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The 13th Hour (IC)


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Port Regal, Freedom City

Friday May 31, 2013

10:21 PM


Darkness had fallen over Freedom City.  The bright lights of the city’s downtown shone brightly in the darkness, reflecting out over the waters of the Wading and South Rivers and the Centery Narrows.  But up in the depths of Port Regal centered round Lake MacKenzie, the bright lights of the city were little more than a glow over dark trees and hills. 


Once, Port Regal was one of Freedom City's most affluent districts, but it had faded in that regarded in the last several decades.  While many of the old mansions and Victorian-era homes had been sold to business or turned into bed-and-breakfasts, there were still some of the old established families that retained their traditional family homes in the area.  One such home was situated on sprawling grounds along the banks of Lake MacKenzie. 


Set back dozens of yards from iron gates that provided entrance through the brick walls that surrounded the grounds, the large stone mansion was dark and foreboding.  Most of the building stood at three stories high, though there were a few small towers that continued on for another floor or two.  The old structure showed signs of decay and wear.  The grounds surrounding it were covered with what had clearly once been a large, well maintained garden that had long since withered away.  Tucked back in one corner of the garden, behind low iron fences, a fair number of headstones were visible in the shadowy sections of the family cemetery.


The large windows of the house were primarily dark voids, with only a few showing faint traces of light.  One such window was tall, curved topped window on the third floor, along the section that looked out towards the main garden and cemetery.  The room inside was lit only by a number of candles scattered throughout.  The ceiling of the room rose up fifteen feet above the floor, the upper recesses of the room lost in shadow that hid the detailed crown molding that decorated the ceiling.  The walls of the room were covered with tall oak bookcases, filled with old dusty tombs.  Close to the wall on the side of the room opposite a fireplace was a large table covered with old maps and stacks of other papers.


Most of the floor of the room was covered by a large antique oriental rug, other antique decorations faintly visible in the shadowy recesses of the room.  Across from the fireplace was an old brown leather sofa and just to the right, also slightly facing the large windows, sat a matching large brown leather chair.  It was in this chair that the room’s only current occupant was seated.  Dressed in warm clothing, with an old quilt over his legs, the elderly man sat with a large leather bound book on his lap, its pages showing signs of age.  Though there were a number of candles on a nightstand nearby, the elderly man was not reading the book.


Sergio D'Ascenzo did not need to read the words before him, as he already knew all of what it had to say all too well.  The same was true for many of the other tombs contained within his study.  The ninety two year old head of the D'Ascenzo family had a gaunt face with sunken eyes that glowed faintly in the candlelight.  He was thin and frail, his hands almost skeletal as they rested on the book on his lap.  Just beside the chair was the wheelchair that he had been confined to for the last ten years.  His breathing was slow and somewhat ragged. 


Sergio knew that time was growing short, not only for himself, but for the D'Ascenzos as a whole.  For forty years, he had spent the majority of his time, and huge amounts of money, researching the family history all the way back to the late Renaissance in Italy.  But it seemed that the more he learned, the more an answer alluded him.  A sound at the door to the study pulled his attention from the dark shadows of the trees on the window as he slowly turned in the direction of the door to see his butler enter the room.


In his early seventies, Walter moved rather slowly as he came across the room towards the chair Sergio was sitting in.  Tall and thin, Walter was still in the suit and tie he wore for his duties, despite the late hour.  For over forty years, Walter had worked for Sergio, and was unfailingly loyal to his employer.  Coming to a halt beside the chair, the elderly butler held out a cordless phone.  "The phone sir."


Reaching up slowly with one skeletal hand, Sergio took the phone from the butler   "Thank you Walter."  He replied, his voice weak, and slightly raspy as he paused for a moment, looking at the man before him before he went on.  "The time is drawing near once more Walter.  Soon I am afraid your time here will be over."  The old man standing beside him seemed to stiffen slightly at the comment.  "I sincerely hope that does not come to pass sir.  There is still time."  With that, the elderly butler turned and started back towards the door.


"Not enough Walter.  Not enough."  Sergio stated quietly as he began to slowly enter in a phone number on the phone.  As he finished the number, the elderly D'Ascenzo raised the receiver to one ear as the line connected and the phone on the other end began to ring.  It was no long before the call was answered.  "Hello?"  Came a male voice very familiar to Sergio, a confident voice, and more energetic than his own.


"Jonathan, it is time to gather the remaining thirteen of us."  Sergio said without further introduction.  There was a brief pause on the other end before Sergio heard a reply.  "Yes uncle.  I will begin making the arrangements."  Jonathan paused for a moment before he quickly spoke again.  "I have been able to track down the necromancer and ghost expert that operates in the Lantern Hill district and will be making contact with him soon.  Hopefully he will be willing to provide his expertise to trying to assist us."


"Hopefully indeed.  This will be our last chance for salvation."  Sergio replied.  There was a long pause before Jonathan spoke again.  "I know uncle.  I will see you before the end of the weekend."  The line went dead as Sergio lowered his hand back down onto his lap, turning back to look at the dark window.

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Port Regal, Freedom City

Friday June 7, 2013

2:40 PM


Carmen Canto guided her motorcycle down the winding roads that lead up towards the shores of Lake MacKenzie in Port Regal.  The tree lined roads were the site of several large old homes, a number of which now served commercial purposes instead of residential.  But still, the area was far less densely developed than many parts of Freedom City. 


The sky above was dark grey with rain clouds that were the edge of a tropical storm that was traveling up the eastern seaboard.  Not exactly that sort of weather one wanted to be out in when possible, but Carmen had been contacted rather suddenly earlier in the day by one of the editors at Rock Report Magazine and given an assignment to interview the lead singer of an LA based alternative band.  Carmen had done a quick bit of research on Vince D'Ascenzo, who apparently hailed from a wealthy family, which included a movie studio among its holdings.  Vince certainly had something of a reputation as a womanizer, not exactly anything unusual for a musician, but there had not been anything that had indicated he had a connection to Freedom City, but apparently he at least had distant relatives here.  From what Carmen had seen online, he was supposed to be on tour in Europe right now, and then, suddenly, he was in Freedom City and her editor had been able to arrange the interview.   


Carmen was pulled from her thoughts as she came to the address given to her by her editor.   Before her was a large mansion of a neo-gothic style that was set back several dozen yards from the low brick wall that surrounded its extensive grounds.  The old stone building was three stories tall, with a couple of small towers that went up another floor and tall peaked roofs.  The iron gates at the entrance in the brick walls were open, allowing Carmen to pull onto the long driveway that lead up to the front of the house and a nearby smaller building that looked like an old carriage house which now served as a multi-car garage.  A number of large, seemingly ancient trees were spaced about the grounds, and along one side of the house was what appeared to have once been a large garden, though it was now withered away or otherwise unkept. 


As Carmen pulled up to the front of the house, a man who appeared in his early seventies and was dressed in a butlers uniform emerged from the main door, making his way down the couple of steps along the front patio.  "Is there something I can help you with miss?"  He asked, raising his voice to be heard over the motorcycle's engine.

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Carmen killed the engine of her bike which spluttered with ill health. She gave it a friendly kick with her heel. She was pretty sure it needed an overhaul. But what with all sort's of infernal complications - literally infernal - recently, she hadn't been able to pull as much freelance work for Rock Report as usual. Not that it paid well in the first place. 


So pull this one off properly, Carmen she said to herself. 


She had dressed as properly as she could. Boots, trousers, a jacket and blouse. She looked half respectable today, and she had even risked covering up the tattoo that ran down her spine. 


Just for once, lets do this properly...sure she had a reputation as a Rock chick, but she could afford a slight dent in that today, for the purposes of making sure she got the job done properly. 


"Carmen Cantos, from Rock Report Magazine" she said politely, deleting the yo that her brain added and her mouth omitted. 


"I've come to see Vince? for an interview? its a wild wild house you have here, mister!" she added, with a smile. 

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The elderly man stiffened slightly as Carmen introduced herself before he replied.  "I am afraid I am aware of no interview.  Young master Vincent is here for a private family gathering and.."


He was interrupted by another voice from the main door.  "It's okay Walter, I had my manager arrange for a little interview while I was here."


Vince D'Ascenzo moved towards the pair, easily recognizable from the various pictures that Carmen had come across during her internet search.  Vince was indeed rather good looking, dressed in a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt, it was evident he kept himself in good shape and had a deep tan and light brown hair.  He wore a large, self-assured grin on his face as he looked Carmen up and down, his eye unabashedly lingering in places.  "I had no idea the magazine would be sending such a babe though."


"I do not believe that Master…" the elderly butler began before Vince cut him off with a raised hand.


"Uncle Sergio made me cancel a show tonight in Berlin to come all the way back here for this colossal waste of time.  But he can darn well allow me to at least give an interview while I humor him."  The young man replied, keeping his eyes on Carmen. 


"Please, come inside."  Vince stated, stepping between Carmen and the butler, to whom he had his back, gesturing towards the main entrance with his left hand.

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I'm dressed like a Stiff, for a Stiff...


Perhaps she was being hard on him. She thought. She was a wild Rock Chick, he was the other end of the Rock Road. But he wasn't a bank manager. 


She guessed ten years ago she could have partied with him, maybe even ended up in bed with him. He certainly had the looks of an idol. But now, she felt a pang of sorrow for him. He looked, well, kind of empty and hollow, as if something had been sucked out of him. 


She shook her head. Maybe she was just seeing things. Rock stars tended to fade. But he was still full of smiles, and eyes for her curves. She had a little pang of regret she didn't wear something a little more low cut. Not too low cut. But enough to glue his eyes to her for a second longer...


"Hey, I didn't know I would be interviewing such a babe" she said, curling her lip up one side of her face into a smile as she entered, her stiff limp entwined with the click of the Cantos Cane as she walked. 


"Some place you got here. Real Gothic Vibe. You moving into emo?" she asked, casually. 

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The elderly butler appeared to have given up on trying to protest Carmen's presence, following the pair as they made their way into the mansion. 


Inside, Carmen found herself in a large hallway that went back about midway into the house.  The ceiling rose up high above them, with balconies along the second and third floors overlooking the lower level.  Elaborate molding and other detail work covered the ceiling and walls, and Carmen almost felt as if she had stepped back into a different time.  There were a number of pieces of antique furniture and classical paintings spaced along the hallway.  A number of doorways stood on either side of the hallway, leading to various rooms on the main floor. 


At the opposite end of the hallway was a grand staircase which lead up to a landing from which slightly shorter staircases split off to the left and right to continue to the second floor.  A large, antique grandfather clock sat on the landing, just beneath a group of large windows which looked down on a courtyard between the two wings of the mansion.  The ticking of the mechanism in the clock faintly echoed down the hallway.


"Oh, this place belongs to my Uncle Sergio."  Vince replied with a smile.  "Though, he is actually my great-grandfather's cousin, which makes him my fourth cousin, or is it first cousin three times removed?"


The young man shrugged.  "Whatever the case, just easier to call him uncle.  But yeah, the place has like been in the family for over a hundred years or so."


Through one of the open doorways a short way down on the right hand side, Carmen could hear the sounds of a number of voices carry out into the hallway.  But Vince steered her off towards another doorway on the left hand side of the hallway, and into a sitting room adorned with lots of dark woods, worn leather furniture and an ornate fireplace.

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Carmen raised an eyebrow at the antiquated furniture, and antiquated butler. She gripped the Cantos cane firmly. 


Tell me I don't see any demons here, Tazel. 


You don't see any demons here, Master replied the demon in her belly dutifully and to the letter. 


As helpful as ever, you toad. Snorted Carmen, under her breath, with a hint of a laugh. She hoped Vince didn't here her. 


"*Ahem* Very clever, avoiding the road" she said ambiguously to Vince before ploughing on hoping to distract him from the meaningless statement. 


"Have you a family reunion here today? They must be very proud of the famous Rock Star God, eh? Have they always supported you? or are you the wild child of the family?" she started off, beginning the drilling questions. 

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Vince Regarded Carmen with a slightly puzzled look at her strange, random comment, but had little chance to say anything before she began with the questions.


He chuckled slightly as he took a seat on one of the old leather chairs.  "Yeah, it is something of a family reunion.  Though, in my opinion is a complete waste of time."


"But as for whether my family is proud of me and has supported me, well, the answer depends greatly on which part of the family you are talking about."


He smiled and then continued in explanation.  "See, there are two quite distinct branches, the West Coast branch, which I am from, and the East Coast."


"Generally, my family members on the West Coast are more supportive, though my uncle, my actual uncle, would prefer that I focused on preparing myself to someday take over running our family's movie studio.  My aunt, a fashion designer, and her daughter, my cousin, a model and aspiring actress, have a positive view my choice of pursuing a musical career, though, they are both rather disapproving of some of my other habits."  He gave Carmen a small wink, before continuing on.


"But in the eyes of the East Coast branch, I am certainly something of the black sheep.  Of course, that part of the family is made of business men, bank executives, lawyers and hedge fund managers."  Vince gave a dismissive shrug, not appearing overly concerned with how he was perceived by his more distant relatives. 

Edited by Thevshi
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"Sounds like an interesting family" said Carmen, scribbling down some notes, and readjusting herself in her chair. 


Did I just flash a bit of chest? she asked herself, wondering if she was unconsciously flirting. She wasn't sure Vince was her type, but...


"So what's next for you? Keeping with the band? collaborations? solo work? don't tell me you are hitting that mid life crisis and are going to spring some jazz fusion monster on us?" she said, trying to light the tone. She somehow felt that there was a light drizzle to the day's mood. 


"Where do you see you and your music going in the next five years? Have you still got that creative spark?" she asked, hoping a little light flattery would open him up. 

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Nick Cimitiere peered out the tinted back window of the Royals Royce extended Phantom that had picked him up a short while ago at the cemetery in Lantern Hill he often "haunted."  The car had been sent to pick up the necromancer hero by the family that had requested his assistance.


Earlier in the week, Nick had been approached by a man in his mid-sixties, Jonathan D'Ascenzo, at the Lantern Hill cemetery.  Mr. D'Ascenzo had requested the hero's assistance, for both himself and other members of his family in dealing with a long enduring curse that had hounded the family.  According to Mr. D'Ascenzo, unless Nick could come up with a way to break the curse, then he, along with twelve other members of his family would all be dead by late Sunday morning. 


Outside, the winding roads of Port Regal passed by, the sky continuing to darken and it had begun to rain as the tropical storm continued to close with the city.  Nick would not be surprised at all if thunderstorms accompanied the storm. 

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Well, at least we've got some good mood lighting for this.

Nick tried to think light, despite the grim weather - and the grim proceedings. Most of his work usually involved solving the affairs of the deceased, who didn't have to worry about incipient death, or thinking in the moment and dealing with an active crisis. A case like this, despite falling into the latter category, had a strange weight to it, a sword of Damocles hanging by a fraying thread. The whole thing weighed heavy on him.

It wasn't his first curse. There had been that rougarou thing in Shreveport, and that thing with the antique shop up the shore. But a death curse? That was a new one. It wasn't out of his purview, that was for sure. There was likely a way to unravel it. Likely...

He just stared out at the horizon, taking in the view and trying to pour over what he knew about curses before he arrived at the manor.

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Nick was pulled from his thoughts as the car reached the gate through the low brick wall that surrounded the extensive grounds of the D'Ascenzo estate.  The large neo-gothic mansion that stood down the long driveway only served to heighten the tension that the necromancer seemed to sense in the air.  The building would fit perfectly in a Hollywood horror film. 


As the Royals Royce started up the driveway, Nick picked up faint traces of magic coming from the home.  It was hard to pinpoint at the moment, but he felt whatever it was, it was quite old, and seemed almost patchwork in nature.


Standing under the covered entrance of the home, Nick saw Jonathan D'Ascenzo waiting with another man who was holding an umbrella ready.  Jonathan D'Ascenzo was in his early sixties, slightly balding with light grey hair.  He was dressed in a finely tailored dark green suit.  The man with him was even older, dressed in a butler’s uniform.


As the car came to a halt in front of the home, the elderly butler stepped out from under the covering, umbrella out and held over him as he opened the door for Nick.


"Good afternoon Mr. Cimitiere.  A pleasure to see you once more."  Jonathan stated with a small smile.  "I trust the trip was uneventful?" 

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Nick studied the manor looming before him. Normally, he'd appreciate that carefully cultivated foreboding style - but given the events facing him, it made things seem just a little bit more grim. And usually he liked grim. He didn't waste any time looking for the most obvious solutions, opening his eyes in an attempt to read the currents of magic and death that might be flowing through the house. There was a chance it could be the centerpiece of the curse... or at least tell accounts of how it had been woven.

"Pretty pleasant," he said to D'Ascenzo. "Nice and smooth all the way up. Shall we get to business?"

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Now that he was closer, and was able to study the magic a bit more, Nick could tell that what he was sensing were a number of old wards that had been put in place, apparently at different times and to different effect.  Most were quite weak, either due to age, or just how they were administered.  There was at least a couple different divine blessings, a voodoo ward, and a few others.  Many actually served to cancel each other out.   


"Yes, of course.  Most of the other family members are gathered in one of the front sitting rooms for us."  Jonathan replied as he looked over to the elderly butler.  "Walter, do you know where Vincent is?"


"He is currently in one of the drawing rooms giving an interview to a reporter from some music periodical."  The butler replied as he led Jonathan and Nick over to the covered entrance under the cover of the large umbrella he was holding, lowering it to one side and closing it once they were covered. 


Jonathan let out a slight sigh as the three entered the mansion.  "Please inform him that our guest has arrived and we need him to join the other family members."


"Of course sir."  The butler replied with a slight bow as he started towards a doorway along the left side of the large entry hall Nick found waiting for them inside. 


The large entryway, with its antique furniture and classical artwork, continued the general look and feel of the building, almost making one feel like they were in another time. 


"Just this way please."  Jonathan indicted as he started to lead Nick towards one of the doorways on the right hand side of the hallway.  Just then, the old grandfather clock situated on the landing of the grand stairwell slowly rang with three chimes, marking the arrival of the new hour. 



"Midlife crisis?"  The young singer replied with a wide grin.  "I would hope I am not there yet, still another couple of decades before I should be having one of those."


"No, for now, I can see the band continuing on for a good while, though I might be interested in pursuing a solo project or two as well."  Vince then went on.  "In fact…"


But the young man was cut off as Walter, who had just entered the room cleared his throat rather loudly.  "Excuse me Master Vincent, but the guest Master Jonathan has been waiting for has arrived.  Your presence is required with the rest of the family."


Vince glanced over, a rather annoyed look on his face.  "Now?"  But the look on the elderly butler’s face was all the answer the young man needed as he sighed deeply.  "Fine, I will be there in a moment."


Looking over at Carmen, he gave her a charming smile.  "Sorry about this, hopefully it should only be a few minutes or so."  He began to stand up and then paused, looking back down at her.  "Actually, why don't you come along.  Should be good for a laugh.  See, some of the members of the East Coast branch of the family are convinced that some ancient curse is going to strike us all down before the end of the weekend or something.  So they have got some sorcerer or something to come by in order to break the curse and save us."

Edited by Thevshi
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Meeting some Sorcerer? oh boy, some Emo guy who thinks he can summon Satan...


...well, just once in a while they do unleash something...


"Sure, why not..." she smiled back at Vince. "I take it you don't go for all that supernatural stuff, huh?" she asked, getting up stiffly and leaning on her cane. "Maybe he will be inspiration for the next song! Just don't go goth on us, right?"


"And I can't wait to see your family. Of course, from your butler, sound's like they could wait a long time for me. What's a girl to do? Dress up in vintage corsets and speak with a phoney British accent?" she said, twanging her last few words to just that effect. 


She walked behind  Vince to enter the room and was still slightly surprised to see the array of family in front of her. It was, she thought, quite intimidating. They felt dusty and old, but regal. All she could do was nod and give a friendly wave. 


She raised her eye at Nick, who, despite his outrageous (for the house) outfit still looked more relaxed and at ease than she was.  She wasn't quite his type, perhaps a bit young and emo - but he looked pretty wild and, well, magnetic. 

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Nick made his way down the hall. The inside felt vital, more lively than the grim exterior outside, though somewhat antique and classical. He supposed that it was better than unintentionally styling the place as a reminder of one's own mortality. That might have worked just fine for Parkhurst, but it was an entirely different matter when the inhabitants were living under the Sword of Damocles.

"So," he said to Jonathan, "just how long has this been going on? Don't suppose there's a declared point of origin..."

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Vince smiled slightly at Carmen’s mention of a vintage corset and her faked accent.  "Well, for most of my family, speaking Italian would go a lot further than a phone British accent.  But the corset might help.  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing you in something so form fitting."  He replied, winking with the last.



"This curse has plagued my family for close to five centuries."  Jonathan answered as they drew near to the doorway.  "As for its origin, yes, we have a rather good idea on that, though my Uncle Sergio is the one best able to provide answers."


The pair entered into large side room arranged with several sofas and chairs, the décor of which continued the overall theme of the main hallway.  Gathered inside were a group of eleven men and women, in a range of ages, all of whom were well dressed, though the clothing choices ranged from somewhat informal to business suits.


It appeared that there were a number of conversations taking place, ranging from how the journey to Freedom City had been to updates on how business/work was going.  When Jonathan cleared his throat loudly, the room fell silent and all eyes turned to regard the pair, particularly studying Nick.


"Everyone, may I introduce Nick Cimitiere, the expert I have consulted with to help us with our problem."


"Okay, I totally did not expect someone who looked like they were getting ready to head off to a Rob Zombie concert."  Came a voice from the doorway Nick and Jonathan had just entered.  Glancing in that direction, Nick saw a young man in his mid-twenties, dressed in a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt entering the room.  Following not far behind him was a woman who appeared in her late-twenties, dressed in trousers, a white blouse with a jacket and a pair of boots. 


Jonathan had looked over at well, and had the slightest hint of a frown on his face.  "Since you've volunteered…Mr. Cimitiere, may I introduce Vincent D'Ascenzo.  He is one of the members of the California branch of the family and a musician of some renown."


"Call me Vince."  The young man replied, seemingly unfazed by Jonathan's somewhat disapproving look, as he shook Nick’s hand and moved over to stand by one of the sofas and then crossed his arms in front of him.


"Continuing with the West Coast branch of the family," Jonathan continued, moving on to the man sitting in the sofa Vince had moved over next to, "this is Paul D'Ascenzo, Vincent's uncle, and the only reason that branch of the family's movie business has not collapsed into ruin."


"Greetings."  Replied Paul as he stood and shook Nick’s hand as well.  He was in his mid to late-forties, and dressed in pair of dark slacks and dress shirt, though he had left the top button undone.  "Though I am happy to meet you, let me be the first to say that I do not believe any of this curse nonsence.  However, if being here helps put some of my other relative's minds at ease, that I am willing to put up with this inconvenience." 


Jonathan frowned slightly at the statement, but remained silent as he turned to the woman next to Paul.  "And this is Catherine Bradley, another of the California branch and a leading designer in the fashion industry." 


"Charmed I'm sure."  Catherine stated as she rose to greet Nick.  She appeared to be in her late-forties, and was wearing a flowing dress.  Her eyes studied Nick's outfit for a moment before focusing back on his face.  "You know, if you like, I would be more than happy to design something that just screams magic for you."


A faint smile crossed Jonathan's face as he turned to regard a young woman in her mid-twenties, wearing a brightly colored summer dress.  "Here we have her daughter, Jessica Bradley, who is also in the fashion industry, as well as a model and actress."


The introduction as Catherine's daughter had hardly been necessary, as there was a very strong resemblance.  Jessica gave a warm smile.  "Don't let my mother bother you.  She's always looking for a new person to experiment on with her designs.  Though, if you are looking for a new outfit, I wouldn't pass up the opportunity.  Just don't let her stick you in her first creation."


Jonathan next turned towards a man in his early thirties wearing a navy blue suit.  "This is my son, Frank D’Ascenzo, the manager of a rather large hedge fund in Boston."  As with Catherine and Jessica, the father-son relationship was rather evident. 


Frank was tall, with dark hair and eyes, with an air of confidence about him.  He gave Nick a friendly smile as they shook hands.  "A pleasure to meet you Mr. Cimitiere."


"And next to him," Jonathan then continued, indicating a woman Frank had been speaking with when Nick had entered the room, "is my daughter, Mary Thompson, a senior vice-president at a major national bank and married to the Thompson family of oil fame."


It was rather obvious just from looking that she and Frank were siblings.  Not only did Mary have similar features, but she also had the same confident and driven expression as her brother.  Mary appeared to be in her mid-thirties, and was wearing light grey suit.  "Good afternoon."  She said with a smile as she stepped forward to shake Nick's hand as well.  "I truly hope you can end our family's long curse."


Jonathan then turned to a man in his early to mid-forties, wearing a black suit with slicked back black hair.  "This is Stephan Giotti, my nephew, a partner in a prominent New York law firm specializing in corporate law."


"Good day."  Stephan replied with a small smile and nod of his head as he shook Nick's hand.


"Next we have Gretchen D'Ascenzo and her brother, Martin D'Ascenzo II.  Martin is a software developer, mostly working programs for small business users."  Jonathan continued, indicating a woman and a man in their early to mid-fifties. 


"Greetings."  Martin II replied first, shaking Nick's hand.  "Hello."  Was all Gretchen said in response, as she remained in her place and refused to meet Nick's gaze.  He also noted she was clutching a cross that hung around her neck with one hand.


"Please forgive my sister for not shaking hands."  Martin II stated, not appearing overly surprised by his sister's behavior.  "She is very careful about who she makes contact with."


"What he means is she isn't sure you aren't a demon or something like that."  Vince stated with a sarcastic smile.  Gretchen was quick to flash an annoyed glance at the young man.  "Vincent, can you not keep quiet for more than a few minutes?"


Jonathan let out a quiet sigh as he turned to the next individual, a man in his mid to late-twenties.  "And this is Martin D'Ascenzo III, who is currently working on his doctorate in molecular biology."  The younger Martin was the most casually dressed of the family, besides Vince, with a shaggy goatee, but still dressed in far nicer clothes than one would typically expect of a college student.  "Good afternoon.  I will say though, I share some of Paul's concerns about the need for this gathering."  He still shook Nick's hand before taking his seat once more.


Jonathan then turned to the next to last individual in the room, a man who appeared to be in his early forties.  He had the dark hair of many of the other family members, though his was lightly graying.  "And next we have Leonard D'Ascenzo, the head of a large industrial corporation that has been in the family for many generations."  Leonard gave a small smile as he shook Nick's hand.  "A great pleasure Mr. Cimitiere."


This left the final member of the family, who also turned out to be the eldest.  Seated in a wheelchair near one of the sofas was a gaunt, skeletal man who was clearly in his nineties.  But despite the apparent weakness of his body, he sunken eyes were dark and piercing, a clear, sharp intellect evident behind them.  "And finally, this is the head of the family, my uncle, Sergio D'Ascenzo."  Jonathan stated.


Sergio's eyes flicked briefly over to Carmen, who was standing off to one side of the scene, before settling firmly back on Nick.  "Good afternoon."  He said in a tired, rasping voice.  "Please, make yourselves comfortable."


"Mr. Cimitiere, I am sure you are interested in learning about the ever approaching doom which those you have just met and myself are facing?"

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"Hey," said Nick. "You think I'm a charlatan? I've walked the sands of Duat, the rocky wastes of Tartarus, under the starry skies of Guinee, through the caverns of Di Yu. I've trafficked with ghosts, specters, and gods. I read death the way others read the newspaper." He cracked a smile, aiming to defuse the tension. "Besides. I look like I came out of a Cramps concert. Nothing against Rob Zombie, mind you."

He took a seat amongst the family, trying to center himself best amongst the various members. He opened his senses briefly, scanning them for the marks of magic and trying to see if there were any obvious threads of the curse he could pick about. "So," he said, "I'm happy to listen. How did this whole grim affair begin?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Taking a bit of time to study the members of the family as he moved to sit among them, Nick was able to pick up some traces of some form of magical energy on many of them.  There was a group of them, Vince, Jessica, Frank, Mary and Martin III, who were completely clean, with no trace of anything out of the ordinary, magicalwise.  But Paul, Catherine, Stephan, Martin II, Gretchen, Leonard and Jonathan all had faint traces of something, as if they had been somehow marked decades ago.  And Sergio, he showed the same traces, only his were stronger, more pronounced, almost as if he had been marked more than once.


Sergio gave a faint smile at Nick's comment about the reaction he received from some of the more skeptical members of the family.  "Mr. Cimitiere, if Jonathan or I had any reason to suspect you might be a charlatan, you would not be here now.  Some of the family may be unwilling to accept that their doom is fast approaching, but we know better, and have little time to waste with anyone that does not have the ability to offer the possibility of helping us."


He paused a moment, then continued, "now as for the story of our family curse, the root runs back into the past, four hundred and eighty years to be exact.  At that time, the D'Ascenzos were a wealthy family of the minor nobility in the province of Venezia in Italy.  They were prosperous and powerful, with many in the family holding prominent positions within the province.  One such member was Lazzaro D'Ascenzo, who was the magistrate of the province.  Though Lazzaro, his sons and other members of the family owned a good deal of land in the area, there were other very rich portions of land owned by others.  When many of those other families refused to sell their land to Lazzaro and his relatives, he decided to obtain their lands by other means.  Lazzaro used his position to have thirteen members of those other families condemned for heresy.  This charge led to their lands being confiscated by the church, much of it being gifted to the D'Ascenzos for their role in reveling the alleged heresy."


Sergio paused a moment, a slight look of shame seeming to appear on his face as he recounted this dark chapter of his family’s history.  "As if those actions were not enough, there was more to follow.  As members of the D'Ascenzos helped oversee the removal of the surviving members of the other families from the confiscated lands, one of Lazzaro's sons, Emilio, spied a beautiful maiden among the dispossessed.  She was the daughter of one of the men condemned to death by Lazzaro.  Emilio was as of yet unmarried and desired this woman to be his, so he had some of the soldiers involved in the removal of the families to go and arrest her in order to take her back to the D'Ascenzo villa so he could make her his wife."


"When Emilio went back to the family villa to make the maiden his, it was June 1st, 1533.  When he went to her, he came upon a scene completely different than what he had been expecting.  The girl had slit her wrists and was bleeding out on the floor of the bedroom.  As he appeared, she looked up at him, and with her last breath cursed him and his family for the crimes they had committed.  Somehow, this girl’s words found power, and a blight fell upon the D'Ascenzo family that night.  Over the next thirteen hours, a member of the family died from mysterious circumstances each hour, including Lazzaro himself.  Emilio himself lived, but was changed by what had happened."


"But despite the tragedy, the D'Ascenzo family went on, and even Emilio eventually married another and had children.  But, forty years after that series of unusual deaths, another thirteen members of the D'Ascenzos died over another thirteen hour period, again on June 1st.  That began a marked decline in the family, their position of power beginning to erode, as tales of some curse afflicting them began to spread.  Their wealth began to vanish as well, and it was not long before the family was a shadow of what it once was."


"But even with this decline in wealth and power, the family sought to endure, with the curse continuing to work its vengeance every forty years, killing thirteen family members seemingly at random.  None of the bloodline of Lazzaro were spared, the old, the vibrant, even the newborn, all have died from the curse on June 1st over the centuries.  In the early part of the Nineteenth Century, around 1844, three brothers of what was left of the D'Ascenzos decided to try and find a new start and hopefully a means of escaping the curse, so they left Italy and moved to the United States."


"With an abundance of drive and determination to see the family live on, they soon made themselves quite successful lives here, marring and string families, hoping they had left the curse behind.  When June 1st, 1853 arrived, there were only two deaths of members of the American branch of the family, leading those here to feel they might have indeed escaped the curse.  Of course, the Italian branch of the family was still suffering greatly under the curse, and it continued to wither away.  The American D'Ascenzos continued to build on their successes and soon had built large fortunes."


"But, in 1893, with the number of D'Ascenzos in Italy having dwindled so, the American branch came to realize that they had not left eh curse behind after all, as over half a dozen of them died on June 1st of that year.  And so it continued into the Twentieth Century, with the World Wars in Europe further reducing the bloodline members of the Italian branch of the D'Ascenzos.  That brings us to today, the day before June 1st, 2013.  The last of the Italian  D'Ascenzos died in 1973, and the American branch of the family has withered as well since that year, the last time the curse struck.  The thirteen of us you see here are the last of the bloodline of Lazzaro D'Ascenzo.  Unless you are able to help us, starting mid-afternoon tomorrow, we will start to die off, one by one, and the D'Ascenzo family will cease to be."

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"Phew!" whistled Carmen through pursed lips. 


Thats heavy, real heavy. Some of the dudes are about ready to croak anyway, but nobody should have that over their heads. 




Yeah, nobody should suffer for the deeds of the Father...she ended her thoughts bitterly, aware of a spasm of pain that ran down her leg like an electric shock, causing her to stiffen and inhale. A legacy of her Father and the tattoo that ran down her spine. 


She gripped the cane with love and hate, a reminder of the power of her father, and her need to walk with it. 


"That's a real dark story" she commented, seeing of Vince responded. "But how did they die? murdered? illness, disease? anything that can be stopped?" she asked. 


She knew of demons that could be summoned to enact such curses - bitter and spiteful. But really, it could be anything. Perhaps they just had a heart attack or a stroke, something subtle and innocuous. 

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Nick listened to the story. So it was as he'd thought - the curse was born out of a dying woman's rage. Deep, potent, and enduring - there was a reason death curses weren't often born out of getting cut off in traffic. Still, for it to last this long... it could be the spell saves energy by winding until it hits a certain point and releases. Would still need some sort of net intake... might be drawing energy from the deaths, though...

He shook his head. These thoughts might do better if vocalized in some form. "This dead woman," he said. "Have any attempts been made to call up her ghost? Seances, mediums, et cetera?"

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Vince looked over at Carmen as she asked her question.  "You don't believe that story do you?  It is just an old wives tale, that some here have chosen to believe."  He asked.


"Deny it if you want boy."  Sergio stated, looking over at the young man.  "It will not mater after tomorrow evening when death comes for you."

The old man then turned to regard Carmen.  "In answer to your question young lady, the victims of the curse have died in all manner of ways.  Most by what would appear to be freak accidents, some apparently by natural causes, and a few by what would appear violent means.  But in all instances, the deaths fell within the thirteen hour timeframe the curse follows."


The D'Ascenzo elder then looked over to Nick.  "Her name was Rosalia Belleci.  And there have been a number of attempts to contact her spirit over the centuries, all have failed.  The first that I know if took place within a century of the start of the curse, back in Italy.  The medium that performed the seance reportedly fled the house screaming in terror within minutes of beginning the ceremony." 


"The most recent attempt to contact Rosalia's spirit took place just before the turn of the century, in this house.  But no contact was ever made.  Over more than a century and a half, various members of our family have sought to have wards placed one this house to protect them from the curse.  But none have succeeded in stopping a single death when the time for the curse arrived."

Edited by Thevshi
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"Coincidence be damned" replied Carmen. 


Literally damned, in many cases. 


"Nick Cimitiere, right?" she clicked her fingers into a pointed one at Nick. "I heard of you. Some kinda psychobilly voodoo rockstar?" she asked, without needing an answer. 


She turned to Vince. 


"Look, if this guy says you are in a heap of trouble, trust me, you are in a heap of trouble" she explained. "And you better put your trust in him that he can sort this out..."


"You can sort this out, right?" she asked Nick. And not just for Vince and his family. Because the whole thing sniffed of something Pitch should wade into...

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Nick cracked a smile. "Wouldn't necessarily say 'rock star,'" he said, "but I'm working on it. I heartedly admit to all the other bits, though." He finally started to place Carmen - Carmen Cantos, the Rock Review journalist. Didn't know she was in the game, but I'd heard a few rumors about her dad...

"Now, as for fixing it..." He closed his eyes, trying to attune more closely to the flow of death. It felt like detaching his own retinas under heavy anesthetic, then knitting them back together with rubber bands. But when he opened his eyes, he saw clearly again, and the pressure began to bleed away. He quickly began picking at the substance of whatever had touched the members of the family, with a particular bent towards discerning the make of Sergio's curse, as well as taking the time to analyze the wards the family had constructed. And that reminded him of something...

"I don't think I've seen any ghosts thus far," Nick said. "For a place that's always served as a stronghold for the family, there should be at least one shade here. Do the wards keep them out? Or maybe it's a condition of the curse... you ever try holding a seance for your ancestors?"

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Vince gave Carmen a small shrug as she suggested he take the curse more seriously, still seeming to be unconvinced. 


Sergio's attention, along with much of the rest of the family, remained on Nick.  "It has long been believed that the ghost of the wife of one of my uncles haunts the north tower, having committed suicide in a room there after my uncle died from the curse eighty years ago.  But I do not believe there have been any other reports of hauntings here, despite the number of family members who have died in this house over more than a century, both due to the curse and other causes."


"As for whether there have ever been any attempts to contact ancestors who have passed, I am not aware of any documented attempts to do so.  One of my great-aunts had a keen interest in the occult and mysticism back at the end of the nineteenth century, and regularly held seances in the house.  It is possible some of those could have been attempts to contact some of our ancestors."


"Must we have a seance?"  Asked Gretchen from where she sat on one of the couches.  "I..I am not sure I am comfortable with being present for one of those."  She added, her hand once again on the cross around her neck.


Sergio appeared as if was about to respond to Gretchen's comment, when Jonathan spoke up first.  "Gretchen, Mr. Cimitiere is the expert on these matters.  If he feels a seance is necessary, then we will follow his advice."  He said in a gentle tone.


Gretchen did not seem particularly satisfied with the response, but she did not speak any further.  Most of the West Coast members of the family, particularly Vince and Paul, still appeared rather skeptical of the entire matter, along with Martin III, but the rest of the family was rather clearly on board with doing whatever was required to break the curse.


As Nick focused his unusual senses more closely on the family members showing traces of magic and then the wards on the house around them, he was able to discern a number of things.  The faint magic on those family members who had lived through at least one prior occurrence of the curse had apparently been marked by whatever magic was driving it, but for whatever reason had been passed over for other victims.  The stronger reading from Sergio was due to the fact that he had already survived the curse twice.


The various wards that had been placed on the home, apparently at various points in time, were not serving to ward much of anything.  In part that was because they were relatively weak, either quite old or due to the ability of the one who placed them.  But they also generally served to cancel each other out, given their patchwork nature.  Nick could sense several from a number of Christian faiths, a couple placed by voodoo practitioners, and even a trace of the infernal, coming from below the house in what he assumed was somewhere in the basement.

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