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Thevshi

The 13th Hour (IC)

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Carmen was grateful to be sitting down, and lay back to try and ease some comfort into her body and spinning head. It seemed, after all, that she was not the only one who had the legacy of previous generations to deal with. The blatant unfairness of it was something she could empathise with. 

 

To that end, she felt a bond with Catherine and Jessica. 

 

"How do you live with this axe over your head?" she asked. "I mean, I would probably go a bit wild, if you know what I mean. If I knew this was hanging on me...well, I'd guess I'd go off the rails a bit, feel I had to live a life time in a few years. And then, well, I'd be pretty mad at having to pay for some old disagreement before my time" she said. She may as well have been talking about her, and it wasn't even particularly well disguised. But tonight, it seemed, was not a night for disguises. 

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With the decision made that Carmen would stay the night given the dangerous weather conditions outside, Frank left the room to see to the arrangements.  Catherine and Jessica continued their conversation with the rock reporter. 

 

Catherine shrugged slightly at Carmen's question about how she was able to live with the curse looming over the family.  "Well, in all honesty, until this afternoon, I never put much stock into this whole curse business.  And I am still not entirely sure what to make of it.  But even so, people go through life with all manner of ways of dying just a step away, and forty years is not so short a time as to not provide some chances at enjoying one's life."  But even as she spoke, the older woman was looking over at her daughter Jessica, a slight trace of fear on her face at the thought that her daughter, only in her early twenties, might have her life ended so early.

 

Jessica meanwhile seemed somewhat oblivious to this, as she chuckled slightly at Carmen's comments about going wild and trying to enjoy what little time she would have if faced with the same curse.  "Well, there are some in the family that have done pretty much that.  Vince for example."

 

"Somebody had to."  The young rockstar called over from where he was sitting, a playful smirk on his face.

 

Jessica rolled her eyes slightly before continuing, [colopink]"but anyway, while I certainly do not want to die tomorrow, I cannot complain about the life I have been able to lead.  What about you Carmen?  Is being a reporter what you always wanted to do?  Or would you have taken some other route if faced with knowing when your end might come?"

"Well of course she wanted to be a reporter."  Vince piped in once more.  "After all, she gets to meet someone like me as part of the work doesn't she?"

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Thirteen hours. So there would still be some time before this thing - be it just some creeping sense of dread or an actual reaper in the ephemera - would show up to take its paces. That would explain a lot - some spells were extremely powerful, but for something to work like clockwork for centuries would take a lot of investment, and the woman scorned hadn't exactly sounded like the Master Mage of her era. But if she's petitioned some sort of entity to act in her stead... 

 

Some of these things have very long memories. And very sick drives. This could explain why the victims' ghosts didn't show up - this thing isn't just serving as reaper, it's serving as gaoler. Mind you, that's the happy option...

 

He turned to the men. "Thanks," he said. "I've got some ideas of what kind of thing might be doing this. Mind you, I'd still need to figure out what particular thing is doing this...but I don't think I can do that until we get closer to the deadline." 

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"Understandable Mr. Cimitiere."  Sergio replied in his rasping voice.  "Anything you might be able to do to try to save as many members of the family as might be possible is gratefully appreciated."

 

The elder D'Ascenzo then glanced over at a clock hanging on the wall before he continued.  "But for the moment, dinner time has arrived.  I fully expect my cook Rosa to have put together something truly spectacular for tonight's meal.  It is very rare for me to be entertaining so many guests these days."

 

Once again Jonathan helped with Sergio's wheelchair, as the pair led Nick back to the elevator that took them down to the main floor once more.  From there it was a short walk to the main dining room, located a bit further into the house than the sitting room where Nick had initially been introduced to the rest of the family.

 

The dining room, like much of the rest of the house, was ornate, and representative of a different era.  The long fine wood dining table that sat in the center of the room seemed a bit sparse with only fifteen dinner settings laid out on the elegant tablecloth.  The other members of the family, along with Carmen, were already gathered in the room, many standing along the sides of the room in conversation, some of the women already seated at the table.

 

When Sergio entered, the conversations quieted down and everyone moved to take their places.  Nick was given the seat just to Sergio's left, Jonathan sitting directly across from him.  Paul was seated no Nick's left.  Carmen was a bit further down the table, seated between Jessica and the younger Martin.  Vince was across from her.

 

Although the room, and everything in it, was clean and well cared for, Nick and Carmen could not help but get a cold, misused feeling from the room.  The feeling was offset ever so slightly at the arrival of several members of Sergio's staff, bringing in bowls of minestrone or zuppa toscana soup for those seated at the table, as well as various bread and rolls.  Several bottles of very old looking wine were set out around the table as well.

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Carmen did not stand on ceremony. The coldness of the room did not sit well with her. 

 

I'm a rock and roll reporter sitting in a dead house, in a dead dining room...

 

...with a dead family...

 

She groaned to herself at the awful end to her train of thought. It was utterly grim and she was not without sympathy. But the wine was too tempting with that bleakness laying over the room like a black blanket. 

 

"Cheers" she said, brightly, and poured herself a glass to just over spilling point. She downed it like she was drinking a beer. 

 

"I needed that" she said, defiant of any disapproval. "If this is going to be the family's last night, you best not spoil it with cold words and sombre mood" she grunted. The wine's warmth hit her blood, and hit her brain. She felt her tongue loosen. 

 

"Damn this! I say live!" she said, as a toast. "Unless any of you have a death wish? Whether this curse fruits or not, lets make this evening alive and full of fight! this family seems so full of secret's and shadows it could be the FBI christmas party!"

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Nick tried very hard to enjoy the dinner. It was certainly delicious food, and the company was nice and varied - he'd gone to a few dinner parties in Riverside and West End, but never any on this scale. Then again, this wasn't exactly much of a party. There was the nice family small talk, but it all seemed like a formality - like trying to stay convivial at a funeral. Nick tried very hard not to think of funerals. Unbidden, a quote ran through his head - And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one the revellers...

 

No. He didn't need Edgar Allen Poe right now. 

 

That's a rather tender subject. Wouldn't you agree?

 

Nor did he need Rocky Horror. 

 

He was almost ecstatic when Carmen broke the silence - though he probably would've chosen something a bit more tactful. While the message had the right sentiment going, these people didn't need more reminders about the possible fate in store. They were going to break it, he kept telling himself - but until then, it was best to turn away from the elephant in the room, never mind showing it a mouse. But since the fire was already lit...

 

"She's got a good point," he said. "Everyone here's... lived with a shadow all their lives. Some of you turned away from it. Others may have dreaded it. But in many ways... you lived your lives in response to it. It may have hung over you guys, but you've charged forward despite it - hell, in some cases, because of it. We will break this curse, but even then... you guys have conquered it on your own terms. We're just gonna make sure those stick." 

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Jessica and the younger Martin next to Carmen had slightly worried looks as the reporter quickly downed a glass of wine, though they had responded to her brief toast.  But as she spoke up, her voice carrying over the other conversations in the room, they had looks of genuine surprise on their faces.  Across the table from her, Vince was smiling in agreement with her sentiment. 

 

The other conversations quickly died off as everyone turned to regard Carmen, and then Nick when he spoke up next.

 

"Very much to the point Ms. Canto."  Came Sergio's raspy voice from the head of the table.  "But certainly words to take stock in."  The elder D'Ascenzo then turned to regard Nick as he continued, "and also very well put Mr. Cimitiere, and very much true.  Those gathered here have all pushed their lives forward, hungry for success, even if they do not believe in the curse."

"Myself, I have seen far too many of my family fall, to the curse or otherwise in my long life.  My successes are behind me, the only thing I wish for now is to see those seated here have the chance to live as equally long lives.  If anyone must die before you are able to break this curse forever, I am more than prepared for it to be me."

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Noble Sentiment....gotta hand it to the guy...reminds me of...

 

Carmen pushed aside thoughts of her own father, and his ambigious motivations for her. He had saved her life and ruined it at once. This guy seemed a lot cleaner. 

 

"Well I for one believe it, mister. I seen enough black metal groupies and dabblers to get a hint that there is more to this world than vivid imaginations and dungeons and dragons" she breathed, feeling a little flush from the wine.

 

"Sometimes your dreams bite back"

 

She paced up the room, grabbing her cane for comfort, both physical and mental. 

 

"But how do we fight this curse? sounds like bold and noble sentiment, for all that it is bold and noble, ain't gonna cut the mustard on its own, right? Far as I see it, we either try and fight the axe when it falls, give the witch the blood she want's, or some kind of resolution, or erase the curse once and for all. I'm all for the fight, but I don't know about the erasing...that looks like Nicks job..."

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Nick didn't want to say too much. He had an idea that there was some sort of agent to go with the curse, some enforcer that was more responsible for cutting down the family members than the sheer machinations of fate. But that was just a theory, at this point - he might not be able to prove it until the beast entered the killing floor. But... 

 

"I've got a theory, but I'm not going to be able to prove it until the appointed hour. But... I can delay that hour. I've got some notes on a working that should be able to make sure whatever's responsible stays out of reach. It's going to require some effort, and it's still going to be limited to this mansion. But as long as it's up, everyone here should be safe." 

 

He turned to Pitch. "When the time comes, though, I may need some backup. If you've got any way to open your eyes to the invisible, I recommend you whip it up tonight." 

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He doesn't know the half of me...or does he?

 

She carried a damn demon in her belly. And Nicks eyes had that haunted, penetrating look. No surprise, really, if half the stories about him were true, then he had seen things, many things, beyond this world. More than her, that was for sure, and she had seen enough. 

 

Still, she didn't want everyone else knowing she was Pitch. For her sake, and for theirs. 

 

"Open my eyes to the invisible? I'm a reporter, I guess that's what I do, huh?" she joked back, wondering just how much he knew. Or she did, come to that. 

 

"But if you are going to do another ritual or something, count me in. I've seen enough jokers in black metal bands mess around with sorcery and death magic. I'd kill to see the real deal...uh...take that metaphorically, of course..." she added.  

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Nick kicked himself for a second - maybe he was wrong to think that Cantos would have mojo just because her dad might have. But - no. He was picking up something off of her. She might have been brought here to write up the curse, but he knew she dealt mainly in rock journalism. Odds were stronger she was a player, and even the most mundane occultists he knew - the ones with no huge power to call upon - at least knew a few tricks for when things got hairy.

"My apologies," he said. "After a while, you associate with enough weird stuff, you start to assume everyone's got a magic wand up their sleeve. Still, I might be able to come up with sometimes that can grant you the ability to see the invisible. Because when this does go down, I probably will need a spotter."

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Carmen raised an eyebrow. 

 

He knows. He must do...maybe not all...but enough...

 

There was no point in keeping any secrets from him, she was pretty sure. But, on the other hand, she wasn't going to blurt out she was Pitch to the whole of the clan in front of them. True, some would probably keep quiet. And some, maybe all, wouldn't even live through the night. 

 

Hell, I can't let these folk fall just cos' I worry about who knows...

 

"Well, tonight's the night for secrets ain't it?" she replied, before turning to the family around her and Nick. 

 

"Truth is, my Daddy was a black magician. That's common gossip. But I'm holding you to keep quiet about this. It's my secret. Because it ain't just gossip and rumour. He really was a sorcerer. And he left some of that for me..." she explained. 

 

It was easy to summon up the little bit of festering rage that lived in her. Easy to call on it and snap her fingers, creating a puff of brimstone smoke and fire for a second. Just enough to let them know that it was real. 

 

"So yeah, I got a magic wand up my sleeve" she explained, nodding at her cane. "And I can spot you" she said. 

 

"Just don't go telling the world about my wand, and what I do..."

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