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alderwitch

Nighttime Wanderings

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Typically, when one had a five year old that complained of a few nights of nightmares, most parents would perhaps leave an extra light on or, maybe, adjust the night time routine. However, normal was a little different in the Farretti household. That was why instead of an extra light, or a beloved stuffed animal to ward off bad dreams, Phantom was currently floating ephemeral and half hidden in the shadows above her sleeping son's bed. Her cloak shifted soundlessly, but Phantom neither moved nor drew breath as she waited with an unnatural patience. 

The first nightmare hadn't drawn her concern. When JJ had come thundering down the hall, his eyes gone glassy red and his hair stuck every direction with sweat, she'd scooped him up as any mother would have and soothed him back to sleep through his ramblings about the bad dreams. The second night, she'd checked the wards just in case and gone through what he might have watched or read that would have shaken their usually calm offspring. The third night, however...

JJ kicked his covers off, whimpering once in his sleep and Phantom's expression softened. She gestured, magic tendrils gently tucking the sleeping dhampir back in but the restoration of his blankets didn't stop the tossing and turning as JJ slipped from peaceful REM sleep to the throes of nightmare once more. 

Show yourself, you little...

With another gesture, this one much sharper, the glow of Phantom's gaze sharpened as the magic in the area was revealed to her. Unfortunately, casting that particular spell in their house was always full of a fair amount of static - from the supernatural protections and spells woven throughout the manor to its supernatural denizens. At the moment, however, Phantom was only concerned with whatever was working their fell magic on a helpless child. Well, mostly helpless.

The little creature was as ephemeral as Phantom but far more hidden. Still, her spell revealed it with its ghostly fingertips half through JJ's sleeping mind and in the next breath, she struck, wrapping it in coils of eldritch light and swallowing it to the void of her cloak. A minor nightmare was no match for Phantom, after all, although she was surprised it had worked its way through the words. Concerning...

With a soft thump, she landed on bare feet - her costume banished once more. This time with solid hands, she tucked her young son back in, smoothing back his unruly hair and tucking the soft blanket around him tenderly. JJ's expression smoothed out as she settled him, turning peaceful once more as he rolled back to his side to settle in for the night.

Looks like I have work to do tonight after all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A few minutes later - having explained in brief the situation to her spouse, and tightened up the wards - Phantom appeared floating above a cemetery. Over one grave in particular. Ghosting down slowly, Phantom turned solid once more, her boots leaving faint impressions in the wet grass. The grass was well grown in now and the stone had seen some weather. This was no fresh grave. Had so much changed while she was gone?

Should it concern me that I've learned to tell the differences between 'grave aging'?

The inscription read,

'Barbara Breska-Sanford.
1981 - 2014
Beloved wife and mother.
Dreams Can Never Die.'

Phantom bent down, touching the flowers at the base. The grave wasn't fresh but the flowers were. Forget-me-nots, Queen's Anne lace, and tulips. Perhaps someone knew their flower meanings.

A promise...?

Standing up, Phantom brushed the moisture from her gloved hands and turned her head up towards the sky. Mourning for a fellow practitioner could wait. If no one had taken up the legacy, that might explain the nightmare in her pocket. Now... to find the inheritor of that particular strain of magic. It might be a very long night. 

 

 

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Elis checked on the kids sleeping peacefully one last time before heading downstairs.  "Thanks again Grace."  he said gently as he reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to his sister as she set the coffee brewing in the kitchen.  "You're a life saver."  he said with sigh, "You sure Franks not mad?  I can call one of hte agencies."  he offered not for the first time but she was hearing none of it.

"It's what family is for and I'm not letting some empty headed au pair try and use my niece and nephew to score a handsome doctor."  She countered with a shooing motion, "Go go, theres lives to save people to knock out."  she said with a laugh, "Franks fine, besides you're still letting us stay in the guest house." she pointed out with a shrug, "So unless that novel starts bringing in the big money he can enjoy it and show some gratitude."

Elis shook his head and scolded gently, "It is good."  he pointed out, "He just gets nervous about you reading it it'll come through have some faith everyone deserves a bit of thier dream kido."  She nodded and waved him off, "You're a sap but you're our sap." she said and offered a quick hug before shoving him out the door to binge watch orange is the new black on the big screen.

Elis walked slowly to his car and got in buckling up and checking his mirrors before starting it and preparing to pull out of the drive.

Edited by angrydurf

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There it was! Phantom caught the faint tingle of that particular brand of magic and with a thought sent herself from the graveyard to the Sanford's driveway just as Elis happened to be backing his car out. She turned to watch, the expression underneath her hood and mask faintly quizzical as she tried to hone into the trickle of dream-magic that she was following. Of course, for Elis, it meant that without warning, a cloaked and hooded figure just appeared inches behind his car as he began to ease his foot off the gas, turning to look in his direction with eyes that glowed from below the shadows of her hood.

Phantom glanced down absently as the rear bumper of the car began to pass through her hips. At this point in her career, she was used to things passing through her body and paid it little mind when they did. One of these days she was going to have a nasty surprise when something she expected to pass harmlessly through knocked her down instead. Today, however, was not that day. 

Of course that didn't mean she wasn't going to accidentally startle a new-ish super hero into attacking her unintentionally as she phased through his car. "Hello."

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"Jesus Christ!" Elis yelped as he slammed on his brakes the car lurching with Phantom floating half submerged his trunk.  He whirled in his seat to ensure his eyes did not deceive him and a mysterious cowled entity was in fact throwing physics to the wind and occupying the same space as the trunk of his car.

Some might have ran or cowered, others reacted with violence when startled as such.  Elis was however in the odd position of being new enough to the hero game not to react defensively and yet familiar enough with teh world not to be overly frightened of odd events such as this. Letting out a slow sigh and raising a brow Elis took a better look at the spectre, "Hello?"  he asked questioningly.

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Phantom glanced down to where her waist was hidden below the trunk before she shrugged, a faint gesture that sent the folds of her cloak rippling and writhing like they were alive. She floated forward, ghosting through the cab of the car and through Ellis towards the front of the car. When she moved through his body, there was no real sensation save for a chill that was left in her wake. When he wouldn't have to crane his neck to see her, Phantom leaned forward so that her face was on the interior, the rest of her body floating half in and half out of the hood of his car. 

"Greetings," she said once more, her voice cordial for all that it echoed hollowly. There wasn't much to see of her features, the dark cowl obscured much of her features and below that she wore a mask that covered all but her chin and mouth. "Are you the bearer of the legacy of the Dreamkeepers? I am looking for the individual who has taken up the mantle of the fallen keeper. Would that be you?"

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Elis leaned back in his seat disconcerted by the phantasmal presence asking after his mystic bona fides.  "Uh you're kinda halfway in my engine block there is that ..."  he shook his head, "You know what nevermind."  he deferred.

Looking her over more intently his eyes lingering on the jewel at her throat as he tried to recall if his late wife had mentioned any of this and shook his head, "Well I admit not being an expert on the social conventions governing such meetings but it seems perhaps the creepy spectre lurking the dark should introduce herself before starting on the probing questions?"  he asked with a slight frown, "Unless this is your idea of exchanging information after the accident in which case I have to point out that you literally came out of nowhere and technically the car never touched you."

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Phantom sighed, the sound a ghostly rattle as she gestured towards herself with veiled impatience. It wasn't hard to assume since the shouting had been minimal that this man was no particular layman, "I am Phantom, sometimes called Heshem's Chosen - among other things - I am charged with keeping the Pact and guarding from inter-dimensional... antics."

"I have worked with your predecessor on very rare occasion in the past," Phantom added as she settled back a bit and dutifully floated up out of his car engine and off to the side. "I am not going to attack you. If I were, I would not have opened with 'hello', I assure you. Would you like to get out of your vehicle?"

It was not the most warm and fuzzy of introductory speeches but, unlike her alter ego, Phantom very rarely went out of her way to soothe people's concerns. It was generally to her benefit if Phantom was considered a little foreboding. 

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"Well that makes sense."  Elis replied nonplussed and reached for the door handle before pausing, "Can't say she ever mentioned you that I recall."  he remarked curiously, "Not that she mentioned alot which I'm getting to understand better now why that was."  he looked up towards the house, "Hey can we do this around the corner?  Maybe not wake the neighbors?"  he suggested with a shrug, "I promise not to run for the hills I assure you I'm far less sensible than that."

He patted the passenger seat confident he didn't need to open no less unlock the door for her to join him.  "Plus if my sister see's you I'll get another raft of advice about getting back on the horse that I just don't need."  He raised a brow waiting for phantom to join him or perhaps just follow,  He didn't car which really he just didn't really want to have the whole 'a great threat looms' speech he felt was coming sitting in his driveway.

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"Ah. The husband," Phantom intoned like that made sense. She watched Elis for a moment before vanishing and appearing next to him in the passenger seat, looking more solid once she settled. She did have to gather her cloak up so that it was mostly stuffed down in the footwell. Phantom did not reach for the seatbelt but, really, she probably didn't need to fear a car accident in the way that most mortals would have. 

"I am concerned about your sister if she thinks 'this'," with that she gestured towards her costumed self, "Might be a successful first date. Especially if she doesn't know about your alternate evening activities."

Phantom paused and then added, amusement filtering through her hollow tones giving them perhaps an even more unsettling timber. "Of course, there are worse first dates."

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Elis pulled out and left the cul-de-sac and took a leisurely pace out of the cul-de-sac, "She married an unpublished author so I assume her idea of romance waxes to the more dramatic." he said with a fond chuckle.  He appraised Phantom with a slow look as he pulled off the street in a relatively secluded stretch outside the more major developments, "Yea I'll take your word for that but I feel compelled to remind you that this started with you nearly being run over."

He shrugged though and moved on quickly as discussing dating with the shadowy entity that had decided to haunt him that night, "So yes I have inherited the Sands."  he said with a small nod and raised a brow, "And I imagine you're here because of something related?"  he asked carefully, "Or are you like a supervisor?"  he inquired showing just how ill equipped he really was for the title and responsibilities he'd been granted.

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"A... supervisor?" Her hollow voice echoed up, turning the words into a rather concerned question. Superheroes were often thrown into the deep end feet first but this seemed a little much to Phantom. After all, it was a long standing legacy. There was training. Expectations. "No. I am not. More 'I work in a different department'."

She tipped her head to the side to examine him for a long moment before she reached in to her own chest, her hand vanishing before it reappeared, holding a small but glutted nightmare figment that she held out towards him, expectantly. Although the creature was ephemeral, spitting and hissing at its capture, the ghostly eldritch bands that held it tight remained looped around Phantom's fingers. "I brought you this."

Oh look. A present.

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Elis let out a slow breath at her response he knew he had tipped his hand a bit but he knew Heshem at least nominally to be on the side of the good guys so not much risk there right?  "Alright good."  he replied gingerly as he pondered her words though slightly disappointed he didn't have a better source to tap about potential other inheritors.  "So how can I hel-" he blinked as she produced the well fed dream eater, "Ah well isn't he a healthy fellow."  he intoned rather flatly.

Raising one had a swirl of lumant sand flowed forth to grasp the creature forming a sturdy cage around the restrained creature.  Once Phantom released her own hold he looked down at it and sighed,"Lets get you back where you belong you little beastie." Elis suggested and reached out with a light touch to banish it back to the realm of nightmares.  The cage of sand fell as he withdrew his hand drifting down with its strange luminescence before fading back to the realms from which it came.  An unusual application of power more usually harnessed to empower the arms and armor of the trained hunters of the legacy.

Elis looked back to Phantom curiously, "So if you don't mind my asking where you found it?  They are solitary but they like to wriggle through weak spots, you know places people," he paused looking at her once more and shook his head, "breach dimensional barriers regularly."  he finished with a shrug, "You know that huh?"  he asked already resolved that he was lecturing the professor so to speak.

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"I do know that," Phantom said, the words somber but not unkind, "But it is still true. Especially so as it did so behind my wards. Of course, my home has more inter-dimensional activity than most but it is very, very well warded."

She gave a small shake of her head, the silence stretching awkwardly as she debated how much or how little to say. Even for pronounced mystic pauses, it went longer than usual. After weighing the fact that she teleported in at the man's home and his wife had been trustworthy - not to mention the fact that the gentleman seemed a little... under-prepared for the weight of his task, Phantom sighed. 

"It found my son. He's five. And perhaps more attractive than a typical human child in the strength of his dreams," she finally allowed, her lambent gaze flicking to where the nightmare creature had vanished. "But I am surprised it snuck in through my wards. Has there been more activity of late?"

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Elis nodded slowly at her explanation and thought for a long moment, "Well it might have come through inside the wards?"  He suggested finally, "Those guys can't do much in this realm they usually cross over as close to a food source as they can."  he shrugged though as that was known mostly from skimming a couple of his wife's diaries that he still felt like a creep reading and his very limited personal experience.  "They are solitary though so unlikely more are nearby your son should be safe."  he said flatly, "I could take a look but I imagine you have it well in hand."  he gestured to the obvious cloak of potency about her.

"As for activity,"  he gestured to the car with a shrug, "I'm not leaving my kids with my sister overnight because works been slow."  he joked lightly but his face took on a more somber cast, "There's stirring, nothing big or immediate but."  he shrugged, "I think what happened to bar-"  his voice caught a little and he took a deep breath, "Happened to my predecessor has emboldened them." he finished finally.

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"If I have more trouble, I'll have you take a look," Phantom agreed. She felt that it was well enough in hand - certainly that it wasn't worth dragging someone through the house that had yet to be vetted. They were fairly reluctant to open their home to even the more trustworthy of individuals. "It did seem bold. I thought it was worth looking into why."

She watched as he recovered from the momentary hiccup, compassionate behind her mask although she said nothing until he'd finished, "Yes. You weren't intended to take up the mantle - your children are still too young to do so, I imagine - and that creates both vulnerability and opportunity. I... I am sorry for your loss. I didn't know her well but she was brave and skilled. I am sorry."

Phantom paused after that, hesitating before she added, "I don't mean to be rude, but do you have any training?"

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Elis nodded agreeably taking the situation with fair aplomb given everything.  "Well they ah, got a bit of coup off builds confidence I guess."  he said slowly his voice calm though his grip on the steering wheel edging towards the white knuckled.

He turned and looked to Phantom once more as she spoke of his loss and nodded quietly murmuring, "Thank you she was."  he agreed and sighed heavily looking out hte window.  He spent a long moment that way before answering her question, "No, not in any meaningful way."  he explained the calm returned to his voice now, "Barbara was but her parents passed shortly after we met."  he explained, "Don't know of any other family and just mine and friends came to the funeral."  he said with a shrug.  "I make due, the Sands are versatile I'll give them that." he said with a vague smile, "There's diaries but."  he sighed, "They go into alot more than all this." he waved to her and the general oddity of their world.

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Phantom watched him for another long, almost uncomfortable moment from under the depths of her hood before reaching up to the jewel nestled in the folds of her cloak. She touched the Eye once, where it glittered and like smoke and shadows, her cloak and costume was drawn into the Eye of Heshem. When it vanished, it left Taylor sitting on the seat instead. The costume added volume to her form as without it, she was sturdy but petite and unassuming. She was dressed in what she'd been wearing at home, jeans and t-shirt that were suited to the summer weather with a faded 'FCU' printed across the front of it. With her hair in a ponytail and her feet bare, she looked very different than her imposing alter-ego. The jewel still glittered at her throat, out of place with the rest of the outfit and she wore a wedding band on the hand reaching for a notepad.

"Give me your number," the woman said, her voice low and husky but refreshingly normal if a touch impatient and perhaps a bit imperious. She reached for his glove box, looking for a scrap of paper to write her cell phone number down on. "Mystics tend to be a solitary lot but you're going to be in over your head - and quickly - if you don't have any one to call on. You don't know anyone in the superhero community? Eldritch? Or any of the League?"

She didn't pause as she found a pad of paper and wrote her information down on the piece of paper. She might have been muttering something under her breath in another language as she did so though from her tone it sounded both aggravated and like it might include some cussing.

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Elis coughed as her costume vanished, "I have got to learn that trick."  he murmured to himself as he took in the youthful mien of the woman now revealed.  He let a out a heavy sigh, "My god you're like a kid."  he lamented wondering if this was really where he was at getting impromptu hero lessons from someone that looked less than half his age.  "Sorry."  he clarified after a moment, "just came as a surprise the,"  he gestured to the now absent costume, "Uhm adds a air of maturity."  he coughed yea tell her her skimpy costume ages her smooth.

He took the paper and quickly wrote out his number both cell and work numbers glad for a distraction.  He looked up at her question and blinked slowly, "Uhm wait I heard of Eldritch, Master mage right?"  he asked to make sure he had it right, "Well a few years back Johnny Rocket did a walk through of one of the wards I was working on got a card signed for my son."  he offered, But I have a feeling that is not what you mean." he shrugged, "I don't know any of them I guess Barbra probably had at least a way to contact someone if things got bad but ..." he sighed and leaned on the steering wheel, "She's gone and I gotta try to do the job prepared or not no one else can that I know of."

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"I stopped aging when I took on this job. That was almost ten years ago - at least as this dimension clocks it, and I was nineteen. It would take some time to figure out how long its been between dimensions," Taylor said with a sigh that made it clear that she'd heard this before. "I have a kid starting kindergarten and one in high school, if that helps."

She neglected to go into exactly how the eldest had come into being as that seemed a much more complicated and longer story. It also wouldn't help with the whole 'I'm much older than I look' as she wasn't actually old enough to have had Huang - not and have been very, very young. She gave a wave of her fingers to dismiss the subject as she handed over the piece of paper with her information. 

"Eldritch is the master magus - every dimension that's a near Earth dimension has one - but he's often rather busy." Phantom said, the words neutral on the subject of the man himself. Phantom respected his work, she really did, and she didn't dislike the man... It was, however, always a little frustrating to have most communications happen via cryptic note. "My name is Taylor. Taylor Farretti and that's my number. You can call me if you have questions. It's not my particular speciality but I know enough about the various realms of dreams and nightmares. And, put on the costume long enough and you'll find yourself fighting all sorts of things. It happens."

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"I see."  Elis replied slowly and nodded thoughtfully the unaging angle was not something he'd considered much, "that must be an eternal frustration in your uncostumed life."  he remarked with a small smile then paused, "High school would mean ..."  he shrugged, "it doesn't matter."  he really didn't need to know the details of mystic teen mom.

As she began to explain a bit more of the broader strokes of the mystic community he sunk into a studious pose and listened carefully, "Yes I have heard of him though never obviously interacted I like to think our little corner beneath his paygrade."  because if it wasn't it was way over Elis'.  "Nice to meet you Taylor."  he greeted more politely, "Elis Sanford."  he paused and added with some hesitance, "Doctor Elis Sanford." as it really was more specific even though it risked the old hat of doctor egotism.  He tucked the number neatly away in his planner and offered a heartfelt, "Thank you.  I'll call if anything comes up."  before passing his own contact information to her, "and if you need my services once more you know where to find me."  he suggested with a smile and murmured, "Aparently." 

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Taylor's expression was impassive as he did math, her blinking once as if inviting comment. When Elis shrugged off the implications, she gave a little shrug, "I get a lot of strange looks and my son has developed something of a complex about being mistaken for my brother or worse. But, I imagine I'm not doing my job properly if my teenager isn't occasionally humiliated to be seen with me."

"It's nice to meet, you, Doctor Sanford," from the faint quirk of her mouth, she was teasing him. Without the mask and cowl, her expressive face was much easier to read. No doubt the costume came in handy for masking more than just her identity. Her cheeks dimpled once more at the vague disgruntlement about his tone, "Don't worry over much. There's not much of a mystical bent that can hide themselves from me for very long when I decide to go looking and you're still a novice at the game."

Her fingertips went up to the gem at her throat as she added, "I'll lend you a few books that are less personal than your wife's diaries that might help elucidate at least some of the more basic conventions. I'll have them delivered in the next day or so. If you ever need more information, and I happen to be unavailable, you might try Silberman's books. I'm sure we'll be speaking soon."

With that, she began to fade to ephemeral once more, before blinking out entirely and Elis had the distinct impression that the slow fade was largely for his benefit.

By the time he returned home from his late shift, there would be a small stack of very old looking leather books sitting on his desk. Mystics, man. They had little respect for people's personal boundaries, sometimes.

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