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1 John 4:1 (IC)

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Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

June 9th, 2012

12:55 PM

Drake Street

Freedom City, New Jersey

Crow bent over the last of the monstrous creatures lying on the ground in the alleyway, slamming a fist into the back of the disguised Fomor's head and bouncing his skull off the pavement. The beast in the false skin of a man stayed down.

To put it mildly, the young cowl looked like hell. His runecoat was undamaged, but his crow-marked hoodie was torn here and there, and his black runed jeans were also somewhat torn. Not fun. On the physical side, he was limping a bit, his arm was (briefly) bent at a very odd angle until a thin green light emanated from it, resetting it properly. The mouth below the black iron mask over his eyes twisted in pain for a sec, before he shook his head. Morgan leaned against a nearby dumpster and took a deep breath, rubbing a spot on his side where one of their shock batons had made a most painful connection. Damn that sidhe's eyes! He was working at Parkhurst, trying to adjust a more personal protection rune on the mask, and then the next thing he knew boom, some big eyed sidhe noble was screaming by some magic method calling for help. Fomor in the city. Fomor in the city who could do a lot of damage if he didn't shut them down fast.

So he'd hurled himself into the transport room, tracked the ethereal signal from the screaming fae, and ended up in the middle of an alleyway surrounded by four very big men with very dangerous-looking weapons, each of whom looked like a good hero-bashing session would alleviate some tension.

Oh, he hated fae. So very, very much. And Mr. Archer'd have conniptions if he found out Crow had made a jump like this in off-hours. Ugh.

A well-dressed man, albeit well-dressed for a thoroughly different era, with almost trademark pointed ears, ethereal handsomeness, and gleaming teeth, stepped out from behind a large dumpster, clapping his immaculate white gloves together and speaking loudly. Too loudly. "Hah! They did not exaggerate your talents, my friend! Those fools knew not who struck them! Now, quickly - we must take them and flee, before aid arrives!"

"...pardon?"

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"It's a bit late to run and hide the bodies, don't you think?"

The stern voice wafted down from up above. If Crow or the Fae would look up, they'd see Gabriel, arms crossed sternly over his chest, scowling as he slowly floated down to street level. His tone brooked no argument, and was all but dripping with disapproval.

"You look a bit young to already be going in as super-powered muscle, kid. It's a good thing these guys aren't actually dead. Looks like you've got a good right hook. Tell you what, you come along quiet, and if this was some sort of mutual brawl, we can probably get you off light..."

He trailed off as he actually looked at the man in old-style clothes (in Freedom City, that wasn't the sort of thing that always stood out), and saw the ears, and the unearthly appearance. His expression went from "disapproving teacher scowl" to "angry hate-filled snarl" in the blink of an eye. In another eye-blink, his arms held a shining spear that was pointed right at the Fae man before him, and his whole body faintly hummed with power.

"Get out of the way, kid. That's a dangerous creature over there. Fae are nothing but trouble and deception and murder. Just stand back and I'll handle this."

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The sounds of movement caused Crow to whip around, and he missed a crucial movement. The sidhe lord smiled. His fingers danced behind his back. And rather than see a superhero clad in resplendent white, wielding a magnificent silvery spear, Morgan saw an individual to whom he owed much to.

"Well, well, well, well. It appears I'm just in time. Hello, Crow."

Branagh smiled down from atop that roof, lightly leaping down to sneer at the both of them. Rather than hear a declaration and a call for surrender, he heard a mocking laugh, and a cold voice that brought back distinct memories. Gabe saw the sidhe's mouth move, as he backed away from the confrontation.

"My, my; aren't we so terribly effective. I doubt they ever saw what was coming, hm? How truly marvelous - catching you off-guard and so deliciously...broken...like this; The Lady will be ever so pleased. And I can take my time with you...hah." Instead of a spear, Morgan saw him pull that sword from his back, making a few mocking passes and pointing it in a direct challenge. Gabe saw the black-clad teen tense up, the mouth twisting in cold fury underneath the iron mask, and could almost feel a glare through the metal at him. The Sidhe snapped his fingers, and a glowing shard of ice floated behind him; images of another place flashing in the facets; a place Gabriel could barely make out in time. A warehouse. Marked by faded murals. Crow's fingers flexed, and he adjusted his stance; keeping his eyes fixed on the figure in front of him. Spoke low. Low and cold.

"Branagh. Warned you. If you came back to my town."

Gabriel didn't see the teen move. He just vanished. The Sidhe before him merely smiled mockingly and waved, leaping back through the facet and vanishing - but he did hear the ring of knives on brick. And caught the glint of wires in the air; the figure behind him having cast a net to ensnare him!

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"Enchanting children to do your dirty work? Unsurprising, but still an act of filthy cowardice, fairy."

Gabriel's unique "sixth sense" helped warn him of Crow's attack. With his spear, he swept the knives and wire aside, turning to face the young adventurer for a moment. A slight sense of sorrow passed over the hero's face.

"Forgive me, but you need to Calm Down."

His voice rumbled with authority, and a wave of sound went forth from the shining defender of the innocent to strike Crow; Gabriel's intent was to render the youth non-hostile long enough to hopefully catch the Fae. He turned and raced for the portal, but it was all but closed when he arrived. Still, he got a good look at it. He knew where the creature had run off to, and he smiled.

"You can run, but you can't hide, fairy."

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"Neither can you."

The words were calm, albeit tinged with the cold of a grave. Crow felt a remarkable calmness settle in on his brain - probably some vain attempt at glamour on Branagh's part. It didn't stop him. For the crimes Branagh had done to him and his, it would never stop him. Some of the words were...wrong. Somehow. Why didn't Branagh press the advantage when his sword had swept away the wires? Why did he aim for the sidhe who'd left?

Questions to be answered once he had the Autumn Child incapacitated. The anger of before was replaced with far more cool and methodical thinking; reverting back to basics. Even if the situation was obviously changing swiftly, a danger like Branagh couldn't be borne on these streets. Two more knives appeared in his hand, and Gabriel caught another glimpse of him before the black-clad teen disappeared from view entirely. A spinning sound, and two flashes of silver appeared from nowhere, rebounding off of brick and metal. Another coil of wire, barely visible save in the gleaming light of his spear, sought to catch and bind him.

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Gabriel turned at that statement, sighing.

"Listen, Crow. I've heard about you. Nick Cimitiere and Equinox have mentioned you. You're a kid, though. Why are you getting mixed up in this."

Gabriel cautiously started to move, tapping the hilt of his spear against the ground a couple of times. Suddenly, his heavy coat kicked up in an invisible breeze of sound, and the whole alley echoed with his voice.

"But if you ever heard of me, of Gabriel, you'd know you're in over your head, kid. Back down, now, and hopefully we can avoid injury. You don't want to do this, child."

Then, suddenly, his spear snapped to his left, the blunt end striking the invisible (but not silent) Crow right in the torso.

"Come on, snap out of it!"

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Gabriel's words were as so much noise to Crow's ears, glamour in the synapses between them and his brain interfering, giving him what he wanted to hear, rather than what he should. A few words snuck in, couched in taunting terms and mocking jibes, the preternatural calm keeping him immune to such...but a creeping sense of despair began to fray the edges of his composure; he had sweated and bled and trained like mad to protect his friends and this city, and when the object of so much ire, a milestone he'd swore he'd overcome, was presented in front of him? He was losing.

But that's not what he's saying, damnit Morgan will you LISTEN?! Silence! Fight him, smite him, best your adversary, cast Branagh down before you and humble him like he did you.

The sword lanced out, and he barely caught it between his gloved hands; the point impacting on his chest and causing his breath to rush out in a whoosh. That would leave a bruise, a bad bruise. Why didn't the sword pierce my skin? Why did it feel blunt? Crow gritted his teeth, holding the weapon in an iron grip. Why is the blade not cutting my hands? He spoke flat and quiet, answering the mocking question. And looked Branagh right in the eye; the man unable to take his eyes from the faceless black iron mask. Why was he getting mixed up in this? Why was he a hero? "Because it's what I trained for. Because it's what I am. And if I'm in over my head, I'll claw my way up and beat you back to Avalon anyway."

Everything went slow. "And." Push the blade to the left; it flowed past him as he rolled around. "Don't." Strike the hand holding the sword. Hard. "Call." The hand released the weapon instantly, and his other hand lashed out to seize it. "Me." Disengage, double-backstep. "Child." He vanished again.

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Gabriel is taken aback by Crow's sheer ferocity and determination. He had impressive skill, and Gabe's wrist stung from the move that ended with his spear on the ground. He looked up at the perch the young man had taken, hearing more than seeing him up there. He signed and ascended as fast as he could, until he was level with the boy.

"I'm sorry; I should have tried this first."

He concentrated, a frown on his face, as even more sonic "wind" circled his body for several seconds as he looked intently at the ensorceled young man. Then he raised his right hand, palm forward, fingers spread, and pointed it at the teenage hero.

"I speak against this foul sorcery that has enslaved you, and in the name of the Lord, I ask you, young Crow: Be free."

A pulse of sound rocketed forward and struck Crow just as the last word left Gabriel's lips. It was a simple melody to his ears; almost like a piece of classical music. But it resonated throughout his mind, quickly eroding the control on his mind until he was once more himself, and the deceptions were swept away.

"See with your own eyes once more."

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As Gabriel crested the roof, he was treated to the sight of Crow having thrust the point of the sword/spear into the ground, going low in a sprinting stance; he'd been making ready to strike from above!

Of course, that plan was promptly short-circuited when the teen was treated to the sight of Branagh floating in midair before him. The cold rationality of his mind rebelled at that; he'd never displayed such an ability before, and tactically this was a poor time to surprise him with it. It made no sense yes keep thinking that! no! silence!, it was unsound you're getting it, keep going! no! I will not have my vengeance denied!, it was...it was...what was that sound? NO! YES!

Crow doubled over, clutching at his ears as a mindscape that was his-but-not-his shattered. Pieces of a percieved reality, imposed on his mind, folding over it like gossamer weave and being ripped asunder by something pure and resonant. The truth of things hit his head like a sledgehammer, and the face lifted to take in the man clad in white before him, the silver spear thrust into the roof of the building, his own bruises, and the distinct lack of a well-dressed sidhe lord in the alley below.

The preternatural calm on his mind aided him in keeping his demeanor intact, although there was a tiny hint of fury still lingering behind the black iron, and on the mouth below that. He righted himself with a deep breath. Compartmentalize. Analyze, adapt, and react. He drew his hood slightly further over his head out of reflex, reaching over and yanking the spear out of the ground. Crow looked at it, shook his head, and held it out; talking quietly.

"...I think this is yours."

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The shining hero in front of Crow managed to avoid audibly sighing in relief as he took back his spear. After the blink of an eye, suddenly the spear was gone, and there was a ring on Gabriel's right hand again.

"Glad I managed to get through to you. I was getting worried I'd end up hurting you, which isn't something I ever enjoy. Especially since I'm wondering if there's something more going on here."

He looked at Crow again, taking in the fanciful nature of his outfit.

"Forgive me for my earlier assumptions. You're clearly a young hero, not just a kid. Which makes you all the more tempting a target for something like the Fae. Of course, the question is, what sort of game is it playing at?"

As he was speaking, Gabriel floated forward until he came to rest on the rooftop, looking around a bit distractedly as he spoke to the young coated avenger. Almost as if he was expecting something, or looking for something.

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Rather detachedly, Crow felt an impulse to snarl. How very odd. Coolly, he stepped over to the edge of the rooftop and looked appraisingly over Gabriel, making several mental notes.

Some of which about the rather ostentatious (and tactically somewhat...awkward) nature of his outfit. Rather apt, though - powers likely angelic in nature, sonic, trumpet, glowing spear. Imagery and metaphor considerable. Light and dark. If he wasn't feeling rather calm right now, he would have laughed.

He took stock of their situation; the fae had used him. That much was readily apparent. That flat voice came from under the bandanna. "Apology accepted. Tactical shift required, new mission parameters." Retreat into Crow. He was the calm one. He was the strategic one. "Though...should apologize myself. Normally go into every...incident...involving Avalon's denizens with certain level of skepticism. Mostly as to dealing with them. Mostly wyldfae. Should have been suspicious of Sidhe noble from get-go. Normally not quite so civil. Word of Fomorians...distracted."

Crow reappeared in the alleyway, and took some zip-ties out of his pockets. Should have done this earlier - he began locking up the hands of the monsters, bundling up a shock stick or two they had on hand. Ruddy great bruisers...hopefully the illusion would wear off shortly. As he finished the job, he stood and dusted off his hands, looking up at Gabriel.

"Went in without plan. Foolish. Will not repeat a second time." The last words were loaded with cool menace, and it didn't take a genius to get precisely what second time was going to involve whose fae butt was going to end up shipped coach back to Avalon.

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Gabriel actually felt his gut twist a bit at the preternatural calm the young man was displaying. He'd almost forgotten his earlier efforts to stop the fight without physical violence. But now it just didn't seem right; as rational as Crow was right now, it simply wasn't natural, and that had to be stopped. He snapped his fingers on both hands, the sound echoing oddly in the alley. After a moment, Crow felt completely normal again. Not necessarily completely calm, but free of outside influences.

"I'm sorry. I should have done that immediately. I, ah, forgot I'd done that, at least for a moment. Anyways. You don't really need to apologize. I've seen firsthand the terrible deception the fae can wreak upon people."

He lapsed into silence for a moment while Crow tied up the Formor. Once the up-and-coming vigilante was done, Gabriel spoke up.

"Well, I do have one advantage. I know where he went. I've been there before."

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Crow felt the calm wash away, replaced with close to molten fury. His shoulders twitched. The teen stood there for a good minute, his back to Gabriel, just breathing.

Remember.

You're Crow.

Not Morgan Crowe.

Morgan can be furious. Crow is calm.

Morgan rages. Crow plans.

Anger clouds judgement. Get back to that calm centre.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on the mission, be angry afterwards.

Crow took over again, and he turned back around, nodding at the white-clad hero. He didn't have that preternatural calm of before, but it was clear he was exercising great restraint. Experience had taught him to, after all. "Apology required - considerable prior experience with fae, also seen firsthand deceptions. Letting him fool me was exceptionally poor judgement." Gabe could see the teeth grit under the mask. "He got into my head. I do not like it when the sidhe get into my head. Where did he go?"

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"Every Fae I've met so far, barring the singular exception of Grimalkin, was, at best, duplicitous and detached from the affairs of mankind. At worst they murder, control minds, and incite murder. They seduce and warp. I know all too well how dangerous they are. I don't hold any anger toward you, Crow. We are all imperfect, and we are all occasionally bested by an enemy."

He gave the younger man an encouraging smile then.

"The important part is overcoming it and moving past it. Which you seem to be doing admirably.

As for finding our foe, he's at an old abandoned warehouse. I once went with a few others to fight some troublesome fae, including a rather ugly unicorn. Shouldn't be too hard to get there. How do you want to approach it?"

Gabriel could recite off the location (though he was fuzzy on the exact street address number, he knew how he'd flown there last time), so it was up to them how to go about getting there.

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Crow had his mouth half-open to reply with an affirmative to Gabriel's assertion of fae - they were seducers and tricksters and duplicitous up the wazoo. Well he knew that, even if he acted the hero for them more often than not. The Fomorians were frequently far more of a threat than they, after all - and he had Tuatha blood in his veins to boot. Not that it really lent him any serious personal loyalty, but...maybe it did color his thinking.

Key-word there, though. Half-open.

He stopped halfway.

Shades of a short man with a flaming blade, surrounded by tiny cheering embers; a great boulder, desperately moving about an iron fence, trying to reach a small pile of crying gravel.

A man and woman standing beside a small mess of cheering, crying sandy-or-red-haired children.

His mouth twisted again, this time in a mix of jaw-setting and maybe a hint of confusion. Ye gods and little fishes, he was really off his game right now. Finally he just mumbled something and took a folded paper and a spray-paint can.

"...yeah. Troublesome."

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Gabriel was a sharp man, and he'd gained a fair bit of skill in reading body language while he'd been actively mentoring kids in Southside, before hero-ing took up so much of his schedule. So the grimace on Crow's face wasn't lost to him, and it made him frown slightly as he paused, floating barely an inch above the roof.

"Is something wrong, Crow? I didn't hurt you worse than I thought when I subdued you, did I?"

His concern was sincere, but as the young man wasn't clutching himself in pain he wasn't rushing to his side. Still, the upcoming fight required they have their head in the game with no distractions.

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"Nothing." The teen snapped; a bit more curt than he should have. The unfolded paper turned out to be a stencil - oddly shaped, like some kind of sigil. He turned it sideways slightly. Then a bit more to the right. Lifted it up. Turned it. Wait a sec...dangit. Not that way. Other way? He kept putting it up against the wall, bringing it down, turning it sideways, putting it back up. After a few moments the tenseness in his shoulders settled somewhat, and his next words were a tad less...abrasive.

"Just..." Man, this was sounding awkward. "...bulk of them are jerks. Not all of them."

Bit of a mumble. Before Gabe could reply, his head jerked up with inspiration; aha! He turned the paper over; making it readily apparent that the sigil was upside-down!

There we go. He slapped the paper up on the wall and started shaking the can in his hand, turning the head and hood slightly to catch Gabriel in...did he have peripheral vision with that mask?

"What's the street address?"

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Gabriel was taken aback by the youth's statement. He almost retorted something off the top of his head, then stopped to really think about it. Perhaps he was a bit hasty in generalizing, though he didn't think his extreme caution with the Fae was unjustified.

"Maybe you're right."

He lapsed into silence while Crow fiddled with the sigil (whose purpose he could at least guess at, though with the way he kept turning it about...).Finally he was asked for the address.

"It's over at-"

(OOC: Insert street address here.)

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Crow sighed; damnit, he was in a fine mood right now, wasn't he? He'd bounced back from some bad circumstances with a solid quip before, but right now...

The teenage hero slapped the paper up on the wall right-side up, and finished shaking the can; aiming it and spritzing a cool blue paint over the stenciled outline. Up one bar, over two, long curve, right three...he noted the address and gave a short nod of thanks; couldn't speak while working 'de magics.' Concentration, hoy.

Shouldn't be a problem, though. He'd pulled this trick off with smaller runes before in the lab, original idea was for emergency one-stop booby traps, after all. With a few more complicated ones in case of, say, instant magic shield or quick getaway. Though he hadn't tested those ones yet...

Well, it should work. It did in theory.

"Hopefully this time it won't explode..." He muttered under his breath.

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Gabriel lapsed into silence, a bit unsure of what to say. He'd heard some basic info about the younger hero (it was obvious he wasn't into his second decade yet) in front of him. But only the basics, really. Not enough to have prior insight. So seeing him pull out what looked like the stencil for a magical rune intrigued him. The hero in white floated a bit closer, his eyes taking in the design of the rune.

'Hm. Sympathetic rune...Oh! Interesting. A link between here and there. He must be powering it somehow; those things don't just power themselves up.'

Then the boy's remark about an explosion registered, and Gabriel unconsciously floated back about a half-foot. He got read to try and grab the boy if things went south.

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It was good to have something to focus his mind on, something to occupy his hands with. Idleness would have been the worst possible thing for Crow to deal with right now - he needed...distraction; to put it mildly. And trying a new runic toy was extremely distracting. He finished spraying the blue paint and took down the stencil, folding it quite neatly and putting it back into one of the coat's many interior pockets.

Haste was the word of the day, now. But haste tempered by care. He leaned forward and examined the spray-painted rune carefully, then nodded. A deep breath.

"Once more into the breach..." He mumbled. Then he slapped a gloved hand on that rune, and just focused. Focus on the sympathy runes on his gloves. The same principle of translocation; just...reversed. Channel it through the wall. Those bricks are now those bricks. Those bricks are now those bricks. And because those bricks are those bricks...

...ooh, hindsight, he really should have pondered whether this would irk Doctor Metropolis or not...

Power spike! Crow lashed his will against the energies focused behind those two symbols, and light flared about the wall; racing up the mortar around the spray-painted rune and starting to glow. There was a moment where it seemed the alley was holding it's breath...and then click. Crow resisted the urge to sag with relief.

It worked.

He cast lines of connection between the two sides with far greater ease, placing both hands on the wall and pushing. The rune started to collapse forward...no, wait, that was the bricks. A large square of bricks fell forward at his push, landing with clinks and cracks upon concrete on the other side. Morgan peered through a hole just large enough to climb through, then poked his head through, looking about. Small alleyway, fairly dingy...sound of rushing water. Didn't smell like seawater, though, so couldn't be Waterfront...Riverside? He turned his head left, noting the street and the warehouse opposite with a nod, and pulled his head back through to face Gabe.

"That the place?" Crow thumbed at the ersatz tunnel.

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"...dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead."

Gabriel finished the line without even thinking about it, mostly engaged in watching the rune take form...and preparing to grab the boy and try to run away, if it came to that. But then the rune snapped into place and even Gabriel felt something shift a bit. Then the boy knocked a hole in the way, and he couldn't help but chuckle.

"Metropolis will give us a few minutes before he fixes that, I imagine..And yes, that is the place."

His face became serious as he stepped up and through the portal, his gaze locked on the warehouse.

"I'd hoped to never come back here...not the best of days, that one."

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Crow hopped through, and nodded at Gabriel as he did so; turning to face the bricks. Under the mask, he closed his eyes, reached out to the power...and snapped his fingers. The bricks fairly leapt up from the ground, fitting back into place within a few seconds, and they both felt rather than heard a slight snap as the power connection cut. A tiny smile began to quirk Crow's face before he marshalled that impassive demeanor again, and he turned to step down the alleyway; murmuring.

"Rude not to clean up your own mess."

Keep distracting. Focus on other things. The man had finished the sentence - he knew Shakespeare. Granted, not a lot of people didn't, but showed the hero was classically read. That was interesting. Sort-of. He logged it away for future reference. Maybe try quoting other Shakespeare plays later, see if it garnered a reaction. Better than dwelling o-CHANGE THOUGHTS NOW.

Okay. Gabe said he'd been here before. That means prior intelligence. Holy cow, they actually had prior intelligence on this place? He was used to going in blind with the others and trusting them to have their back, but a chance to go in with a Plan was absolutely wonderful. Seriously - he could have hugged the man there. Crow halted a good way from the end of the alley, standing in a somewhat more darkened area and scanning the buildingfront.

"Dealing with fae usually isn't. Best of days, I mean. What can you tell me about the building? Layout, entrances, escape routes, pitfalls, etcetera."

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"Cleanliness is next to godliness. Or so I've heard."

The slight smile that came to his face faded quickly, though. He was silent for several moments as he stared at the warhouse. When he spoke, it was flat, emotionless, as if reading from a boring book.

"Pretty standard warehouse. It had stone floors. Mostly bare walls. High ceiling, I think a couple catwalks. Seemed like it was divided into a couple sub-sections, but both looked to be set up the same, just a high wall halfway down. Poor lighting, either natural or artificial. Also apparently a weak point in between here and the Fae lands."

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Crow resisted the urge to snerk at Gabe's remark, and instead closed his eyes behind the mask and let the information wash over him. Slow, steady breaths. Create a mental image of the description. A rough estimate of the building's dimensions popped into the teen's head, trying to match up with the exterior he'd seen. Building was innocuous; but bets were there were defenses. Poor lighting gave him options - few, perhaps, but some; easier way to stealth about in a pinch.

The problem was even money that fae prince was expecting them. And he probably had some form of defenses on the interior...

A beat.

Wait...look back on what he'd done before. Played the two against each other. Messed with their heads. Done so ad nauseam. The prince didn't tackle them head-on...and no doubt he didn't plan on doing so either. He was operating covert. Which meant the inside of that building likely wasn't painfully direct; it'd be a funhouse. Quickest solution would be to bring the thing down on the prince's head, but that would be unacceptable collateral damage. Going in headfirst would walk right into the traps, and while he was confident both he and Gabe could kick the traps out from the inside, why spring a trap in the first place if you could avoid it?

His eyes snapped open behind the mask, and then the featureless face turned towards Gabriel. The words came fast and sharp.

"It's a funhouse. Gotta be. He doesn't stand and fight, and he didn't lead us here intentionally - which meant he isn't looking for a stand-up brawl. Easy retreat, easy arrival of reinforcements if neccessary, and dollars to doughnuts he's got all sorts of glamered illusions waiting for us in there. It's a bottleneck." The mouth under the mask smiled slightly. "Though that also works in reverse - makes it easy to cut him off if you know how. How's your sweet-talk?"

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