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October 6th, Saturday, 11.45. Lantern Hill, Parkhurst Hotel

The day on Lantern Hill was laden with tenacious clouds of mist, clinging to the quiet and dark corner of Freedom City overlooking the bustling metropolis.

For reasons best known to himself, Claremont student and superhero Subito Sondo had decided that a visit to the mystical hosts of Parkhurst Hotel to learn about national spirits required him to wear his Sunday best, and he tugged uneasily at his well-pressed black collar as he walked quickly up the sidewalk, stopping when he reached one of the older mailboxes to glance around at the austere and old-fashioned lines of buildings with a baffled look. So far the directions were right, but the presence of a hotel was conspicuously lacking.

Turning to Morgan Crowe, the stocky Puerto Rican teen asked bluntly "So...where the heck is the place? 'Can't see it anywhere."

He had decided to take up on his suggestion that he ask Morgan for a talk about spirits and how to try and access their memories, eagerly seeking out the cunning teen as soon as he could.

Taking another look around the murky street, he added with a grateful smile that lit up his swarthy face "Thanks for this, by the way Morg. I hope both your pals are in! I'd love to meet Ms. Etain and Mr. Cimitiere!"

Edited by Arichamus
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Morgan Crowe, Claremont student and incognito superhero, also tugged at the collar of his ubiquitous pea coat - that black coat, blue jeans, hiking boots, and worn-out duffel bag making him stand out quite a bit from Subito in his Sunday best. Then again, he did have at least a button-up shirt underneath the coat, so perhaps he did think he was well-dressed for the occasion...

"Magic shenanigans, bro." He replied, walking past Subito and starting up the hill. A few steps in, he turned around and made a 'follow-me' gesture, shrugging. "Gotta keep the riff-raff from riff-raffing or raff-riffing around here, y'know? And keep the more magic-inclined baddos from knocking on our door. That, and it's the perogative of mages to be secretive and hidden away and oh gods I can't say that with a straight face."

Facepalm. His shoulders shook with hidden mirth, and he cocked his head sideways. "So how the heck did you find out about the place, anyway? Granted, we do a lot of local arcane help-work, but it's not exactly on the public radar."

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"Yeah, those riff-raff and their raff-riffing" Subito acknowledged with a smirk, eyes darting around the hill's crown as he searched for the hidden sanctum of Freedom City's less well-known mages. 'Should I be doing a thing? Making a flare? Some kind of sign? Morg's not, but...crap, this is bad.' He had to admit however, as he peered about, that Morgan's explanation was quite sound. 'They keep hidden, makes it harder for people who wanna hurt 'em to start doin' that at their base. Also makes sure random people like me can't just walk right up and leave bags of mail at the door' he was considering how exactly to ask the luminaries he was about to meet about his problem, when he was jolted by the other Academy student's question.

"So how the heck did you find out about the place, anyway? Granted, we do a lot of local arcane help-work, but it's not exactly on the public radar."

'Oh.' "Huh?" he asked, looking like a deer in the headlights before he recovered himself, looking sheepishly askance at Morgan "Oh, uh..I was talkin' with John Smith in a study group, and I mentioned this question I had about, well, my spirit the Dama Azul. He said he didn't know much about magic or the workings of spirits. But he also told me about a necromancer he'd met once, who apparently works a lot at Parkhurst Hotel, who could probably help." Looking now straight ahead and at the footpath they pair of teens were proceeding on, he concluded softly "And he said that you and Ms. Maher worked with him, so I would be wise to ask you for a meetin' instead of blundering around on my own. And then...here I am!" he said brightly, turning a slightly weakened smile at the other boy. The excitement was more than a little feigned by now. A feeling like an ache in his stomach kept happening when he remembered the meeting, and what had happened.

Nearly stumbling over the front porch, he rubbed his shin with a wince, saying ruefully to the rune-maker "Ow. So, do I need t'be blndfolded magically, or how does this work?"

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Morgan eyerolled at the sound of knee impacting invisible porch, and clapped a hand to Subito's shoulder - pulling him back a good few centimetres. So John had clued him? Well, in that case, Morgan'd back this decision to the moon and back - if there was one other person who's judgement he trusted the same or even moreso than his own other than Victoria or his father, it was John Smith.

"Necroma-oh! You mean Nicky; yeah, he's prolly in. Don't know if he's still doing consultations, but we can ask. And well, blundering around on your own can have it's benefits." He said rather idly, rummaging around in his pockets for a familiar object. Didn't usually have to break this out, but then they didn't usually bring complete strangers to the place without going through the telelocation study deep on the interior. Mental note, double-check defenses around that room, reinforce if needed. "Most of the tricks I got, besides the coat, are trial an' error. Experimentation, hours in a lab or in a library, nose-deep in some book or watchin' some new rune sputter and fume on your workdesk - nothing like feelin' like you're doing magic science, bro."

A grin. He pulled a small...thing...out of one pocket - it looked like a palm-sized charm made of bone and metal. A rune was engraved on the front - one of an eye. "Call this the garage-door opener. Hang on a tick..." Morgan seemed to stare at the charm for a moment, muttering something incomprehensible under his breath.

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Blinking at the charm, Subito asked curiously "Why is it called-" and then Parkhurst emerged like some magnificent ship from Freedom City's past and left him speechless in amazement.

Iron-wrought decorations curled around the stately oaken and pine front porch, depicting the railway engines and vast American plains that had made James Astoria's fortune years ago, gleamed and twining in the frail light, the mist of the Hill circling the Hotel. Thick Corinthian-style pillars held up the austere gray porch roof and held small electric lights. The house itself was a classic Victorian-style mansion, its roof many-peaked peaked and its eaves tilted to send water and snow spilling onto the ground. Silent and arched windows peered out into the foggy Lantern Hill day, surrounded by marble floral decorations in the form of orchid petals. The gutters around the House were marked by gnarled and twisted faces who spat out the rain through their gaping mouths, and their brother gargoyles leered and slunk against the walls.

The structure of old Parkhusrt reared above the rune-maker and the newcomer, silent as any grave.

"I..whoa" breathed Subito, staring with wide hazel eyes up at the house of magic. At last he managed to come back to himself, got to his full height, took a deep breath and gestured to the solid iron and wood front door that bore the gentle face of Mildred Astoria among its tangled roots "You first, Morg." he said with a polite smile, his eyes now dancing with excitement. Following the runemaking demigod inside, he looked around in quiet awe at the restrained yet sumptuous interior.

"So...who's in right now Morgan?" he asked hesitantly, his voice slightly lower now that the hush of the mage santcum was around them, instead of something standing in front of them.

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Morgan usually kept his voice quiet, but the grandeur of the place sometimes did lower his pitch somewhat - in this case, near inaudible. He gestured for Subito to follow him, moving under the chandelier and past the mahogany cabinets, placing his boots quite neatly on a mat set aside specifically for that sort of use. In his dorm room at Claremont, he could be as messy as he chose to be - but in Parkhurst, he considered it only polite to be fastidious as all get out.

"Most of us come and go at will - we've got rooms, but a lot of us have places outside of the hotel. Bit of a cra-errr..." He bit back the term 'crapshoot' - never know if Millie or Mrs. Astoria was listening in. "Anti-chance on who you'll get. Etain does live-in, though; and I think Nick said he'd be here today. Eh, in a pinch I can bribe Millie into making some apple pie and we can wait for him."

A grin - that in and of itself would make the trip worthwhile; the lady made some DAMN fine apple pie.

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Following Morgan's lead, Subito removed his neat shoes and stretched the toes of his socks experimentally. He could feel his feet sink into the deep carpet and barely constrained a gleeful smile at Morgan. "This place is great! S'like all those mansions you read about rolled into one. Who's Millie?" he asked with sudden interest on his swarthy and cheerful face "Is she the housekeeper or somethin'?" Leaning against one of the couches, he settled in to wait a while for one of the other occupants.

"How'd you guys get a place like this, Morg?" he asked suddenly, looking bright-eyed at the young runemaker "Must've cost a bundle!"

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A woman trailed down the staircase, clad in the typical uniform of a 19th-century maid. As she descended, the light from the window caught her - and streamed right through, making clear her semi-translucent nature. She arrived at the foot of the stairs and gave a brief bow to Crow. "Good to see you again, Master Crow," she said. She turned to Subito and gave him a quick study. "I assume your guest is properly sanctioned, then?"

"Don't think you need to throw him out on the street, Millie."

Nick Cimitiere emerged from the other end of the great hall, dressed in his usual black cross between greaser and undertaker. His makeup wasn't on, as it was quite early in the day, and he was carrying a plate with a burger on it. "Hey, Crow," he said. "Don't think I've met your friend..."

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Subito darted to attention when the anachronistic('And...ghostly? This place is crazy.') maid showed up, smiling nervously and casting about for an answer when the man in black strolled in.

Whatever Subito had expected a magician to look like, it certainly wasn't Nick Cimitiere! Blinking in surprise at the tall, handsome and relaxed looking man in leather, the stocky teen gaped before hastily recovering himself, stepping forward and offering Nick a powerful hand, face beaming and eyes shining with excitement. Finding his voice he said "Hi! Y-are you Nick Cimitiere?" he asked with a note of profound awe, pronouncing the last name in a distinctly French way. "Morg's told me all 'bout you and the folks here! Have you really been to the afterlife? Di-" he suddenly blushed and stopped shaking Nick's hand, all but scurrying backwards and bowing with an arm behind his back "Oh great and mighty Nick, my name is Subito Sondo, an' I'm a classmate of your comrade, Morgan Crowe!" peeking up from behind his lengthening black curls which he blew out of the way, he added with a tone of quite embarrassment "Uh...that's not how this is s'posed to go, is it?"

He suddenly jerked up, turning to the maid with a cheery "Hi Millie! I'm Subito, if you want any help around here while I'm visitin', don't hesitate to ask me!" the bulky Puerto Rican offered hopefully.

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A light elbow into Subito's side, and Morgan murmured beside him with a decidedly mirthful tone in his voice. "Don't drool on the carpet, Soob - it's a pain to clean."

Perhaps it would have been overly generous to describe his facial expression as 'gleeful'. It was probably more 'amused' or 'smirky'. The teenage cowl just crossed his arms, shaking his head, and eventually nodded towards the big boss man of the gothic hotel. For a given value of 'big boss man'. Either way, Morgan's face turned to a far more warm smile, replacing the amused smirk of before. Aaah, he remembered being gobsmacked meeting epic heroes. Still did once in a while. But after helping sweep up broken crockery and punching out ugly monsters with one, the mystique kind of faded.

Usually replaced with respect.

"Hey, Nick - good to see you." He tapped his forelock in the usual manner. "Sorry to just drop in like that, but Sube's got a bit of a spirit problem...well, more like questions out the wazoo - an' John told him to talk to me about it, so...yeah." A slight cough - really wished he'd called ahead on this one, but an opportunity for Millie-pie was too good to lose.

"Thing is, spirits aren't my bailiwick, leastways not as much as I'd like. But Sube here's Good People, and I owe him a few." Perhaps it was the influence of hanging around a very particular old painter, but it seemed Crow had acquired the knack of adding capitals to words in his spoken language. "Reckon a few other experts could give him a hand. And hey, if it doesn't work out, we can always erase his memory and leave him dressed in a toga on the school steps."

...it was amazing that he could say that last line with a straight face.

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"Come now, you know there is no need for that, he could not find this place again if he tried."

And there was Etain, literately. She was right behind Morgan holding a silver tray with a china teapot and cups. She was in a common outfit she wore around Parkhurst and her long dark curly hair was pulled back into a high ponytail held up with a red ribbon.

"Subito is from Claremont, and he has questions about his sponser."

She walked past them with the tray in hand towards the dining room,

"So, shall we discuss this while we eat?"

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Looking almost horrified at Morgan, Subito protested "Man, you know I wouldn't do that! I've cleaned carpets too, it's a pain in-" he hastily swallowed the rest of that sentence, both because Millie was standing right there and he wasn't sure what language was appropriate in front of her, and right then Etain appeared. Briefly marveling at her elegance and eerie grace, the young paragon realized that he should probably say something, and cheerfully proclaimed "Hello, Ms. Etain Maher! I'm very pleased to meet you, 'specially here!" He fell in beside her, adding casually "Also super-glad you turned out not to be a vampire, some of the guys at school were really wonderin' that."

That was quite true. Etain's reserved manners, old-fashioned style of dress and speech, habit of walking on sunny days with a parasol and pale skin had given rise to a serious rumor that she was some kind of vampire. None of the students who knew about actual undead put any faith in it, but the more credulous and inexperienced students like Subito were more easily taken in.

Glancing at the tray he smiled thankfully "I'd love to talk this out over tea! What kind is it, if it's okay for me to ask? You've met a lot of spirits Ms. Maher?" He swung around and asked Nick while walking backwards "Have you done a lot of work with national spirits, sir?" He looked deeply curious, though that just made him look even more excited in his current state of giddiness. He practically danced with every step that sank into the carpet.

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Nick smiled. "I'm not used to being the one people greet reverently," he said. "Come on, have a seat. As for tea, we've got a lot of blacks - some Earl Greys, some English Breakfast, a number of Oolongs - a number of greens, and some Rooibos..."

The coffee shop patter came quickly from Nick's lips. Soon, pots of tea, to the specifications of all the guests, were being floated out from the kitchen, as well as a few pastries and finger sandwiches.

"Sorry if it's overboard," he said. "Millie was... out of commission for over a century. She takes any chance she can to bust out in the kitchen." He took a sip of his tea. "National spirits, huh? I'm guessing you're talking in the animistic sense - ephemeral entities representing animals, of elements, of places and phenomena. Those... aren't usually the kind of spirits I deal in. Now, I have dealt with them a few times. Even known a few by name. But national entities? Like, the spirit of America? Can't say I've had a lot of encounters with those..."

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With a sheepish look the stocky teen said "Yeah, didn't really know how to address a powerful and experienced wizard like you. Should've guessed by the fact you weren't dressed in robes and looking like you could see my soul I oughta be more casual." At Nick's apology he grinned and shook his curly head "Nah! She's pretty grand!"

The selection of teas had Subito nearly bouncing with excitement, and he quickly chose a packet of English Breakfast, savoring the aroma before daring to take a drink. Sitting down with the utmost grace and manners at the table, he waited until the others had more or less gotten their food ready before replying to Nick. "Really? Huh. I'd have thought things like that would be all over the place." he colored as soon as the words left his mouth, and he added, quite abashed "I mean, sayin' that as someone who's never done much study or had much dealing with spirits of any kind." He took a long drink of tea to distract him from the error, and he looked briefly at the table before looking back up. He had quite a hopeful expression.

"But yeah, it's like the spirit of America. Only for Puerto Rico. She's called the Blue Dame, have you heard of her? Even if you haven't met many, you and your...co-mages?" he glanced over at Morgan and Etain for confirmation or denial "You know they work, how they go about their business, and how they can be...well...approached?"

Taking a bite from a sandwich his hazel eyes lit up. Chewing slowly, he swallowed almost noiselessly and said "That-these are delicious. Thanks very much Millie!" he called happily over to the ghost, twisting in his seat so he could look at the kitchen.

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"A vampire, really, and how do you know I am not?"

She raised an eyebrow after she poured Subito tea from his pot while he talked to Nick. She had positioned herself as server for everyone while Millie occupied herself with the sandwiches,

"I am not actually a mage, I am just someone who uses magic. Mine is a sponsered magic, which comes with certain limitations as such."

Etain leaned forward with her own tea, it was a peppermint blend she got over the holidays and stirred in some sugar,

"Anyway, this Blue Dame you are describing sounds less like the spirits Nick deals with, and more like certain entities that reside outside this current realm of existance. Such creatures cannot directly interfer with this realm, there are very resilant forces holding them back from this though they do use several methods to get around them, like contracting a mortal to act as their avatar in compliance to their will."

She said this with a nod towards Subito as she rose her own cup of tea and took a sip.

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"Etain, teasing the newbie is so declasse." Morgan commented in a rather hoity-toity voice, though given he was attacking a small pile of sandwiches with the same kind of fervor a shark would in Jaws, that rather didn't support his remark quite so much. Given his smirk after finishing a tuna one, he also knew that fact. "That, and aren't vampires supposed to be aristocratic?"

Snerkity-snerk-snerk. He knew he'd totes pay for that comment in the training ring - like in spades - but so totally worth it right there. Hee-hee-hee.

"Anyway - most of the spirits I know about are the kind tied to earth, air, fire, and water - elementals, nature spirits, y'know? All over the place, usually wearing somewhat filmy outfits in the case of air and water, and generally look at humanity with either terror, amusement, or a mix of the two. Also can be fairly loud, especially if you're messing with their landscaping or trying to kidnap them to do nasty things."

A moment of thought, then, and he munched a sandwich.

"Anyone else asked about approaching, I'd usually say 'don't bother' - but you've got chops, bro. Generally they like offerings tied to their element; plant a tree in a park if you want to talk to a local dryad, plant grain in a field to talk to a domovoi, fire spirits love Bonfire Night, that sort of thing."

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Subito gratefully sipped the tea "Yeah, that's the thing: I don't know how you approach somethi-someone like her. I mean," he winced at his slip of the tongue and went on hurriedly "we're connected and all. But actually going to her domain to talk seems like it oughta require something." Looking surprised at Etain's joking challenge he said promptly "I can hear your heart beatin'! I met a vampire once, her heart didn't beat all that much." he said darkly. Glancing over at Morgan he added curiously "Aristocratic vampires? Those seriously exist?"

"Anyway, this Blue Dame you are describing sounds less like the spirits Nick deals with, and more like certain entities that reside outside this current realm of existance. Such creatures cannot directly interfer with this realm, there are very resilant forces holding them back from this though they do use several methods to get around them, like contracting a mortal to act as their avatar in compliance to their will."

She said this with a nod towards Subito as she rose her own cup of tea and took a sip.

The suited boy lit up at those words. Being an 'avatar in compliance with their will' was a much better way of putting his job than he would have thought of, and he bobbed his head thankfully to the reserved illusionist. "Yeah, that sounds about right. She told me once she can't come into the physical world on her own." He frowned "Wait...does this mean that the Dama Azul's kind of like a god? One of the girls at school, she told me that she's powered by one of the loa, and that they can't come into the world without a human to carry them. S'this a similar kind of situation, Mr. Cimitiere?" he said Nick's name with the same kind of misplaced emphasis that often happened when someone tried to say it in a 'French' way.

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Nick tented his hands as he meditated on the question. "Well," he said, "the line between 'spirit' and 'god' is always a tricky one. The term you often see for spirits is along the lines of 'small gods' - some animist religions, like Shinto or vodoun, regard the gods at the top as spirits who've acquired enough cache to climb the ladder. Whether that's the case..." He shrugged. "The way I see it, however... gods, all the way at the top and bound under the laws and bylaws of the Pact, are the concept on their rap sheet. Let's take Ogoun, the loa of war, fire, and iron. He is all those things, in all their forms. But if we were to get down into the definitions - guerrilla war vs. nuclear war, forest fire vs. chemical fire, iron ore vs. iron blades - that is where we'd get into the purview of spirits. A spirit usually represents an aspect of the greater whole, and is wedded to it to the degree that it's often more earthly than divine."

He set down his cup and looked El Heraldo in the eyes. "So... I'd say Dama Azul traffics with gods, but isn't quite in the ballpark. If her purview expanded, or if she became an embodiment of nationalism or patriotism in all its forms, she might reach true divinity, but she's not quite there yet. Mind you, there has been some overlap in history... the Aztecs regarded Huitzilopochtli as the patron of Tenochticlan, and there's a reason the city-state was called 'Athens.'"

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"Very astute of you and yes, there were definitely aristocratic vampires, death by sucession used to be exceptionally common amongst aristocrats, so naturally gaining the ability to be immune to bullets, poison, and smothering in ones sleep was exceptionally attractive. It is far less common now, as constant exposure of the rich and famous by the media has made it much harder to keep such things secret."

Etain sat and drank her tea after a few sips she helped herself to a sandwiche as Nick more thoroughly broke down subclassifications. When he finished she set her cup down,

"I guess as her status, we can assign her the name greater spirit of yours, what do you think she has in mind for you in particular I wonder?"

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Subito met Nick's eyes and nodded slowly, digesting this new revelation. The complexity of this new world was a lot to take in, but not completely overwhelming even to the inexperienced paragon. Setting down his cup he turned to Etain with a frown that jarred with his usually cheerful face. "I...I really don't know what she has planned for me. She talks sometimes 'bout me going back home and 'finding my anvil', but whenever I ask more she gets all tight-mouthed and prissy-" he stopped and looked at something a bit above the illusionist's head, mouth moving briefly before grinning "Anyway, yeah, greater spirit sounds about right to me. Let's go with that." he took a sip of his Breakfast tea and looked back at Nick. 'He has nice eyes Agreed, comforting'

"So, she's not quite up there with gods, but she has a similar level of..I guess the word's authority, since she represents a place and people? That about right? So, what would I need to get into her world?" he rolled his shoulders for a few seconds, the warm room making the suit jacket increasingly stifling and uncomfortable. After a desperate inner struggle he slid it off him with a neat movement and, holding it folded in his arms asked Etain sheepishly "Hey, uh, where can I put this?"

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"Just fold it over your chair, bro. No worries."

Morgan had started work on another sandwich - listening with an interested mean at Nick and Etain's expertise. All made quite good sense - fit well with treatises in the library; he made a note to see if he could compile some 'cliff's notes' for Sube from what they had on hand. A 'Divinity For Dummies' series.

The others might have noted the teenage runeworker stifling a series of chuckles with root beer and sandwich.

"Well, spiritual travel's pretty...hazy, at the best of times. Extradimensional realms on the whole, like Avalon, Mag Mell, or, say, Tartarus? Usually easy enough to enter if you've got passing buisness with them, like dropping off large magical explosives - or if you can just kick in the door, wanting a word about their minions causing trouble. Portal open, hop through, away you go. But a spirit's personal realm?" He tapped his chin. "Well, lots of myths usually cover sort of...trials, or special deeds or some such that you've gotta go through before you can arrive at the spirit in question's sanctum. Dark forest, long cobbled road, the occasional mysterious beggar or giant monster. Prove your worth and all that jazz. If the lady in question is the sort to imbue a mortal with great power and drive him to great deeds..." Wink, nudge. "Then she'd prolly want to put you through the wringer before she lets you into her bacheloress pad for tea and cookies."

He leaned back in his chair, then; tossing back the remainder of the soda. "That's just my extrapolation, though - I could be on completely the wrong foot."

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Nick considered the idea as he munched on one of the sandwiches. "Well," he said after setting the sandwich down, "gods usually have their temples, even the small gods. Shinto shrines are supposed to have guardian spirits who watch over them, and in voodoo, a hounfour is usually consecrated to a particular loa. Spirits, I'd imagine, would be the same way - they'd hang out behind the scenes as places dedicated to their purpose and being. Electricity spirits at power generators, pigeon spirits at the park, subway spirits down in the tunnels..."

He looked to El Heraldo. "I know there's a few common gathering places for the Puerto Rican community in the West End, but... well, most of the ones I know are cafes and restaurants. Her presence would probably be strongest in some sort of gathering hall for the community - or even better, a representation of the territory's influence. I'd say an embassy if it was another country - God, I wish I'd paid more attention in Civics..."

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"Why do you not just go to Puerto Rico?"

Etain finished her sandwich and reached for another one,

"That is the greater spirits country? If what Nick says is true, the capital would likely be best, it is in the seat of power for the government, government is an extension of the greater community and thus should be a key point for the spirits power."

She put down her plate and looked at Heraldo,

"Though are you certain you truly need to meet with this enity? There is a good deal of risk involve in traveling to such places, even with a proper guide the rules of conduct vary from realm to realm, and you could very well be found on the end of some unsavy concequences should you violate some protocol you were unaware. Even if you do not, the answers you are seeking if you find them at all may not satisfy your questions, or may not be nessicary what you expect or are willing to believe. There is also the fact that most outsiders do not give something like direct information without a price."

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"Don't worry, Etain, that's totally where I'm goin'!" Subito assured her with a brisk grin, slinging his jacket over the back of the chair and leaning against it with perfect comfort. Taking another sandwich and holding his plate under it while he ate, he said "But I get what you're saying: why not just go to the big ol' capitol building, which is pretty much the focus of the island's soul 'cause of representative democracy and stuff, and try to commune with her there?" he took a sip of tea to chase down the sandwich, putting the plate back on the table and looking seriously at the young woman "See, back in the 1800s this guy in blue armor walked out of the sea, went up to this mountain called 'El Yunque', and vanished there without a trace. I'm betting something's up there that let's ya cross between worlds!" his excited face suddenly grew a little sheepish as he realized how that sounded "Yeah, I know, it's kinda weak, but if I'm wrong I can just fly t'the capitol. I ain't fast, but I can get there before the Blue Dame repeats herself too much calling me a dumbass." He laughed cheerily, finishing off the last of his tea and pouring out another cup of steaming water, this time choosing a packet of orange tea from the small rolling table. "Haven't tried any place around Freedom yet, Mr. Cimi-I mean, Nick" he added to the necromancer, looking back up a little more shyly than before "but I will before I head back to 'Rico with my family. Odds are good there's gonna be a national day of some kind in not too long."

Swirling the tea bag gently back and forth through the water, the stocky teen considered what the others had said. What were the chances that he'd be let in at all? And even if he was, it was being allowed to go somewhere he knew nothing about, where anything could happen. Sure, he was the Herald, but what did that even mean in another world? Would he have to show himself worthy somehow, like any other random schmoe who stumbled in for an interview, do something even more difficult and dangerous because of the power she'd given him?

"I do need to." he told Etain at last "Partly 'cause, you know, I wanna get a better understanding of her and what my job is, and also...she won't tell me about that knight through our link" he frowned and tapped his curly head "We can talk to each other with our thoughts, and when I ask her if she knows about 'im, she gets really quiet. So, I'm hopin' that if I go and ask her in person, she'll be more willing to talk. If I can give what she wants in return, I'll give it" he shrugged, saying calmly "Mebbe I'll get the answers I want, mebbe not. If I don't at least try, I'll never know, right?" Sipping his tea a little, he closed his eyes and relaxed against the chair again. Jolting suddenly forward he asked "What kind of rules or dangerous stuff would there be? I've been to the place Fairies come from a couple times, with, uh" he blushed openly and glanced away "this real badass Welsh girl I go to school with called Cerys Pfer, goes by Blodeuwedd when she's out heroing. But I bet a greater spirit's domain ain't anythin' like fairy land."

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"Not quite," said Nick, "I mean, unless the spirit wants to go for that sort of thing. Some of the more powerful forest elementals would carve out domains that look like their own little chunk of Avalon - then again, the difference between them and dryads is almost a technicality at times..."

He stirred his glass. "I'd imagine your spirit's domain would look a lot like Puerto Rico. Now, the kind of Puerto Rico... I'm not big on the territory's history, but I imagine there'd be hints of it throughout the years. From the time before it was colonized to the first settlements to how it is now, from San Juan - that is the capital, right? - to the smallest towns. As for what kind of laws it operates under... guess that would depend on what she views as the definition of 'Puerto Rico,' and what might be anathema to that. A forest fire spirit probably wouldn't be happy if you brought a pail of water to his home, after all."

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