Like any large city on planet earth – actually like many large cities across the Multiverse – Vesper has Rats. It’s inevitable. The concentration of food and easy places to hide means they breed in their tens of thousands, possibly much more than that, all over the city. For the most part they’re not really a problem. Magical pest control is quite effective but they never have been exterminated. It’s far, far too time consuming for one thing and for another any effort to do so risks actual citizens like Miss Frizz who are the wrong size and/or shape.
So it is perhaps unusual to see a pile of dead rats – a big one – being cleaned up off the street in front of the Armsman’s HQ just off the Government square. Sanka’a, a graceful looking feline woman, is watching the removal with some distaste while a certain grey eyed psychic stands next to her.
“I know I look like an earth-cat, but this is not what I wanted for my first day back to work.” The normally vibrant and confidant woman looks drawn and a bit fragile. Understandable as she was only recently released from the Restorium following a harrowing ordeal at the hands of a Coalition commando unit.
Trudging at mundane speed through the city, Catriona is determinedly in the best approximation of ‘normal’ mode that she can manage – solid, perceptible, and slow enough for others to perceive and talk to without any difficulty. She is, however, travel-stained and rather on the hungry side… and the scent of *that much* fresh carrion (even of such a low grade, for her sustenance needs) cannot help but make her nose twitch and guide her footsteps closer. Just to check things out. Just in case….
The resulting view is greeted with a lifting of her brows, and a determined attempt by the dhampir to *avoid* sniffing the air as if scenting breakfast. People do tend to get nervous about that sort of thing.
“It’s good to see ye back, Sanka’a” says the small redhead dressed in travelling leathers standing to the side of the pyschic. Slaine McClennan watches the pile of rats being cleaned with dark, muddy green eyes. She looks a little drawn as well, but that’s not unusual really. “An’ I’m sure it’s not somethin’ ye wanted. If we could have had it handled by now, we would have.”
As Catriona comes into view, Slaine cocks her head and waves to the woman, a slight question touching her face. “Cat. It’s good to see ye’. Your journeys were long this time.”
“Hello Cat.” Aiden also greets the woman, watching as she seems to notice the pile of carcasses. It’s a big pile. About as tall as he is. It’s a lot of rat. And it’s slowly being moved by workers and magic onto a truck to dispose of, presumably.
“Miss Moore.” Sanka’a greets the dhampir. It is, after all, the feline woman’s job to know things and the very least she can do is know the redhead’s name. The one who isn’t Slaine. Because a lot of people know Slaine’s name.
“Was the Vault breached, Captain?” The psy-warrior asks.
“Thank you Slaine, it’s good to be back. And no, but it’s clearly what they were trying to do. This has flown a bit under my radar so I’d appreciate if you could bring me up to speed.”
It has, naturally, flown under her radar. She’s been out of it.
“I’ve been chasing demons and a missing girlfriend in the mountains again,” Catriona rather absent-mindedly answers Slaine – sufficiently distracted by both the conversation and the presence of so much *food* (however grottily akin to cheap take-out it might be) that she forgets quite how much like insanity or idle boasting such a statement might sound. She does remember to raise a hand and politely incline her head in greeting to the little gathering, hauling her gaze away from the rats. “Good afternoon. It, ahh, looks and sounds as if something is ‘up’ in Vesper again…?”
“Always, Cat. No rest for the wicked.” Slaine answers, offering a faint smile as the woman joins them.
That’s a good question Aiden asks Sanka’a and Half Pint turns her attention to the Feline. “I’m glad they didn’ breach the vault, Capt’n. That would have been bad.” As Cat joins them, the small redhead lets out a sigh. “I’ll do my best, there’s a lot we don’ know yet but basically, there’s a psychic entity that’s set up in the sewers that’s controlling the rats and drivin’ them to attack the power leylines. They hit Grans a week or so ago and now this.” She pauses, letting people take that in and continues when they all nod.
“According to the rainbow serpent that lives in the sewers…” Wraith might remember the one. “… this entity has done a deal with the ‘Bunyip’, which we believe is a demon, or demonic at least, and has set up operations in the ‘Chamber of the Elders’.” Aiden might have more to add, but that’s … a start.
“I’m still getting over the ‘giant snake lives in the Vesper sewers part’.” Aiden mutters. “Sounds eerily like an urban legend…” Maybe it’s why the urban legend exists.
Sanka’a snorts at Cat’s observation. “Something is indeed up. This two were just actching me up on what…” There’s a short pause. “Chamber of Elders? That’s not good. What have you heard of it?” At least she’s not saying it’s a bed time story?
“We know that it’s old, and that it had something to do with the original capping of the ley lines. As well as… sealing something.”
“Correct. The Chember of Elders was originally used as the hub of the Vesper power system. Over time we developed a new one and now it’s not connected to the grid at all. However it still serves an important function. When Kailastia and the Vigil – Vesper’s Founders – first came to the area, it wasn’t unoccupied. It was too rich in magic to be. Most of the original demonic inhabitants they killed or drove out but one was powerful enough to have sunk itself into the very fabric of the area. They couldn’t kill it or banish it, so they defeated it and sealed it away, buried alive in the center of a ley line nexus. And now you’re telling me this ‘Rat King’ wants to let it out…”
Cat always shows up in such interesting times.
Catriona pinches the bridge of her nose. “Rainbow serpent… bunyip… sound Australian. Has some of this information been filtered through a particular acquaintance of ours? Or is the region drawing particular interest from that part of the world?” Aware that her Swiss cheese of a memory makes connections that might not even mean anything to others, the dhampir tries to get her thoughts back on track. “But, ahh, yes. That sounds… well, like a problem that is no longer *waiting* to happen. Presuming that there is no way to safely dispose of the buried demon, are we aware of any way to deal with the ‘Rat King’?”
“Well it’s refreshin’ to have someone that knows of it, apart from Gran that is…” Slaine murmurs, nodding slowly as Aiden adds his own observations. It’s strange that she’s not concerned about the serpent that lives below but she does give Cat a funny look “Where’s Australia? Particular acquaintance?” Clearly they haven’t. Her attention quickly returns to Sanka’a “Is that the Bunyip do ye think? Or somethin’ else?”
So many demons.
Cats question gets a grimace from the Mystic and she looks at Aiden again. “We migh’. Vargr had us visit Lazlo recently and … request an artifact from the Council there. An artifact called the ‘Crown of Command’.” The psychic can explain a bit more about that, it’s clear that Slaines worried about that. “And the serpent will lead us through the sewers to the Chamber. Yaren, Meg, Jeshua, Vargr an’ Myself … will try to clear him.”
“Not yet. It’s a psychic entity of some manner but not from my end of the psychic spectrum. This is more a… telepathic thing. Maybe it’s a possessing entity. Either way, it can’t be punched and it has a lot of minions that need dealing with every time we run into it.”
Aiden sighs and shakes his head. “So it’s a multi-pronged thing. It needs to be dealt with telepathically and it needs to be dealt with physically and-and we have no idea how to track it.”
“That’s the strange part to me.” Sanka’a says. “Entities like this usually have to live somewhere. They can’t just float in the ether waiting for something. There has to be either a specific body or a physical object it inhabits. A locus for its intellect. But every time someone goes down there they get attacked. And no amount of mundane sneaking around really seems to do the trick. I don’t have a scout with the required abilities to really figure out what’s down there.”
Trying to keep her chaotic tangle of fly-away thoughts in some semblance of an order, Wraith opts to try following a rough time-line of things to respond to. “Clancy Drover. Rides a big… hopping, furry steed. Calls people ‘mate’ a lot. He’s from Australia,” she tries to explain to Slaine, before nodding warily to Aiden and Sanka’a. “And would someone who can see magic and phase through solid matter be of some use in scouting for the source of this problem?”, she asks quietly. “If it’s hiding by mystical or psychic means, I should be able to see that, too.”
“I agree.” Slaine says to Sanka’a as the felinoid explains “It has to have taken over somethings body. We jus’ don’ know what.”
“Clancy? Oh. I didn’ know his name, but I know the mount ye’re talkin’ of. Haven’ seen him around these parts for a while.” Whilst most of the denizons of Rifts Earth aren’t transitory, Vesper does see a higher number than most, so that might not be unusual. Slaine still doesn’t know where this ‘Australia’ is but she’s aware there’s lots of places she doesn’t know.
“She’s good.” Half Pint says to Sanka’a. “She was one of the ones who helped take down those pirates las’ year. And the Harvest. If anyone can get in, she could.”
“Is that so…?” Sanka’a turns her attention more fully onto the taller of the two redheads. Paler too. Her gaze becomes rather… intent. “I hadn’t heard about that particular skill set.”
“She really is quite good. Helped us do a few things in the past. Dependable and discreet.” That’s pretty high praise from Aiden.
“In that case yes. Someone like that would be quite helpful. I assume you’re talking about you? I have to say I don’t know how risky this will be by I’m leaning toward ‘very’. Are you sure you still want in on this? The city will be appropriately grateful if you do and I’m sure Slaine and Aiden can help you catch up on the rest. They seem to have some ideas about dealing with this and I”m inclined to let them.”
Catriona shrugs, looking decidedly sheepish – even a little apologetic. “I, ahh, wasn’t joking when I said I’d been off on my own, chasing demons in the mountains. I’m very hard to kill, not least because I can get away from most problems. Magic could trap me, but I can see that… so, well.” She shrugs a little once again. “I’d be inclined to help even if it had just been a problem for Gran. But I admit that the gratitude of the city would also be welcome. So, ahh, yes. I’ll help if I can.”
Slaine touches the side of her nose and grins just a little at Sanka’a “A woman has to have her secrets, Capt’n.” The Mystic is still a bit uncomfortable with the Felinoid but that’s because she has such a style about her. It makes Slaine feel that hers is kind of ‘street urchin’.
“Then it’s settled. When we’re done here, we can go through more of what we know, which isn’ much. We’ll have to call the Serpent again to guide ye along, she can only take ye so far before ye’ll be on ye’re on.”
Seriously, if Slaine had her way, she’d be sending Cat down now.
Even hurt and seemingly frail Sanka’a has a ‘style’ about her. One she’s rather proud of truth be told. Even in moments like this.
“I’ll leave you too it then. I’m going to go see someone about hurrying up the corpse disposal here. Let me know what you find.” The feline woman nods to the trio and heads on inside.
Aiden makes a face at the smell. And it does smell here. Cat might find it savory. For Aiden it just reminds him of bad nights in the Magic Zone. “Well, shall we move away from here then? Are you going to need any help Cat? Or any kit?” Kit for Cat? It’s a good thing Aiden doesn’t know that could be a pre-Golden Age pun. “Anyone we should tell in case things go wrong?”
“I could offer a little medical assistance, if needed, Captain,” Catriona offers to the felinoid – not expecting to have it accepted, but keen to seem helpful. Then she nods to Aiden’s suggestion to move on: being tempted to snack upon a giant pile of dead rats is almost as disconcerting as feeling peckish in a crowd. At least she fed well on her last demonic catch before coming dwon from the mountains. “I… well. Gran’s my landlady. Elpida’s probably the only one, other than you two, who might really notice if I disappeared ‘properly’.” Again, she sounds sheepish, though it might be hard to tell whether that’s for her lack of friends or for suggesting that anyone at all might realise she was missing. “But I can start having a look around as soon as you want me to.”
“I need somethin’ to eat.” Slaine murmurs as they start to move. “Grans got a shipment from dinosaur swamp today. Some nice Archaeopteryx steaks and wings.” That might appeal to both of her companions but Cat also knows there’s likely other fare lurking in the stables out the back of the bed and breakfast.
“Ye look like ye need a good feed, a bathe and a rest firs’. Do that an’ then we’ll get ye down in the sewers, soon enough.”