was run-down and barely breathing, with predators already there to feast on the flesh. There were a few sparks of hope in this part of town - community leaders trying to unite the people, businesses looking to set up new factories on cheap real estate, bosses and workers coming together to keep the existent businesses still in operation. Every so often, they'd succeed. But there were times it seemed they were doing all they could to make a dying man comfortable.

Nick Cimitiere knew Greenbank well. This place had no lack of ghosts - bums who'd died on cold nights, would-be gangsters whose plans had fallen apart, even a few organizers from the old, wild, pre-labor days. Some of them stuck around out of devotion to Freedom, but many just couldn't find the exits. He was walking in the shadow of an old assembly plant, long since taken by the elements. He'd heard rumors of strange lights shining out through the windows on moonless nights, and thought it sounded right up his alley. If it was some lost soul, or urban explorers, simple enough. But given the nature of the area and the activities that gave it its reputation, he came prepared for the worst. Before he could cross the threshold, however...

"Help me! Oh, Christ, somebody help me!"

The cry came the other side of the plant, and sounded like it had been pushed out between heaving gasps. Nick ran around the side, trying to catch up with the fleeing man. There were some invitations he just couldn't turn down.

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The Penitent was familiar with the poorer areas of Freedom City, despite being relatively new. He had made his home among the helpless, the downtrodden, and the poor, mostly because he himself was penniless, a symptom of looking like something that crawled out of Hell.

He had been patrolling the area, flying close to the ground rather than high up like he did in the rest of Freedom, as the buildings here were relatively low to the ground and skyscrapers were definitely not in abundance. So, he heard the scream for help rather easily, and immediately turned towards it, heading in between the buildings and onto the roads so he could hear the person better.

He found the sound coming from beside a large assembly plant, causing him to go full speed towards the place.

"Don't worry, help is on the way!"

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The one thing that kept going through Lucy’s mind was that the place felt old and worn out, a little like herself, she hadn’t expected her upcoming birthday to bother her quite as much as it did. Maybe it was because there wasn’t really anyone who could remember her birthday, and those that did she didn’t exactly want around.

So she had jumped at the chance to investigate the rumors among the homeless of some strange going on out at Greenbank. Then again when was something not strange not going on in this city?

She was just about to give up and go home when she heard the scream and without pause she made off towards the sound. Feeling a little guilty that she was so glad for the distraction.

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Nick rounded the corner, catching sight of the man as he fled down the street. He was young, probably not even in college, and dressed in torn black robes. He was also running as if someone had set his hair on fire. He was about to give chase when he heard the sound of hoofbeats bearing down. He turned, to see a woman on horseback tearing down the alley. That alone would've been an unusual sight, but there were the little details that added to it. Like, say, the flaming chains that dragged across the ground, kicking up sparks, or the fact that the horse was made of steel and smelled strongly of sulfur.

Gee, wonder who she's with, Nick thought. The man hit the end of the alley, and desperately searched for a way out. There was none - Nick knew that for a fact. And in the time it took the man to confirm that, the rider had caught up with him.

"So sorry, Harold," she said. The accent was French - not something Nick associated with the pits of Hell, but it took all kinds. "But I can't let you go. Teacher wouldn't approve."

"Giselle..." His accent was strong Welsh, thick enough to spread on toast. "You can't... please, you can't!"

"We all knew the deal going in. You saw what happened with the last exam. And quite frankly, I would not like to take your place." She raised the chain high. "And I could always use the extra credit -- "

"Excuse me!"

Giselle turned suddenly as Nick strode out of the alley. "Man, you must run a hell of a shift at your school. Let me guess. You're the hall monitor."

A smile spread across the rider's face. "A necromancer, hmm?" Fire flared from her steed's nostrils. The flames danced down to the streets and flared high, coalescing into beasts made of burning pitch. "I wonder what Teacher will make of this one..."

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Nick knew what happened when weird infernalist women expressed an academic interest in his talents, and it never ended well. He ducked to the side, trying to avoid the blow that he knew would be coming soon. But then, Giselle was quicker. The flaming chain lashed out across the empty space, striking him hard in the chest. The smell of brimstone flooded his nose, and he could swear he felt his makeup start to harden under the intensity of the flame. Fortunately, it had caught on his jacket. The Styx-toughened leather held up well under the infernal assault, and Giselle withdrew the chain.

"Interesting," she said. "I'll have to take that as a trophy."

"You're welcome to try."

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The problem with moving at speed was that you had little time to decide who or what was the target. She wasn’t sure about the two human, but she did recognize the jacket from somewhere, but demon you couldn’t really go wrong with. So she made towards the gaggle of demons.

As she flash by the man she finally recognized his features so she turned at the last moment and slid to a halt, though she still managed to plant to elbow to the demons stomach.

“Hello there Nick are these friends of your?†she gave him a cheeky smile.

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"Hey, Revenant," Nick said, shaking off the strike from the burning chain. "Normally I'd be insulted to be considered in company like this. But, we've got bigger issues at hand." A crown of blue flame flared to like around Nick, the shade of a will-o'-the-wisp, glowing just as bright as Giselle's blazes. The crown broke into fragments and soared off towards Giselle, striking her about the head. The blue flame wrapped around her fully... but was quickly devoured by the hellfire as the infernalist laughed.

"...does that ever work?" Nick muttered under his breath.

'"A shame, man of death," she said, "but it has potential. Now... see some of my tricks."

She cracked the chain like a whip, and the burning beasts surged forward towards the two black-clad heroes. Something like a flaming bear swung at Revenant, but was lumbering enough for her to easily dodge it, while Nick easily ducked under a barrage by a burning harpy. Giselle stamped her foot against her steed's side. "Damn brutes!" she said. "What are you doing?"

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The Penitent noticed the commotion almost instantly, and sped up dramatically, before he saw the monstrous creatures attacking the two people there. Promptly, he summoned up some brimstone flames, and hurled it at the bearlike creature swinging at the man with full force.

Quickly, he zoomed down to the fight, and landed rather roughly.

"I hope I'm not interrupting, but I noticed this little soiree and I thought maybe I might come anc crash the party, so to speak."

He grinned, not knowing that all these people here were in some way connected to death, and could see the ghosts clinging tightly to him, looking on with maddened expressions.

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A burning velociraptor charged at Penitent, swinging wildly with burning claws and only managing to strike air. Giselle, however, smiled as she studied the new arrival. "What have we here?" she said. "Did Teacher send a challenge? No, no... you just have the look, and..." She gasped. "Oh, a prison! So many souls! Here I just had my eyes on Harold..."

She reached high on her horse, the beast letting out a whinny like a needle being scraped along bone. In the blink of an eye, she was on the move, flame trailing behind her and reducing brick to ash. Nick, who'd dealt with more than a few speedy spirits in his time, was able to duck out of the way of the chains, neatly avoiding a possible decapitation. But Penitent and Revenant got caught up in the infernal attack, feeling burning metal collide with their flesh. As they began to register the pain, Giselle was back where she'd started, her gloating smile even wider.

"...but you'll make a nice present."

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Whilst her supernatural senses weren’t as developed as the other, she only had hunches and gut feeling to work with, but even she had the feeling that something was off about this new comer. But she had more important things to worry about.

She was about to give the demon in front of her a quick knee to the face when Giselle began her attack, she managed to react to the chains but not quite in time the chains gouging a burring scar down her face.

“If that’s the best you got then I suggest that maybe you should be going back to school†as she spoke the scar seem to fade away, she turned to Penitent “Hello there I’m Revenant, welcome to the party.â€

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"What have we here?" said Giselle. She inspected Revenant, and pouted. "Oh. Just a pretty corpse, up for a walk. Nothing special about you, no matter what --"

"Gee," said Nick, "call the kettle black." The phantom essence that ran through Greenbank gathered around him, forming crude claws on his hands. "So many bargain basement infernalists, offering the same old virgin sacrifices, blood oaths, and desperate deals with demonic masters." He closed the distance with the infernal rider, his talons swiping through the air. "Couldn't you do something new?"

Giselle pulled back at the last minute, watching as Nick's claws met nothing. "I've found ways to make old tricks new," she said. "And I dare say they're working a bit better than yours."

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The Penitent remained unphased by the burning chains, and grinned.

"Well howdy to both of you. I'm the Penitent, nice to meet you all. Now, if you'll excuse me."

He smirked at Giselle.

"Now, as for that "gift fer yer master", thing? I don't think that's gonna happen. Y'see, I'm a citizen of the United States, can't be property, and thus can't be a gift. I'm sure you understand, though I appreciate the sentiment. I am quite the specimen."

He generated a fireball in his hand.

"But speaking of gifts, here's one from me to you."

He whipped the ball of fire at Giselle's face, grinning devilishly.

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Giselle caught the flame before it touched her face, crushing it in her palm. "Why give me something I already have?" she asked. "My fires burn hotter than any you could possibly stoke. I can -- "

The boast was cut off as lightning flew down the alley, striking the infernalist right in the chest. It arced over her and her steed, causing the steel horse to scream in something like pain. Harold stood up at the end of the alley, the last of the bolt flying from his fingertips. "I've wanted to do that all semester," he said. "For the love of God, Giselle, just shut up. You're nowhere near as clever as you think."

Giselle lolled in her saddle, seemingly bested... but rose back up, grinning wildly, even as her hair still smoked. "You're not completely hopeless, Harold --" Her chains snaked out again, soaring towards her prey. He raised his hands in a shielding gesture, and a sphere of force appeared before him - but the chains broke through, taking him right in the chest. " -- but you need to respect your betters. Come to me..."

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Revenant's face went into a mock pout at Giselle’s words “But, but daddy said I was his special girl.â€

She couldn’t help but smile at the ironic truth of the statements.

“And trust me he’s not someone you want to disagree withâ€

Whilst everything was going on she used the time to regain a good with that she had a much easier time with the now badly injured Demon, applying a series of rapid and brutal blows to the creature. Whilst this was a rather pleasant way to work out her frustration she was aware that a lot more was going on than she knew, but right now it was enough.

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The burning bear, now looking more like a tattered bearskin rug given motion, fell apart under the barrage of blows, letting out one pitiful roar before tumbling to the ground in embers. Giselle reared back slightly from the conflagration, eyes locking on Revenant. "Oh, well," she said, "you get what you pay for. And I don't need the likes of him to --"

She was cut off by the shriek of her steed. Phantasmal hands had erupted from the ground and were clawing their way up the steel beast, latching onto its rider's legs and pinning her to her mount. The hands grabbed at her minions as well, latching on tight to the burning beasts. The harpy hit the ground like a brick, and the velociraptor was soon to join it. Nick funneled his power into the construct, his hand raised high.

"Thought you'd like to see what bonds are like for once."

Giselle looked down at the hands grasping her and laugh. "Is this supposed to scare me? I've seen the pit of nightmares, necromancer. The source of all despair. You can't --"

Nick twisted his hand and the bonds tightened, cutting off Giselle's gloating. "Oh, you've been to Hell? That's almost cute. You should see my passport."

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The Penitent's eyes narrowed at Giselle's comment about the fireball.

"Right."

He began to slowly lift into the air.

"You know what the worst trait anyone on God's Green Earth can have?"

He raised higher into the air as he cupped his hands then parted them, a fireball generating between them. It grew bigger and brighter as his hands distanced each other, reaching about double the size of the one before.

"It's an ego, and Christ if you have not shown it right here and now, and coupled with the fact that you thought I was some gift to give to someone, well that makes me burning mad."

He readied the ball of Brimstone Flames. "Now, I figure all this tough talk ain't much when my opponent can't move all that much, so I'm just gonna let you have it now. Here you go."

With all his might, he whipped the ball of flames at her, glaring.

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She felt a certain satisfaction for taking down the demon, but now it was time to get serious. The woman whoever she was obviously in charge and posed a threat to the three of them, and this Harold.

The only problem was that she was on horseback and normally out of reach of the petit Revenant. She briefly considered taking the horse out, but her time in the 21st century had taught her that people seem to dislike people harming animals, even one as eldritch as this. Demons on the other hand…

Still bound by Nick’s magic the creature out up little resistance to her pick the thing up and manhandling it into a comfortable position to throw.

“Excuse me you seem to have left this lying around; let me return it to you.â€

The throw was near perfect timed to land when Giselle looked around, somehow the thing managed to twist around and land relatively unharmed but in do so it has caught its mistress full I the face causing her to wobble unsoundly.

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The demon caught Giselle right in the face, a hundred and fifty pounds of burning corpus colliding right with the infernalist's nose. The wreckage was a sight to behold, even as the demon slid to the ground relatively unscathed. It was hard to tell whether Giselle's face was contorted in pain or in rage, but either way, the group was doing something right.

"You miserable little corpse!" she screamed. "You think I will let this --"

Fortunately, her ranting was interrupted as a flaming harpy, loosed from its ectoplasmic bonds, soared towards her face like a burning lawn dart. The crack rang out down the alley as Giselle rolled in her saddle and the demon hit the ground, wings still twitching.

"No, please," Nick said. "Go on. It's all so exciting."

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The Penitent landed rapidly after firing off at Giselle, creating a loud clap throughout the alleyway. He twisted on his heels, his eyes spying the only demon that had been spared most of the combat.

"Well, hello, there, come on and join the party."

He lifted off into the air again, racing towards the demon and then kicking at its jaw with intense force. However, the demon moved out of the way before he could strike it, and the Penitent groaned to himself, before hurrying back to where he started out.

"Well, that didn't go exactly as planned."

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The demon, likewise, took a calculated swing at Penitent, but hit only empty air. As it scurried for some brief advantage, Harold, at the dead end of the alley, was slowly getting to his feet again.

"Giselle..." Lightning crackled from his fingertips. "...I'm going to ask you as nicely as humanly possible... get the hell out of here."

Giselle looked beaten, battered, and bruised, but still she laughed - though it was more of a nervous giggle this time. "Harold," she said, "you know what Teacher can be like. If you think I'm leaving here without -- "

The bolt struck home once more, catching the infernalist in the chest and turning her horse into a Tesla coil. Nick took a quick step back as lightning arced off the steed. But despite the sheer voltage, Giselle clung to her saddle, staring Harold down. The young wizard shook his head.

"For what I paid for it, you'd think it would work..."

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Using the chaos she and the other were causing she quickly made her way up to Giselle’s mount and leapt up onto the creatures back, so she was facing Giselle.

“Please feel free to carry on ranting, though I think of myself as quite a merry little corpse.â€

Now having her full attention she pressed on.

“You know in my time I was told that a lady should ride side saddle. Of cause I’ve never been a lady which is why I can do this.â€

Using her head, literally, she head-butted Giselle. It wasn’t at her most powerful, she could probably head-butt through a brick wall and she just wanted to incapacitate the young woman not break her nose, but the blow felt quite solid.

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The blow sent Giselle flying backwards, knocking the infernalist from her saddle. She slid down the monstrous horse, hitting the alley floor with a hard thud. As she died, the steed whinnied in pain as rust quickly overtook it. In a shower of sparks, shrapnel, and flame, it fell to the ground in pieces.

"That's the problem with these hellsteeds," Nick said. "As soon as the warranty expires, they just fall to pieces." He took a swipe at the burning harpy, which was struggling on the ground. The ectoplasmic claws ripped right through its battered burning form, and the imp quickly faded into faint embers on the cold stone. "Then again, if you're willing to throw your soul away for a few fireballs, I guess you don't care much about the value of a good deal."

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"Now, let's finish this up, shall we?"

The Penitent rocketed off into the sky, saying only "Stay right there" over to the demon as he took off. Within a moment, everyone could hear his "Yeeee-haw!" as the Penitent suddenly hammered down onto the demon's head with his boot, driving its face into the cement. Unfortunately for it, the blow was not lethal, though it might wish it was later when it woke up.

Jumping off the demon, the Penitent looked around. "Okay, is anyone conscious enough to explain to me exactly what happened? The way I heard it, it sounds you like Miss Giselle here and Harry are teenyboppers and there was something about... Teachers? Is this a school thing?"

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Harold pushed himself back against the wall, trying to gain some leverage now that the fight was over. "I can explain," he said. "But first... oh, God, that stings..."

"Let me look," Nick said as he bent in to inspect the wound. The flaming chain had gone right through his shoulder, and cauterized a lot of the damage it had done - but it was still a thick, barbed chain that had gone through a good chunk of his torso. "This'll just take a second..."

The ectoplasm coalesced around Nick's hands ran and trailed off, flowing into Harold's wound. The ghostly fluid served as a salve, instantly restoring burnt flesh to its regular state and helping to plug the wound. Soon, it seemed like nothing had happened to Harold at all - save for a torn shirt. "That's... thank you."

"Don't mention it. Now, there's a coffee shop down on Redtree that doesn't ask any questions..."

---

It was clear that the staff of the Redtree Diner had seen a lot of weird things in their nights on shift. The presence of a man in skull makeup, a pale woman in a stately business suit, and a possible demon in a back booth didn't arouse much attention - though a few waitresses made the sign of the cross as they passed. Harold was busy sipping at a cup of coffee, trying to regain his nerves.

"So, this school of yours..."

"Ah, yes," Harold said. "When I was in Year 9, I started trying to do magic. Found the Lesser Key on the Internet, tried summoning things... got some success. Learned a lot about how to bend the primal forces, which... well, is where that lightning came from. It's not supposed to be that crap, but --" He swallowed. "Well, one day I come home, and there's a letter waiting for me. An invitation, to..." He looked around, as if making sure he wasn't being watched, before leaning forward.

"Um... I don't suppose you've heard of the Scholomance?"

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"Scholomance?" The Penitent said inquisitively while wolfing down a reuben and washing it down with coffee. "Yeah, I heard of it" he said in between bites.

Finally, swallowing, he put down the sandwich, and took one last deep drink of the coffee, staring across at Harold. "The way I heard it, it waaaaassss... Romanian legend. Some sorta school where people went to learn the evil sorta magic. Demons and dragons and all that lovely stuff." He cocked an eyebrow at Harold "You're telling me you're mixed up in that sorta stuff?

He picked up the reuben again, and took a large bite out of it while his spirits seemed to roam a little more freely, with only a few keeping their wild eyes on the the people at the table; one was even in a face-making match with someone who could obviously see it.

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