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Celestial Spirit Fellowship

Tuesday, July 10th, 2017

7:32 PM

 

The heat was breaking as the sun dragged down towards the horizon. But it still felt hot enough to light a fuse.

 

Samantha Lemire sat on a graffiti-splattered bench in front of the shelter, nursing a cigarette like a shipwrecked man might nurse clean water. She looked out on the dirty street as the lamps flickered and fought against the twilight. As a charity worker in the Country Club, Sam had seen a lot and handled half of it with her own two hands. On a number of those occasions, she'd wished she'd had thicker gloves. But she knew what it was like to get her hands dirty and deal with the muck of the world.

 

Not like this, though. This was something else entirely.

 

She fought against her nerves as the steel door to the shelter scraped open. She turned to find Michael, one of the volunteers, waiting in the frame. "They show up yet?"

 

"No. How's our... guest?"

 

"He's fine. Sleeping it off, for now. As for the rest of him --"

 

"Just focus on the bit that's sleeping. The others?"

 

"They're fine, for now. If he wakes up..."

 

Sam shook her head. "I gave him enough Benadryl that he could sleep through the Fourth of July."

 

"You could have used the Haldol --"

 

"There are people who need that. And he's not mad. As we know it." She turned back to the street, waiting for her guests. "Mind you, I'm sure these guys know it better..."

 

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Rosa was a very meticulous woman at times, trying applying the solid structures of her Academic life to the real world. Often a very frustrating thing in a crazy city like Bedlam, but very occasionally it paid off. Shelters were the breeding ground of disparate and tended to attract spirit that fed on such things, so shelters were the one place she had a watch out for anything unusual, that had brought her to Celestial Spirit Fellowship.

 

Normally she'd allow Liam to do the investigation stuff first but this one seemed so much on the unusual side that she'd decided to go straight to have a look herself. She walked confidently down the street and towards the two helpers and despite the, literal, voice in her head telling her to use a little charm first she went straight to a rather brisk introduction.

 

"My names Doctor Rosa Thorne and I'm an investigator of Occult Matters. I believe you have someone here that could use my help?"

 

There was a mystery here and like all mysteries, Rosa was chomping at the bit to solve this one.

 

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John knew Thorne well enough. She was good at what she did. " Call me John." He said in a flat voice. He knew what they called him, of course, but it was awkward to say. "I'm a detective of a more mundane sort." he said. Where he got those skills, well, he wouldn't say. Not that it mattered, but he preferred to keep his personal details out of the picture. 

 

He looked around the room, waiting for introductions before getting down to business.

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Pastor Theo had regular contacts with several local charities, and even a few sort-of-charities (one couldn't be too picky in Bedlam). So it wasn't really a surprise he caught wind of a resident at Celestial Spirit Fellowship whose problems were...more extreme than most. He'd made a couple of phone calls to try and get some therapists in touch with the center, but then he'd taken just a bit of time to think and pray on the matter. Bone-deep, he knew this was an issue for his other face. He just hoped his help would be enough...

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

Judex had slipped along the streets with no one the wiser, his comparatively mundane, and rather shabby, appearance meaning no one really wanted to bother him. Which suited him fine, it let him pass the way in peace.

 

He stopped just around a corner, sizing up who was there so far, before coming swaggering out.

 

"Greetings to those I've met and those I've not. Grim tidings may bring us together, but that's no reason for me to be sour, one supposes. I'm Judex, and I'm here to help."

 

He also looked like a burly hobo, but, hey, Bedlam. 

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The Church was more aware of the occult than most would realize at first, but when one stopped to consider matters, its interest made considerably more sense.  Which explained why one Nicola Cervenka, known in some select circles at the Nightingale (and in some even more exclusive circles as Sister Nightingale) had heard about the Celestial Spirit Fellowship and that it had reached out.

 

Because despite being a vampire, the former religious sister still had a relationship with The Church.  Not one that the Church would ever admit to of course, even normal people didn't want to admit that vampires were real, but the Church certainly didn't want to admit it had one on its payroll.  So to speak.

 

--

 

A woman with pale skin and dark hair approached the group, eyes obscured by sunglasses though it was rapidly approaching dusk.  Her clothing was dark, her coat was leather and long, the wind toying with it dramatically.  On top of her head was a dark hat, the classic detective fedora and around her neck hung a rosary.   Her movements where, in a word, predatory and seemed at odds with her close-lipped smile.

 

"Good evening," she said, her English still carried her Czech accent.  "I am the Nightingale."  That sounds so stupid thought Nicola, but her King--and since when did she start thinking of Avenger as her king?--insisted upon her adopting a moniker.  She glanced at those still outside and gestured toward the door.  "Might we enter?"

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Samantha nodded. "You may enter," she said, pushing the steel security door open behind her. "I can also offer you coffee, for those of you who drink it. For those who don't... well, tea, I guess."

 

The group entered to find what they expected of a shelter in Bedlam. Unlike the ones that were likely tax dodges and little else, this one seemed to be making an effort. Actual furniture, a not-obsolete television, and a full book case formed something of a rec area off in the corner. Individual sat at long tables, either eating from prepared meals or picking at pastries. Some of the pastries looked like day-olds, most likely donations.

 

"We do what we can here," she said. "Some days, it seems like everything rolls downhill, but we've got a good barrier to keep it from rolling over us. Everyone here deserves a chance. We know what people think of this city - the last thing we want to do is give that reputation teeth. But every so often, we get a case that's..."

 

She took a deep breath. "We have some private bedrooms, off from the main shelter. For those who come to us with specialized needs. They may be detoxing and need a place to come down. One time, we got a positive diagnosis for TB and had to quarantine while health services took their sweet time getting here. But Mr. Alande --"

 

"Uh, Sam?" Behind Sam, a slim woman of Middle Eastern descent had crept up. "It happened again."

 

"What? I thought we had him loaded up..."

 

"He, uh... he hasn't woken up, as far as we can tell. It just started... happening."

 

Sam broke off in a deliberate march towards the room, waiting for the rest of the group to follow. When they got to the room, she cracked the door slightly, so that they could take a look in - perhaps without letting something out.

 

The walls were plain, but with a clock and calendar for frame of reference. A small bed lay in the center of the room, the sheets bundled and almost tossed aside. A man lay on the bed, fully clothed, his beat-up combat boots at the foot of the bed. He looked to be in his mid-30s, but with his long hair, beard, and sun-cracked face, it was hard to tell. He was sleeping like a baby, seemingly dead to the world.

 

But the floors... on the floor, in colors that looked remarkably like dried blood, lay what looked like an occult sigil. Around it, scribbled in a scratchy hand, were words in a language that definitely wasn't English. 

 

"So, all..." Samantha gestured to the writings. "...this happened while I was out?"

 

"Yes, ma'am," said her assistant. "I swear, I just turned away for a minute, and then it was... done."

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"That's not blood," Nightingale said, peering into the room over the shoulder of a person whose name she didn't catch.  She didn't realize she said that out loud for a moment--too busy reminding herself to not go licking the blood, at least not with witnesses--but the she gave a small grin.

 

"I would be an awful haemotheurge if I couldn't spot the difference."  Good save, she thought to herself.  Avoid the vampire stuff.  Blood magic is already creepy enough.  "So.. who wants to play occult google translator?"

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Judex frowned as he saw the sigil, moving slowly and carefully into the room. His feet barely left the floor, but he stayed well clear of both bed and symbol, staring thoughtfully at it. The frown didn't leave his face.

 

"I've seen the symbol before, in at least one text. It's...not common, thankfully. But. This...is probably the symbol of a demon named Sabnock. But...this doesn't make sense. There's no army or fortress here, and that's the typical association with that demon. Why do this? What is there to afflict here for one such as that?"

 

He seemed genuinely confused and unsure, stroking his beard in what seemed like a nervous tic. His brow was still furrowed in thought and frustration. 

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Doctor Thorne took a moment to take in the entire room whilst suppressing a completely inappropriate smile, this was the kind of thing she thrived on having studied very hard to achieve useful knowledge on such things.

 

"The blood is most likely ectoplasmic in nature so completely unsuitable for those who survive on a hemovore diet, same for the sigil I assume. Though it's a subject I'd be interested in discussing at a more opportune moment." she carefully made her way to the poor soul in bound to the bed.

 

"It appears to be a possession of some type but what type in particular?" she mused to herself before asking "Have they show any form of Glossolalia, levitation or other psychokinetic behavior?"

 

Without touching the sleeping form she examined them for any signs of medical harm. Though she'd never gained any form of official certification she'd learned all she could about medicine to better help those in these situations.

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Samantha laughed. "It would be hard to describe the times when not," she said. "I... suppose I should start with the basics, though. His name is Thomas Alande. He's not one of our long-timers - he's been here maybe 2 months, at most. Recently lost his apartment after losing his job. He wasn't losing himself, wasn't falling apart - he wanted to get back into the market. We were helping him with recruiting firms, but... well, it's hard to find work in this town, even if you have a proper address on your resume. But aside from that setback, everything seemed to be going okay."

 

"And then..." said the Middle Eastern woman, before clamming up. She looked to Samantha, as if realizing she was speaking over her.

 

"It's okay, Dunya," said Samantha. "About a week ago, Sam... he started sleeping longer. He seemed more irritable when we woke him, and a bit reserved. He was afebrile, so we didn't think it was fever. We were making a deal with the free clinic to get a doctor over when he attacked one of the other guests. We got him in the private room, gave him some Haldol, and waited. That was when the... manifestations started. Twenty minutes in - too soon for the drug to leave his system - we heard long bangs coming from the room. Soon after, there was this... we think it was cursing, given the tone, but we couldn't make out the language."

 

"So, the answer to all that weird stuff is 'Yes,'" said Dunya. "As for that whole 'fortress' thing... I don't want to speculate, but... if he's been doing this whole Linda Blair thing, slamming walls, breaking furniture... why's he still here?"

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Rosa was fascinated with this whole thing, it was a mystery of some complexity which was something she thrived on. Luckily for some, there was a not so little voice in her head reminding her that a real person was involved and possibly suffering.

 

"We have a glyph here, either a mark of ownership or sealing someone or something." she took a picture on her cell to check up later

 

"This doesn't feel like a standard possession though, it has few of the standard markers. Has anyone a familiarity with these glyphs? It's not one I familiar with."

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"Not off hand, going to have to do some research later," Nicola said, taking a picture of the glyphs with her own phone.  She was just stalling though, what she really wanted to was get a little bit of Thomas' blood and see what she could learn.  But she couldn't do that, not in front of all of these people and certainly not in front of people who would view cutting one of their wards, even if it was a small cut, as the opposite of the help they requested.

 

It wasn't easy being a blood mage.  Might as well throw it out there.

 

"I need some of his blood."

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Samantha raised an eyebrow but didn't offer much protest. "Your ways are yours," she said. "As long as no goats are getting slaughtered in here. We've got enough blood as it is, and I don't feel like making gyros afterwards." 

 

Dunya returned, carrying a needle. She leaned in to inspect Thomas isolating a vein. She inserted the needle into his bicep, drawing a trace of blood, waiting for word from Nicola on how much was enough... 

 

When Thomas's hand lashed out with terrible speed, catching her wrist. The man's mouth rolled open, a strange voice emerging even as his lips made no clear motion, followed by a thin and human keening:

 

"What do we have here, sweetling, sweet thing? Help me, please! I'm lost! We're all lost, you dumb bitch. They laid the roads with Catalhoyuk, and then they lost the map. I can't find my way out! No one can. Oh, the Malebolge, the Malebolge... Please... oh, please... They built a labyrinth for purification, but oh, all the filth had to go somewhere..."

 

"

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Rosa felt that itch in her throat that suggested she really needed a cigarette, more out of sheer excitement than nerve, even though she'd never touched the disgusting thing before. It was a dalliance that Liam had tried when he was much younger than still reared its head at times like these.

 

<"By the sigil and rules of Solomon, I compel you to identify yourself"> she drew the sigil in the air, briefly considering how the smoke and glow of a cigarette would enhance the effect, and spoke in near perfect Latin.

 

She had a couple of languages to try if Latin didn't work but demon seemed to respond "well" to the language for obvious historical reasons.

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"Me?" said the demon behind Sam's lips. "Oh, I'm the prag, dear. They don't really have a name for me. They took it and smeared it across the walls in filth under 'FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL...'"

 

"Get him out," said Sam, clutching his head. "Please, get him out..."

 

"Good idea." 

 

The window shattered, as if hit by a sledgehammer. Sam drifted up from the bed, dangling like a hanged man, his feet hanging inches off of the mattress. Dunya was already running for something, while Samantha stood braced in the doorway. 

 

"I will tell you something, though. They call me Jackanape, and a lot of things not suited for print. I'm low on the pecking order, here, but it was a lot better before we ended up woven in here. By this place. By these cursed streets."

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"No."

 

The word was spoken harshly, like a man rebuking a wild dog. But the man who spoke it looked more bear than man, for a moment, his face twisted with anger, but other emotions swirling deep behind his eyes.

 

"You cannot have him. I reject your power, devil. I reject your claim to this soul. He yet breathes, he may yet be saved. I say begone!"

 

He lifted up his hand, the one with a glove, where a simple cross shape was scratched into the palm.

 

"I tell you, in the name of the Lord, loose this man! His sins are not yours to punish! His life is not yours to spend! Your lies are unwelcome. In God's name, begone!"

 

With that he surged forward, the gloved palm landing on the possessed man's chest, quick yet gentle. His other hand sought to try and support the man's neck and/or upper body in case he fell, to try and prevent injury. 

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