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Hell's Strings[IC]

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May 20th, Monday, 2013

Beaudrie Opera House, Theatrical District, Freedom City


"...And that, more or less, is why we invited you two rockers to our fine institution" explained Celeste Beaudrie, the pale middle-aged woman looking trim and crisp in her austere blue suit and skirt,  standing beside the door leading into the backstage. Through the walls thrilled the voice of Marguerite, singing desolately of lost love. The dark hallway buzzed with activity, busy people marching, jogging or dashing past on the jobs that ran the opera.


"You go on in half an hour. Everything has been made prepared for your performance and we have some of the best musical equipment in the city if you need more. Any questions?" She asked briskly, checking her watch for a flickering moment.

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"It's been a long time since I rocked out on stage" said Carmen, honestly. Not that we was shy. You could go a long way in rock with just some attitude. 


She recalled her days in a few punk rock bands as a teenager and beyond. The Burning Chicks, The Rioters, and one particularly terrible outfit Unconstructive Feedback, whose repetoire had consisted almost entirely of wailing feedback loops. 


"Still, I can probably knock out a few power chords and a shrill wail..." she laughed. And, of course, breathe fire and rain heavy metal (literally) if it came to it. 


And no critique from you, Tazel. And no singing, either...


"Just, Oooh - give me a good guitar" she sang, recalling the cover she had performed with Useless Punkass, and grabbing what looked to be the shiniest and reddest guitar available. 


She gave a saucy wink to Riff. 

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Well, it's not like the tour ever really ends. Riff thought as he heard Beaudrie explain what was going on. Still felt a little odd to be performing at the Opera House. Then again his typical venues had megalomaniacs running around.or strange things going on behind the scenes. At least the Acoustics were nice as far as he could tell from what was already going on.  


The Guitar Genius lifted his guitar case and tapped it. "Shouldn't have much trouble on the equipment side of things so long as I have Sound-Breaker here." He replied. "I am a bit curious about how the audience is doing though." He asked.


Warren turned and gave Carmen a sly smile. 

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"Of course, miss Cantos" Celeste said, politely ignoring the glances the two were giving each other "we can provide you with whatever you might need. My cousin Angela is nothing if not thoughtful like that. As for how the crowd is doing, Mr. Wilder" she turned to the young man with something approaching excitement in her voice "They always come to see Faust! It's a timeless tale, and they never leave unhappy. Your follow-up performance lends it a little of the unexpected spice." She all but smiled.

Nodding to the pair she set off for the dizzying stairs "Go on in, and do your thing. Break a leg, preferably each others'."

She was soon lost in the crowd of stagehands and chatting ballerinas.


The door opened a few seconds after she left, and the two were waved in by a lean, African-American bald man with a nametag declaring him to be "ERIC ANDREWS, Director", eyes fixed on a clipboard in his right hand, speaking rapidly into a headset "Nonono, it's left-white, right-blue for the scene flourish...okay, yeah, you got it" looking up at the two he smiled quickly and beckoned them in "Cantos and Wilder, right? I'm Eric, you go in in twenty, ask Neeraf, guy in the turban, about your equipment and he'll help you get ready. Get killed" Nodding and smiling more times than was strictly normal in a second, Eric vanished into a maze of backdrops to talk with a young woman about a river.

Edited by Arichamus
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"No rest for the wicked" commented Carmen to Rift, noting the hectic speed of the organisation. 


No no, you can rest, you little toad...she hissed internally to Tazel. 


She elbowed her way towards Neeraf, and the equipment on display. She knew more about guitars than she knew how to play, it came with her job. Heavy metal nerds had a habit of worshipping axe gods and slobbering over exactly what guitar and amplification they used. She was more interested in the music and the people, but she had to pander to the masses at Rock Report. 


"I'm leaving the pyrotechnics to you" she said to Rift. "It's been years since I played in a band, and I was always more about the scene than the playing. I can lay down some chords and shout in a mike, but thats about it!" she explained with a wink. She really should get the practice in, she decided. 

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"Yep." Riff responded to Carmen as he followed after them. His eyes and ears kept searching the crowd everywhere from backstage to the audience. Opera houses were a favorite attack spot from the Maestro and facing down the infamous Conductor of Crime was not something he wanted to deal with right now.


​"If there are any pyrotechnics, the stage hands are probably working on them." He said as he opened up his case and pulled out his black and blue guitar. He strummed a few cords and started twisting the machine heads. "I wouldn't worry too much. You must have at least some skills if they brought you in." He went on to say with a smile. Riff did admit he wasn't sure if she was just being modest or she was out of practice. That mystery will probally be answered once they hit the stage.


He did pause for a second though. Did the director just tell me to get ready to get killed? The Guitar Genius was hoping he was just imagining that part.

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The other stagehands rushing around the back were quite helpful, taking the time to show the two where to set up their band equipment(a pair of amps, mic stands and a couple of subwoofers), with a few extras hauling out an old but very sturdy-looking drum set.


The next twenty minutes were surprisingly tense, as Faust drew to its famed and soul-shattering close, Marguerite's, Mephistopheles' and Faust's voices ringing out as the orchestra gave a final thundering crash, the distant *WHOOMPH* of the curtain falling soon after. As the applause began the stagehands quickly set about clearing the stage's sets, wooden clouds rolling past them on wheels as the singers gradually wandered by to the dressing rooms, laughing and chatting among each other after the curtain call.


"Break your legs, dude!" one of the swordsmen called over to Warren cheerfully, a few of the shepherdess ballerinas streaming around them like a white wave around two rocks gave friendly waves and smiles to Carmen, and proud Mephistopheles raised his hat to them and nodded as he strolled into the milling crowd.


Then all drew quiet, the stage was deserted, and the world held its breath. Then hard shoes sounded on the boards a few feet from them past the thick red curtain. 


"Ladies and gentlemen" a voice called out distantly "If you would be so kind as to welcome...the Rockin' Duo, Canto and Wilder!"


To a roar of claps, the curtain rose like two wings sweeping to the sides, revealing Celeste bowing slightly as she retreated to a nearby door hidden from the audience, smiling cheerfully and adding her own quiet tap of one hand on the other to the roar of enthusiasm. Hundreds of eyes were soon on the pair, waiting for them to begin. Again the Beaudrie Opera House was quiet.



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Carmen pumped her fist to the audience and pumped her blood full of adrenaline. How long had it been since she had played in front of an audience. Years. Too long. Well, she never really wanted to be a rock star, but she loved the power of rock. 


Damn, she was out of practice. She could play it safe, but...


Life's too short for safe...


She spat out a quick lick and fell into a heavy heavy power chord riff, fast, choppy and low, full of promise for Riff to do his work with more intricate fretwork and melody. But it had a groove, a hypnotic groove that caught the crowd. 


She half yelled, half sang into the microphone, full of abandon. It could have done with some auto-tune, but its very freshness was invigourating, and it didn't sound half bad...

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Not bad at all. Riff thought as he started to play his own guitar. Years of practice showed as his fingers danced along the fretboard, a cascade of melodies echoed through the theater as he tried to match Carmen's guitar work. He sang quite well, choosing lyrics he worked on before the show had started when he was asked to come here. it wasn't bad singing, though it was eclipsed at times by his stage partners vocal work. 


He smiled as the show went on. Things were going well. Perhaps his paranoia was unfounded.

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Unlike most of their gigs, the audience here remained quiet for most of the duo's performance, though there was the stray enthusiastic clap at a perfectly executed string of the more complex chords, and as Carmen's voice fell from a particularly high note an answering whoop rang out from one of the private boxes and was hurriedly silenced among a chorus of giggles.


For all that, the Freedonians waited patiently for the end, for the last echo of the last chord and the last syllable to fall away...to jump to their feet and give them a thunderous applause, gleefully chanting their names and a few giving tentative whistles of appreciation!


Celeste Beaudrie joined them on the stage, bowing and waving grandly to the audience and taking a mic from the stands to say "Thank you all very much! And thank you, Carmen and Warren, for giving us a chance to hear such beauty and art. We hope you join us again soon! Give them a big hand, everybody!" she added with a dazzling grin, stepping back and clapping politely as the audience began to happily oblige. The cacophony rang to the ceiling, rumbling like the crash of the sea.


Suddenly, cutting straight through the noise, the gentle sound of a piano began. The crowd quickly grew silent, looking around and searching for where it was coming from. Celeste's face grew very composed, her lips pursing grimly. Serenely, from out of a dark corner of the hall, a piano and stool floated through the air towards the stage, the Freedonians crying out in surprise and curiosity, taking pictures with cellphones or cameras and chatting excitedly(and a little nervously) about who this mystery super could be, with more than a few already getting to their feet and making quickly for the doors.


Seated at the stool was a young woman with short black hair in a spotless tuxedo, playing a beautiful nocturne by Frederic Chopin. Coming to rest before the pair of rockers, she turned and smiled graciously to them, her hands never ceasing to move in the elegant dance of Baroque music. "Good afternoon" she said in a light voice "I'm Mary, Mary Venn. I was wondering if you fine people would care for a little...contest?" "Say 'no'" whispered Celeste fiercely, the middle-aged woman staring at Mary like someone watching a dangerous animal "Please. The last one..they didn't make it."

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The hair on the back of Carmen's neck twitched. 


"I've seen a few more things in my life that I really would have liked to. And that adds to the list" she whistled through puffed cheeks. What was it? a ghost? a demon?


Her fingers itched for the Cantos cane she had left backstage. Her father's stick was full of power over the infernal, and would let her see through any subterfuge. 


Instead, her hands, with sweat, gripped her guitar. 


"I don't know about you Riff, but I'm too rusty on the fretboard to play crossroads for my soul with some spooky witch" she whispered. 


"What happens if we bow out gracefully? or even without any grace at all?"


"And who is she???" she hissed at Celeste. 

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Warren smiled as the audience applauded. Sure, he wasn't use to them restraining themselves until the very end but it was nice to completely focus on his music for a change. His smile however started to fade when he spotted the floating piano that was approaching the stage.


Only in Freedom City would he consider something like this remotely normal. Then again, he was expecting something to happen. 


Riffs eyes darted between Carmen and Mary Venn. "Not that I'm agreeing to anything, but what exactly are you are proposing for you contest?" As he spoke, the air around him started to warp and twist. He slowly walked around the stage, deliberately putting himself between the mysterious pianist and the two women onstage. He was curious as to what Celest and Mary's history were though.

Edited by Darksider42
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"Mz. Canto, Mr. Wilder," Celeste Beaudrie said between pursed lips "Allow me to introduce one of our finest up-and-coming pianists, Ms. Venn. Her talents appear to have-" "You said I would never be one of the greats, Ms. Beaudrie" replied the young woman as she subtly increased the tempo of her music "I have proven you wrong on two very memorable occasions. I shall do so again today. Mr. Wilder!" she said cheerfully turning to the young man, black eyes twinkling mischievously "Much as it pains me to try and do battle with somebody many at FCU consider a hero of music, I would like to challenge yourself and Mrs. Canto to a musical duel! We shall use our respective talents to try and overpower each other. The winner dictates what happens to the losers." Her tone left no doubt who she thought that would be.


"I refuse to let this happen, Mary" snapped the matron of the opera, glaring at the younger woman furiously enough that she shifted a little uncomfortably in her seat as she replied haughtily "It's in their hands Madame, though it would be disingenuous of me to fail in mentioning that if they decline my thrown gauntlet I shall make sure the people attending here never forget this day. Ever."


As she spoke, she tapped a sharp, discordant note that rang through the air. At the same time, every door in the room slammed shut, refusing to budge despite the increasingly desperate efforts of the audience as they realized what was about to happen!


"Afraid they'll make you look like a fool Mary?" Celeste said coldly "Or are you that bad at holding people's attention?" The girl's hands almost stopped playing as she whirled around from admiring her handiwork to look daggers at her former employer. After a furious moment she said "Very well, I won't pass up a chance to prove you wrong." and played a soft series of notes that caused the doors to swing gently open, letting the vast majority of Freedonians rushing from the room, though it was an orderly kind of retreat that a giant rampaging monster might not have gotten.


'Carmen!' hissed Tazel 'That's demon juice in that song, I think she's got a little brimstone in her. It feels like a- er...maybe we should say no...'

Edited by Arichamus
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"Well that's no choice at all, is it?" retorted Carmen, angrily, as the doors slammed shut. 


She had every faith in Riff's pyrotechnics on the fretboard. But as for herself? she was an amateur. She had the attitude, but not the chops. 


Part of her felt the fury and heat coming on. Perhaps Tazel was nudging her there. She could imagine throwing a smouldering chain of barbs into the piano, smashing it to splinters, and ripping its wires. No more notes that shut doors.


But she had no intention of exploding into the smoke and flames of Pitch in front of everybody. Hell, her life was complicated enough. And besides, she really didn't know what she was up against. She didn't trust Tazel as far as she could throw him. And given he was a living wisp of flame, and couldn't be held on to, much less thrown, that wasn't very far at all. 


"Riff...I can't play against her. It's up to you, dude..." she said, shoulders sagging. 

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Riff rolled his eyes. Why is it always the ones with the inferiority complex? 


"Well, I suppose I could play along with your game for awhile. Not like we are performing before a live audience or anything like that." He announced as he started to make a few quick last second tune up to his guitar.. He looked over his shoulder to Carmen. "It might be smart to get moving. Unless you really want to stick around." He didn't know exactly what to expect from this woman, but he had a feeling things were about to get torn up and fast. Better no one got caught in the crossfire.

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"Indeed, stand aside Ms. Canto!" snapped Mary as her fingers suddenly started playing a very different, darker song on the ivory keys, the piano lifting off again as she played. Celeste started backwards, "All right, fine, if that's what you two want I can't exactly stop you" the woman said bitterly, making her way quickly backstage, calling over her shoulder "Follow me Carmen! We'll get out of there and leave Mr. Wilder to deal with Mary. You made a choice this time Miss Venn" she added, pausing for a moment to smile triumphantly at the floating pianist "This time you're up against someone who can fight back!"


Flame filled the eyes of the younger woman, who in answer slammed her hands onto the keyboard making a discordant wail, causing foot-tall notes of blue fire and reeking of sulphur to spiral out from the piano and hurl themselves at Riff! They weren't hard to dodge though, not for a superhero like Warren.

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Carmen staggered back, leaning on Mr. Wilder for balance. 


"Who the hell is that woman?" she asked, grasping Mr. Wilder's lapel. "The phantom of the opera? Whoever, or whatever, she is, you better your staff out of here...between she and Riff, they could bring the Opera house down around our ears..." she said with furious urgency. 


She could feel her passion rising. Anger at having to leave, and anger at leaving. 


She gripped her cane from a stage hand and used to it to gain proper footing. 


She turned round to see the duel, and caught sight of the piano...


With the Cantos cane in her hand, she could see the piano as blazing with infernal fire and power. The keys appeared as cracked laughing teeth, the woodwork was warped and blackened brass, an impossible and furious thing, alive with passion. 


Carmen didn't know what demons where, and doubted anyone did, not any religious text, not even demons themselves sometimes. They were an affront to everything, including themselves. But she could sure as hell recognise them when the Cantos cane was in her hand. Beautiful and ugly all at the same time. 


And Mary was tapping into the piano, playing it like a virtuoso. Or perhaps the piano was playing her?

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Riff ducked to the side as bolts of hellfire came spiralling towards him. "OK, not a bad opener. You really screwed up that note though." The guitar genius rambled as he gripped his guitar and strummed a note that sent pure sound crashing right into the demonically powered pianist. "Now thats how you hit a note."


"Hey! I usually try to reduce collateral damage." Riff said to Carmen behind him. "Though the running part is still a good idea though." He said with a slight hint in his voice.

Edited by Darksider42
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The sonic blast washed through Mary with a shout of mixed pain and anger, the woman forcing an eye open to glare daggers at the rock hero. Carmen could see the demon in the piano howl with fury. A bruise stretching from her right hand to her neck was already beginning to darken under her skin, and the power surrounding her like a sheathe of flame flickered and dimmed, just a little.


Suddenly whipping open the grand piano's glossy black cover with an impossible flick of her hand, Mary gestured and cried "Take this Riff! Be CONSUMED by the power of music! By the power of the wires we both adore!" at her command the piano strings suddenly leaped from their holdings, multiplying into a forest of metal tendrils that lunged at Warren! Again, the attack had more power than skill behind it however, and the hero escaped the grasping demon piano by a wire's breadth!

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If there is demons at work, then so am I!


Pitch couldn't match the guitar work or musical complexities being thrown around, but to her mind, she wouldn't play by any rules now. 


"Just get everyone out, Mr. Wilder. I'm sure Riff can handle the lady, but I don't know if this building can..." she said, before taking her cane and limping off out of the back stage. 


As soon as she was out of ear shot, she gathered up her will, grasped her cane, and closed her eyes...


Fire me up, Tazel!


The demon in her belly did as it was commanded, bubbling through her lungs and blood, enveloping her in smoke and wisps of flame. Her clothes changed to leather, silk, and leather studs, her eyes blazed red, and smoke belched from her mouth. 


"That's the spirit!" she smiled, before about turning and marching back on to the stage. 


Her entrance, all billowing smoke and fleck of flame, was not to be missed. 


"That's enough, madam!" she roared through fiery breath. "That piano is made of demon bones and curses! it's time for some silence!!!"

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Riff leaned back just as the strings came within an inch of touching him. He was certain they were partially stopped by his sound barrier. Though without amount of torture Mary was cranking out with her piano was starting to grate on the guitarists nerves. "Already am thank you very much." Riff said as he stepped back and unleashed another cord that crashed against the pianist. He did not seem to noticed Carmen make a run for it, though if he did he would have to agree the fight had to end soon.


He looked over behind him and was surprised with the appearance of Pitch. He sighed, even though it was somewhat apparent this woman had come to help. Should have guessed Faust would be popular with the forces of hell...

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Mary glared at the newly-revealed Pitch, and even the demon in the piano seemed to recoil a little at the woman's approach. The pianist reared up, eyes alight with infernal power, raising her hands to begin another devilish piece when Riff's sonic attack screamed through and around her, knocking her and the possessed instrument through the air, slamming both of them against the far wall in an explosion of plaster dust and wood fragments!


The dust cleared, showing Ms. Venn slumped over the opened the piano case and groaning in pain as she slowly got up, and just for a moment a face made of flame flickered across the black wood.


"Oh dear me..." Riff heard Celeste mutter, the Beaudrie matron wincing at the sight of the damage.

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Riff winced at the damage he just caused. He was hoping Celeste had been keeping up with her insurance. "Well, can't play the same tune all day." He muttered as his fingers became a blur as he played his guitar, sending a twisted frequency at the demonic performer floating above. 


Hopefully the opening attack on her had affected her enough for this to knock her out.

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The wash of sonic power hummed through the possessed pianist and the devilish piano, causing a low wail like screeching wires to come from it, and Mary to rattle and twitch as her body fought to recover some kind of equilibrium among the sound waves battering its nerves!


With a *snap*, she was abruptly still and Riff's sound waves went dead, sitting ramrod straight on the bench and looking Riff in the eye. Though hers were rather glazed and she was obviously still badly shaken from the brutal sonic strike, clothes battered and impeccable hair in chaos, the woman still managed to present a somewhat dignified front to the guitar genius and the infernal binder.


"Oh thank god, he's got control over his powers" muttered Celeste in relief as she ducked out of the hall "Hope that other one doesn't burn any of the curtains or chairs. It'd be a nightmare to clean. Good a time as any to call the police I suppose"

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"Huh." Apparently Riff was expecting a little more from that attack than remain standing. The guitarist started to float upwards into the air, coat billowing behind him as he looked down at Mary. "Well, encore will have to do." He said as he strummed out another wave of sound at the invernal pianist, angling the shot so the mysterious woman on fire wouldn't get hit. He raised his eyebrow as he caught a few words from the now retreating Celeste. Would have expected a little more confidence than that.

Edited by Darksider42
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