Angel’s Amethyst or Demon’s Diamonds and Stygian Iron – that’s what Ingerhast had said they had needed. When Kaji and the others had returned from their journey, she’d told them to gather the dolls and anyone who could help and join her in the containment rooms of the Academy when she called for them.
The call came not too long ago – it’s really, really early and the sun is yet to rise and the stalls on Market Street are still the nocturnal ones, though they’re changing over slowly.
On arrival at the Academy, everyone is directed to the containment rooms where Ingerhast is walking a circle embedded in the ground, pausing every now and then check something. On the table in the corner, are the gems and the metal that were connected.
It’s been a long time since he’s been in these rooms, and it always makes Kaji tense. At least this time he knows that they know what they’re doing instead of experimenting, or at least he hopes Ingerhast knows. The Professor seems to be very knowledgeable in many things that he’s pretty sure that won’t be the problem.
Not quite dragging his feet, Kaji’s got a somewhat squirmy sack over his shoulder. One guess as to where his stupid doll is. Usually mornings aren’t a problem, but there have been a lot of things straining him, the growing effects of the cursed dolls one such thing.
Instead of a greeting, a yawn slips from the young necromancer as he steps into the room, so he covers his mouth, waving at Ingerhast instead.
Leaning against the walls in a corner and out of the way, Megana rests with her eyes closed. The Shifter is dressed in new outfit of a black leather corset like haltertop and a matching skirt. A midnight blue cloak rests on her shoulders and matching satin slippers adorn her feet. Her usual array of knives and daggers are either absent or carefully hidden in the cloak. A black iron circlet resembling a crown of vines with tiny sapphire centered flowers keeps her hair out of her face and trailing down her back.
Once Kaji enters Meg’s brown eyes open and she smiles at him reassuringly. A slight frown crosses her expression as she carefully moves towards him. He looks so tired. Miss Frizz is on her right shoulder and Megana has the mouse’s doll tucked into an inner pocket of her cloak. She moves to hug Kaji with her left arm, making sure not to jostle her tiny friend.
Miss Frizz is on Megana’s shoulder sure enough, but she doesn’t seem bright-eyed, and she’s never been physically capable of being bushy-tailed. Her tiny claws are hooked into the fabric of the blue cloak so she doesn’t tumble off, and that seems a wise precaution as she’s not being as diligent as usual in maintaining her balance.
Elpida arrives with her bag. And then there’s Ingerhast. There.
OH good. Just who she wanted to see. The snakes hiss at the spider-wizard. She does not look happy, nope, but she’s here.
She can not wait until these doll problems are DONE WITH.
Aiden has a doll. It’s still wrapped in sheet metal. It’s annoying and he hates it but he’d been warned against either trying to kill it or excessively using his power while it was about. He’s probably taken the least amount of harm from it… but that’s because he’s already got a parasite feeding off his power.
“Glad we could all make it. Hello Frizz. El. Kaji. Meg. Slaine are we ready?”
Slaine is grumbling as she comes in behind Aiden. It had surprised her when the Psychic had woken her by bashing on her door. The pair still haven’t spoken since she tried to kill him and she’s still feeling really, really bad about it. On her brow is the Crown of the Command, the beaten metal circlet with a gem that winks gently the same colour as her eyes.
Ingerhast, who looks like a tall Slavic woman at the moment, glances up as everyone files in. “Ooooh, my delicious friends …” she murmurs, finishing her last pass around the circle. She smiles warmly at Elpida and Kaji and then gestures to the table where the components are.
The Devil’s Diamond has been divided into five equal pieces – neatly and professionally. There are also five metal feathers. “There’s one there for each of you, except Miss McClennan, please take one. This spell will need to unbind you each from your dolls and then … we’ll have to destroy them.”
“I’ll handle the incantations but you’ll all need to do your bit, during the unbinding – what that is … well, you’ll know when the time is right.” she pauses, looking at each of them present. “It’s not likely to be pleasant. Place your dolls in the circle if you will, and take up position on the points I have marked. Are there any questions whilst you’re doing that?”
Seeing Slaine wearing the crown fills Meg with satisfaction and she smiles at the mystic while looking between her and Aiden, then turns towards Ingerhast. She hopes this works, she’s noticed the increased tiredness in Kaji and Miss Frizz. She’s not sure what’s going on between Slaine and Aiden though, they look a little off. Oh she cannot wait to destroy those damned dolls. It’s probably good she hadn’t received one cause Meg is pretty sure she would have tried to obliterate it not long after. Patience is not something the Shifter is generally known for. She kneels, carefully, and holds her hand up for Miss Frizz so she can set the mouse down without her having to exert undue energy. Then Megana fishes the little mouse doll out of her pocket. Really she’s here to give Miss Frizz a ride, for support and to kill the ever loving hell out of anything that could pop up. Or failing that, drop it into an ever loving hell. If that’s a thing. Surely Meg would be the one to know about it. She’s unusually quiet, the others might notice. Or not, they are probably pretty preoccupied with their own problems at the moment actually.
Kaji leans into Megana’s hug, lips quirking in a half-smile. He reaches up to give Miss Frizz a careful pat with a finger tip. Hang in there, okay?
When Elpida and the others arrive, he nods to them before turning back towards Ingerhast. “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he murmurs in response to Aiden.
At the Professor’s bidding he steps towards the table, picking up one pair of the components they’d gathered from the demon’s nest not a week ago. He looks around at the others, and then back at Ingerhast as she continues to explain.
“Unpleasant’s kind of been the norm,” he says with a weak chuckle. Not that he enjoys it. Moving towards the circle, Kaji sets the sack down, grabbing the end to empty its contents into the center of the circle, his doll bound up and still wriggling angrily. He tosses the empty sack to the side before wandering over to one of the marked positions.
Suss steps gingerly over to Megana’s hand and then her selected diamond and feather move seemingly on their own to rest on the floor where Professor Ingerhast indicated.
The little mouse effigy promptly tries to bite Megana and climb her hand when it’s pulled from the pocket it had been carried in, until Miss Frizz looks up at it and the doll finds itself dangling by its unattractive little tail.
<~ I’m ready, Professor. ~> Flail all you want, ugly little mouse doll, there’s nothing physical holding it up so nothing to try and climb to escape.
Aiden lays his doll down and unwraps it from the sheet metal he’s got around it. With his mind. It may seem like cheating or showing off but he literally does not think about doing otherwise. Then he kneels down at the edge of the circle. No questions about that. He’s taken part in his share of magical rituals.
“When you say unpleasant…” Like, burning pain or the dolls coming to life again and trying to kill them? All he knows is this had better work. They only have so many materials.
“Professor,” replies Elpida at the familiar greeting of her deliciousness. She eyes the diamond, of course, and she reaches out to take the offered diamond. “Yeah, yeah. Sure. Tell me what I have to do, I’ll do it. I’m apparently good at that.” She grumbles. She’s irritable. So are her snakes. It may be the lack of sleep and CREEPY DOLL EYES that are ALWAYS STARING AT YOU with a mouth that wants to swallow her whole.
She wrinkles her nose at Ingerhast and produces her doll from the bag,. Irritable. VERY.
As the group gets themselves ready, Ingerhast transforms back into the orb spider. It’s fortunate that the room is large enough that she doesn’t fill it but it might make Elpida and Frizz a … little uncomfortable. Just a tad. “When I say unpleasant, Mister Frost? It’s different for everyone. These homunculi have been with you all long enough, there’s a certain connection. I expect they will fight and I expect that the unbinding will burn a little. Apart from that, I can not say.”
Looking to Megana, the Professor nods “Good Miss Shadowcleft. I’m going to need you to hold the barrier I raise, be ready – I suspect that we will have opposition.”
There’s a look for each of them gathered “When we are ready to the destroy the husks, each of you will have to destroy your own … I hope you’re prepared for that.”
“Place your dolls in the centre and we’ll begin.” When all the dolls are placed they all immediately stand and start to return to their owners, each of them can feel the drain on their energy. They’re certainly getting stronger. However, without further ado, her front legs move in an intricate pattern and a barrier of magic appears on the inner of the circle – nothing is getting out, though the others might be able to reach in. “Megana, if you will … add your power to that.”
“Each of quickly, hold the diamond and the feather and don’t let them go.” As they do, Ingerhast chants again and they can feel the items heating and the tug on their beings as the spell tries unbind them. It’s not … pleasant at all.
“…each of you will have to destroy your own… I hope you’re prepared for that.”
Kaji laughs weakly. “I don’t think we’d have any qualms about doing that. Most of us tried to do it right off the back.” But then he’s certain that Ingerhast isn’t just implying the will to do so. Well, bridges and such.
With the spider activating a barrier, Kaji inhales and releases his breath as he tries to mentally prep himself, looking towards the array’s center. He grasps the stone and the feather at Ingerhast’s word, drawing in another breath through his teeth as he feels them begin to react to the spell.
Everyone seems so..short and grumpy like. Meg can’t blame them though. Maybe it’d be a good idea to take them all for drinks or something after this. The Shifter Priestess smiles as Suss protects her from the doll. So cute! And fierce. Her eyes slowly track to each doll in turn, considering just what she’d like to do to whoever set them on her little adopted family.
Hang them by their guts from her tower seems like an attractive choice but it’d scare some of the children who’re always running in an out and she definitely doesn’t want to cause more damage to the little urchins. Maybe feed them on chunk at a time to Appleby. Or that giant effing octopus in the dinosaur swamps. Death by a thousand cuts? Sacrifice to… oh right, she’s trying not to do that so much these days. Her mind returns from it’s pleasant wanderings to focus on the words Ingerhast is chanting and the reactions of the others. She’s kept her spot kneeling by Miss Frizz. Her power rises to hold the barrier the spider woman calls. Let the assholes try! She’ll fight them with her last breath if needs be. These are her people and this will not stand. That thought centers the Shifter and she pours power into the holding without reservation. She’ll draw power from the lines til she’s burning up with it if she must. She can hear Lli Chibt waking in the back of her mind with grumbling complaint as she calls upon their bond for extra strength. The urge to murder rising as she watches the others through it all.
Miss Frizz is way too small to hold the items in her hands, so instead she stands her back feet on the feather and her front feet on the diamond. It’s the best she can manage, and she truly hopes she doesn’t fall off of them.
The pull of the unbinding spell doesn’t elicit any noise from Suss, but she does show that she’s affected by baring her teeth. This DOES NOT FEEL OKAY. At least she’ll be only too happy to take this unpleasantness out on that ugly little effigy when it’s time.
“Yeah, I’m prepared enough,” says Elpida, grunting.
“‘Less you’re meaning it’s going to turn into my evil opposite with a goatee, in which case I’ll gladly choke the life from it since I hate looking at myself in the mirror most days.”
She does not like being a gorgon, okay? This should be obvious to anyone who knows her. She then goes quiet to wait.
“Lovely…” Aiden mutters. As he kneels there and the unbinding begins to take effect he grips the magic diamond and magic feather a bit more tightly. This is the point at which he’d greatly like to call his sword or get something flammable to burn the damn doll with but since both his hands are occupied neither of those is an option. As a side note, this does yes, hurt quite a bit.
“I hate you.” He mutters to the parasitic thing. He’s pretty sure the feeling is mutual.
The spell is really quite horrid, it scorches those linked to the dolls as the magic threads them, plucking at ends, tugging as it slowly unbinds them. At times it feels like a thread being caught in cloth, knotting and tangling, dragging.
It’s likely to annoy Aiden’s passenger at the very least, if not make it respond … adversely.
The dolls fight back too, digging metaphorical claws in deeper. Each one of the bearers gets flashbacks – Elpida, meeting Athena and her subsequent transformation. Kaji – his first encounter with the Fox Spirit. Miss Frizz – her first encounter with a larger predator that wanted to eat her. For Aiden, it’s a bit of montage – Tolkeen, Torture, Atlantis.
The dolls whisper in their minds – stop this and the pain will stop.
For Megana, she can feel something push against the barrier she’s holding, it’s tainted and … dark. The taints not visible, but she can feel it as it creeps through the construct, encouraging the Shifter to just embrace the darkness and let go.
And while all this is happening – those artifacts they’re holding get hotter too.
Miss Frizz keens, though it’s likely above any human’s hearing range. When she starts getting flashbacks of the predatory bird that tried to scoop her up as a snack, she hisses and shoves a mental image right back — the bloody tangle of feathers that were what became of said predatory bird when her powers lashed out in defense.
The items under her paws heating up are practically inconsequential in comparison, though she suddenly finds herself wishing her friend Nimh hadn’t left.
Megana manages not to snort in amusement at Aiden’s muttering. It isn’t funny after all, not really. He kinda looks like he’s more in the mood for a fight than a drink. Oooh they could go down to the docks and find a good brawl or two or three… and she definitely wants to lay an epic beat down on the staff of the Lusty Merman… That place is too close to her tower and way too.. oops she better focus on this right now and the necessary butt kickings later. Annoyed by the fact the drain on his power isn’t lessening Meg’s familiar grumbles louder in her mind.
“Booooossss. Boss.Boss.Boss.BOSSBOSSBoooooooooooooosssss.” She sighs. “Hey!! That’s mine. Quit it. I need it. You don’t own me! I’m gonna…” He peers through her eyes and spots Slaine and the imps thoughts shift rapidly. “Oooh you saving the gorgeous one! Here take this, and this and thiss…take it allll~” Megana’s eyes, which are going all black again, roll. How and why the creature has a crush on Slaine she does not want to consider. She will use it to her advantage as much as possible however.
Megana’s lips move to form an evil grin. “Hello darkness, my old friend.” The Shifter whispers aloud. She’s been at this dance for nearly entire life. Someday she might give in and allow some form of Darkness to win. That day is not today.
Elpida’s eyes widen.
They widen again. Her snakes go straight up on end and then, finally, she pushes back against… whatever it is she’s seeing. It should be obvious, but how many people here can say they’ve met a God and that God’s been actually angry at them…?
Okay. A lot of people. That’s not the point. THE POINT IS THAT IT’S FREAKING HER OUT. She manages to push it back, though, with a commanding, “Ehhh.. FUCK YOU TOO,” to the doll.
Aiden… grunts in discomfort. These memories are not memories he likes, but he’s had a lot of experience with things that can manipulate his mind and this one is not one he’s going to let break him. Not that easily at any rate. It’ll have to try a bit harder.
“I still hate you.” He grits through his teeth.
“Ergh…” Kaji squeezes his eyes shut as he struggles to maintain his focus against the burning pain. It reminds him of when that paladin-bot on Wormwood tried toasting him with holy light or some such. The images that come to mind are of a time further back, however, and although whatever the doll’s intentions might be, it seems to only further agitate the young necromancer.
Despite the pain, a laugh escapes him, harsh but almost amused. To quote one of his favorite movies, it chose…poorly. When he was but a child, he hadn’t even realized the danger he’d possibly faced, and a sneeze had brought it to its demise, save for that bit that’s become a part of him. It’s that part that rises with him, scoffing at the doll’s attempt to subvert Kaji.
It serves to stoke the flames, as Kaji would love nothing better than to throw all this back at whoever had sent the accursed dolls in the first place. His grip tightens around the objects as the heat intensifies, and he uses it as a focus to buoy him above the overwhelming atmosphere, unsure if it’s the room or just in his head.
The taint pushes against Megana’s power, enticing her some more but with Lli Chibt’s borrowed power she manages to keep it at bay and the shield intact.
As each of the ‘owners’ go through their trials, the dolls echo their movements. Elpida’s one, the ‘strands’ on its head that resemble snakes, stand on end; Kaji’s laughs with a wild look on its face; Frizz’s looks terrified and then horrified; Aiden’s … looks stoic.
Ingerhast chants again and as the last words of her spell are still echoing about the room … “Smash the diamond and feather together … now.”
When they do, it’s concussive and each one of them is shaken as the last of the threads tear free from their beings. Tear – there’ll be small holes left, which should mend over time but the unbinding takes something with it.
The dolls, who have made their way through the circle to stand before their owner, all go rigid and glare up at them with baleful eyes… It’s like they know what comes next.
Suss shudders as the binding is finally severed, and then she looks the little mouse effigy. And she bares her teeth at it. Then, rather abruptly, one of Megana’s concealed knives is ripped out of its hiding spot in her cloak and it moves to hover over the mouse doll.
Miss Frizz stands a bit shakily on her hind feet with one little hand outstretched. When she lowers her hand, the knife stabs down at the ugly little mouse effigy with all of the speed and force of a full-sized human guillotine.
Megana gives Kaji a proud grin, the evil fading from her smile. “You can do this. All of you.” She encourages softly. When the dolls go rigid the Shifter cries out with savage glee. Yes! Now to destroy them and be almost done with this mess. She won’t count it done truly until whoever did this spell has been tracked down and rendered (perhaps literally) harmless. The string of curses that drops from Meg’s lips is very demonic sounding and over at Gran’s her imp humming sweetly and trying to cuddle the old Mystic’s cat. If her survives this he’ll so deny it ever happened. “When I find who did this I will..” Meg starts and then stops and sighs. Instead she visibly gathers herself, taking several slow and deep breathes to control her temper. Which at the moment is more of a blinding rage. Dark Mother but the headache she’s about to have..
The Shifter blinks in surprise as one of the knives on her left side is torn free, then grins as it chops down on the mouse doll. “I bet that felt great.” She comments. “The chopping I mean, not the rest.” Meg adds hastily.
Gripping stone and feather firmly in each hand, Kaji bangs the two together at Ingerhast’s order. He can feel the shock as it cuts right through him, drawing out a gasp. But he feels those threads pull away at least, and as though they’d been barbed. It hurts, but Kaji’s felt something like it before. He should probably stop getting into situations like these before too much gets ripped away. Hopefully nothing decides to fill it in for him. Just a walking version of the Haunted Mansion here.
His eyes open, and he levels an impassive look down at the doll before him. He grabs the somewhat curved hilt hanging from his belt loop, reminding himself to breathe as he ignites the plasma blade, the blue-white length humming to life. This is a good death, he thinks at the doll, another quote from a totally unrelated movie.
The blade thrums as he swings it down to cleave his dopple-doll in two, right down the middle.
Aiden brings both stone and feather together and keeps them there. Then he rises from his kneeling position and glares down at the doll. He doesn’t draw a weapon. His greatest weapon has always been his mind and with it he lifts the little effigy until it’s at eye level.
Not saying a word to any of the others he regards the troublesome magical thing for a long moment as if wondering where it had come from and to what end. Then, with a simple thought, he tugs it in a dozen directions at once.
Elpida’s doll promptly turns to stone as Elpida looks at it. And why not? She can do that. She the grabs it and crushes it to dust in her hands.
Hey, there are perks to being ridiculously strong. Once everything is said and done, anyway.
That’s all. Well, that and a: “THANK FUCK THAT’S DONE. Now I want to find who did it and punch their jaw off.”
This may not be an idle threat.
Megana’s eyes widen as she turns in time to catch a good look at Kaji’s new weapon. “What the hell is that?!” And should she worry over the fact his face went blank before he killed the thing? Probably not. It wasn’t really alive for one and has been tormenting him for months for another. She should worry about the pain it put him through though and moves to hug him tightly for a moment.
This allows her to watch Aiden, and grin a bit as his choice of destruction. Then she moves quickly, very quickly, so fast she almost trips over her own feet while trying to get away, and kisses Aiden on the cheek. A quick dash past Elpida, thumping the Gorgon heartily on the back, and Meg ducks around one of the Professor’s legs and grasps Slaine’s shoulders. Excepting Kaji her actions towards the others are all clumsy and awkward and she’s scowling hard as she does it, but her feelings are clear. She’s relieved this is over for them and they’re all still standing. What was it she’d told John the other night? Oh yeah, that she wasn’t good at needing help or comfort or knowing how to ask for or accept either. Not good at all. But she’s trying to learn. Then she’s back out of the way to allow to the other two to destroy their dolls as well and staring hard at the floor. While totally not blushing.
It’s not pretty, the aftermath. A little mouse head rolls thunk thunk thunk across the floor to land at Frizz’s feet, it’s lifeless eyes staring up at her. Kaji’s … well there’s one eye that he can see. Elpida’s just disintegrates to dust and Aiden’s… is hung and quartered. If he’d disembowlled it, it would have been hung, drawn, quartered instead.
They should all feel exhausted after that. There’s nothing of the Devils Diamond or Stygian Iron left either – it vaporised in the last of that spell.
“Well my delicious ones …” Ingerhast speaks. “… I imagine you all need a rest after that. You can stay here if you like … I’ve students that I need to … see.”
“Yes. Students. Not dinner,” says Elpida to Ingerhast. She eyes her. Warily.
Her snakes hiss at Megana at the pat on the back, as she’s clearly on edge, and then she slumps and begins to slink away. “Where is that damn cat person? I need to have a word with her. No, not you,” she tells another cat person on the way out.
Anyway, she’s going now. Mostly to go have a a lot of beer and fall asleep. Somewhere. Maybe in a gutter.
Miss Frizz drops back to all fours then kicks the mouse doll’s head away in disgust before taking just a few halting steps and sprawling out so that even her chin is flat on the floor. She sighs and seems to deflate a little as her eyes close.
She’s completely asleep in a matter of seconds.
See or eat? Meg wonders but not aloud for fear of spooking Elpida. The Shifter moves to gather up Miss Frizz, ever so careful not to wake her friends and just as careful to step on the dolls head, then puts her shoulder under Kaji’s arm. “Gran’s? I can get you all back there at least.” Before her headache settles in, and it will not be comfortable after the amount of power she channeled but after what they’ve just gone through she doesn’t hesitate to make the offer. They need food and rest and that will all be better in a place of familiarity and safety. She also has something to show Miss Frizz and needs to tell Kaji about the birthday present she’s arranged for him if he wants it. The kind of thing that it had been pointed out to her that you just don’t spring on another person.
It’s…over. Not pretty, sure, but it’s over and that’s what counts. Kaji holds his stance for a moment longer- at least until Megana’s exclamation. He thumbs it off as he’s hugged by Megana again, smiling wearily at her. “It’s my not-lightsaber.” Not that that would make sense to anyone but Elpida.
“Thanks for the help Professor, and everyone- good job.” Clipping the thing back at his side, he slouches with his sigh, and although he doesn’t mean to, he ends up leaning against Megana once her arm is slung around him. Good timing there. He might’ve fallen over his own feet.
“Gran’s sounds grrreat.”
Those plagued with the mysterious dolls gather at the Academy to perform the ritual that will break the accursed link between them and their dangerous and deceptive dopples.
April 27, 2411
Academy of Esoteric Arts, Vesper