Saint Louis. Aiden hadn’t really wanted to rush the trip and they’ve not made it yet. To be honest that’s kind of a relief to him. He’s not especially keen for reasons he hasn’t really articulated to anyone but might have to do with the words ‘razor whip’.
It’s not a nice place. In fact it makes Richmond look safe by comparison.
Not that Aiden has been idle. He’s gotten in touch with some people and has a big handdrawn map spread out on the table. It looks really high quality and it must have cost him a fortune either in money or favors. Fortunately Aiden is a frugal type… who knows people. He could probably pay in either.
If he looks like he’s brooding over the really quite large map… he kind of is.
Slaine is busy ‘busing’ tables as Aiden looks at that map. The looks she casts the psychic are a mix of annoyance and … something else. The annoyance might be easily explained – he still has her Crown and refuses to give it back to her.
For good reason but the fiery redhead doesn’t particularly care about that.
“What ha’ ye found, Aiden?” She asks, finally returning from the kitchen after dumping the last load of dishes she cleared. She knows full well he doesn’t want to go St Louis but she hasn’t put two and two together – yet. Hasn’t matched the scars on his back to that place.
Elpida is often here on account of, you know, living here. She’s yawning and making her way down the steps, like she just woke up because she probably did.
“…the hell time is it, anyway?” she asks, apparently unsure. Her clock must be horribly off at this point.
Sitting just off to the side of the table that Aiden’s commandeered with his oversized map, Varos dances a coin across the back of his hand, his chair tipped back just enough that he seems to be balanced upon just the two legs and the tip of a boot.
The clothier hasn’t been idle either, but then between business and Business, he often isn’t. The seasons have shifted, and with it the whims and fashions that come with the turn of the weather and the frivolities of Clothier Z’s patrons. Warmer colors are in, longer sleeves and dresses. -Layers-. And he knows it’s only the start. Quite frankly he’s glad to have a break from the shop while he can. After a while it gets kind of irritating dealing with the upper crust and their belief in that they think they know exactly what they want when in reality they want you to tell them.
“If he’s found anything he’s been quiet about it thus far,” Varos says as Slaine wanders over. He tilts his head as he hears the subtle creak of the stairs, the additional viewpoint of another. He raises his free hand to wave at the Gorgon. “Later than you’d think but earlier than it might be,” he replies with an impish grin.
“Thirteen twenty seven.” Is the answer to Elpida, which may or may not make any sense depending on how good she is about the twenty four hour clock. His finger traces a blue line on the map that represents what seems to be a rather large river.
“Saint Louis is a city that’s full of secrets. It was overrun so quickly that there was hardly any time to properly evacuate much less stage any salvage operations. The CS has bombarded it from the sky before but it’s dangerous enough and far enough away that a lot of it is still standing, if ruined…”
He taps his fingers twice as if in answer to Slaine. “If there’s going to be anything the old American military would have used though… it’s going to be around here though. Which is… unfortunately… really close to the Devil’s Gate.”
“Bit past lunch and then some, El. Did ye wan’ a drink?”
“Colonel Sawyer should be here if that’s the case …” Slaine says bluntly, taking a seat next to Aiden and flushing slightly. “Hello Varos, Aiden is usually quiet. Likes to keep his thoughts to himself and surprise us all…” She’s teasing a bit, even if she sounds a bit annoyed.
Maybe he’ll give her Crown back … sometime.
“… She at least knew the city before the fall and will have insights we don’t have. Ye said ye’ve been there before, Aiden?”
Leaning over to look at the map where Aiden taps “Devil’s Gate? I don’ like the sound of tha’…”
“You know I won’t say no to a drink,” says Elpida with a big grin at Slaine.
“So what re we up to today, huh? Saint Louis?”
She’s fine with this, leaning in and over to peer down at the map in question.
“Mmn. I never went to Saint Louis, myself…”
With a solid ring of metal, Varos flicks the coin in his hand soundly into the air with his thumb where it tumbles end over end a few times before descending once again, only to be quickly snatched up in a gloved palm.
“Ruined and left alone for good reason,” he murmurs, settling the chair back on all fours as he eases his weight forward. Through Aiden’s eyes he has been studying the map as thoroughly as the psychic himself, but maps only speak of so much. Impressions and surface thoughts that go with another’s observation can say something else entirely.
Other than that, Varos doesn’t know too much himself. He has to agree with Slaine’s opinion on the matter however, nodding slowly with her words. Concern isn’t all he detects. Her annoyance would have struck him as unusual, but he’d noticed the absence of an echo in her perspective, her thoughts, before he’d actually gotten a good look at her to see the crown absent from her head. From then it hadn’t taken long to guess where it might be, or at least who had taken possession of it.
“Oh, you know it?” he asks, head lifting to tilt towards Elpida as she also takes in the map.
“An arch. A monument from before the rifts. Supposedly when the rifts came a big one opened in the center of the arch, fused with it and remained open to this day. By way of a bonus, it made the arch indestructible. And spews out demons, regularly. So yeah… devil’s gate…”
Aiden mutters this rather darkly. He doesn’t like thinking about it.
“I’ve been there several times. The last was a few years ago. Well before I came here or got involved in the Tolkeen war. It’s kind of a hellhole.”
“Well that’s rude.” Comes a woman’s voice. A rather statuesque being with sweeping horns that arch over her long dark hair and run along the top of her head walks in. She’s got greyish skin and is dressed for the weather, which is getting cold.
“Aiden Frost as I live and breathe.”
Aiden’s eyes narrow. “You don’t especially do either of those things, Glacara.”
“Pft. Be pedantic then. Who are your friends?”
“Was it called that before the Rifts?” Slaine asks incredulously. How could anyone call anything something like that? Of course, Earth had been a very different place before the Rifts came and things like demons and magic, were mostly the realm of fantasy.
“So there’s an open, active, Rift in St Louis and that’s where we have to go?” She almost shakes her head at that. She’s reckless but not that reckless.
The arrival of the … creature has the Mystic looking up and up … at least this one isn’t as impeccable as Sanka’a but still, it makes the little Mystic feel … grubby.
Her eyes narrow though and she looks between Aiden and this woman “I’m Slaine. And ye are?” Blunt again. Like the redhead is working right on the edge of her patience.
“Not enough to be helpful. Just it’s characterization and a general idea of a couple prominent points like the Saint Louis Arch. Beyond that, I don’t know much. I was from across the country,” says Elpida in answer to Aiden’s question, giving a nod towards Slaine before she turns, slowly, towards the rather statuesque and grey lady.
“..okay so who’s this,” she says, after a moment. And then there’s talk of open, active Rifts and she lets out a sigh.
“Joy. More demons,” Varos mutters in a tone that most decidedly goes against anything sounding joyous about it. He regards Aiden, wondering what the man could have been doing up in that area for as many times as he’d said. It certainly doesn’t sound like a tourist attraction, to be sure. And before Tolkeen? Hmm.
His head lifts just as another voice interrupts, and he turns then as he properly takes in the appearance of the woman who’s entered by the eyes of his associates and whoever else might be scattered about the room sparing a glance for the newcomer. For a moment he tenses as he notes her horns, but it’s only for the reminder of Saphra that he does so. There’s otherwise no real similarities to his handler that he relaxes against his chair again, although he remains wary all the same, even as he wears a polite smile.
“You have interesting acquaintances, Aiden,” he muses, toying with the coin in his hand again. “With impeccable timing.” A grin. “Glacara, is it? A pleasure. The name’s Varos.”
“I stop in for a drink to warm me up and people are talking ill of my home town.” The horned woman grins sharply. Literally. “Hello Slaine. Be careful around him. He’s trouble. Hello Gorgon. Don’t bother trying with me, I come pre petrified. And Varos…”
She offers a hand out to Varos. “Delighted.”
She has an accent and a relatively cultured one at that. The accent isn’t earthly though it could be compared to a Russian or Germanic one.
“She’s a… muse, from what I can tell. Also she’s a living statue. Don’t ask me how either of those things work.” Aiden says to Slaine.
“Mmmmm. I deal in inspiration mostly. Need that ‘Aha!’ moment? I can provide. I’ve been doing it for a long time. So…what does a muse have to do to get a drink here?” She says, looking around at everyone.
“And why are we speaking ill of the city of lights?”
“That is most definitely NOT Saint Louis.” Aiden rolls his eyes.
“Be nice, Aiden. I know you don’t like demons but most of my best clients are demons.”
“How does that wo–” Slaine’s mouth snaps shut as Aiden preempts the question before she can ask it. She actually pokes her tongue out at him. “I didn’t think ye were that type of psychic.” she mutters.
The question about the drink has Slaine casting an apologetic look at Elpida. She’d been distracted. “Horace, drinks all round. Aiden and me will have that potato liquor that Grans got in. The others …” she gestures for them to add their preference.
The questions about St Louis can be asked by the others, Slaine’s interested in something else entirely “What do ye do for demons? They don’ need inspiration. They jus’ need to rip and rend…”
“… I mean I wasn’t even going to try,” says Elpida, faintly boggled by the woman’s story of being already stoned.
And then there’s talk of demons and then there are soon to be drinks and she just looks relieved. She needs more drinks.
“Greaaaaaaaaaat,” says the gorgon, snakes hissing as they sense her irritation and dismay. “This is going to be awesome already, I can tell.” She pinches the bridge of her nose between clawed fingertips. Naturally, her snakes bite her hand.
Smoothly Varos rises from his seat, pocketing his coin as he takes the offered hand to brush the back of it with a kiss. He can still be charming while wary, can’t he? “I must confess, I don’t believe I’ve ever met any living statues before. But I’m more curious as to how you inspire.”
He pulls another chair for Glacara before sitting back in his own. “So you have the misfortune of knowing Aiden longer than us?” he asks, smirking as he throws a slight ‘look’ towards the psychic. He’s kidding! “Although I must admit, for my limited experiences with demons I can’t say that I’m very fond of them either.”
And yet it looks like it’ll be unavoidable if they’re to venture to this St. Louis place. He holds back a sigh, turning his attention to Horace as Slaine proposes drinks. “Ah, maybe something hot. Cider if you have it,” he says. If they’re going to be discussing dangerous things, he’d like his head clear. He casts a crooked smile at Elpida, voicing nothing by way of sentiment even though it may be shared.
“Wine for me, thank you.” When the wine comes Glacara takes a long drink. “Aaaah. Good vintage that. To answer your question Slaine, you might be surprised. Common demons don’t think much, but the smart ones? Oh they can use all kinds of inspiration. And some of it might even be for art by some lights, if there can be art screams or pain I suppose…”
She smiles at Varos. Aiden hasn’t tried to kill her yet though that might be out of deference to Gran. She doesn’t seem… bad? Just kind of amoral. Not human, for certain. After all, how might a living statue from a city of demons come to be socialized?
“Aiden’s met several of my clients.”
“Former clients.” Aiden finally smirks a bit.
Glacara pouts slightly. “They do tend to expire after you meet them. Ah well, though. I’d be happy to demonstrate to you Mister Varos. Or do you Miss Slaine, if you like. On the house. There’s no pain or danger involved. Just a bit of telepathic… stimulation.”
She doesn’t offer to Aiden which is interesting. She also doesn’t offer to Elpida though that might have something to do with the snakes currently biting the woman’s hand.
Horace scurries along bringing wine for Elpida and Glacara, something purple and bubbling for Varos and a bottle of potato liquor for Slaine and Aiden.
“I’ve known thin’s who think there is art in makin’ people scream, they don’ generally live long.” Aiden’s response gets a smirk from the mystic.
The offer catches the redhead short and she shares a glance with Varos. “If ye can give me the muse to get my Crown back from his highness here …” she mutters. Should she really be letting anyone else in her head, though?
“…ooooh boy,” says Elpida as the conversation continues. She takes a moment to comb her fingers through her snakes, pushing the mass of them back so that they’re all flopped and raining and hissing down her back instead.
She squuiiiints at Glacara, reaching for the wine now that it’s given to her.
“Telepathic stimulation, huh? That sounds unfun, if you ask me.”
Varos is certainly in no place to call one on their amorality. His own path tends to skew as best befits him or the situation he’s involved with. The more Glacara speaks, the more he feels inclined to like her, although he feels the corner of his lips ticking upwards in something of a lopsided smile at Aiden’s comment. No, he can’t say that he’ll lament the loss of any demons.
Accepting his drink, he nods a thanks to Horace, sliding over the coin he’d been playing with earlier as a tip before pausing to study his drink. He shrugs and takes a small sip. Not yet has he been poisoned at Gran’s!
There’s no hiding the slight grin when Slaine looks over at him as he mutters. “I don’t know that that’s how it works,” he says with a chuckle, setting his drink down as he then turns towards their living statue guest, although not without a brief smile at Elpida.
“Well, I did say I was curious. Demonstrate away- what do I need to do?”
“Oh it’s not so bad, Gorgon.” The horned woman says moving toward Slaine. “Just a little unlocking of the mind’s inner potential. Sort of like what happened to your rather lovely form.”
That might be the first time anyone’s ever described what happened to Elpida as ‘unlocking her inner potential.’ If that’s true it begs the question: Potential for what?
“May I, Slaine?” She says before lightly placing her hands atop the redhead’s head, fingers juuuust touching the temples. She’s cold. Like stone. Then again it’s been cold outside.
There’s no real sense of psychic intrusion. “Now just… clear your mind and focus on what you want to achieve. Relax… relax… ah… there it is…”
And just like that. Aha!
It’s visually rather unexciting except perhaps for anything that may cross Slaine’s face.
What would… what would the Nighthand pay for… inspiration?
Slaine smirks a little at what she expects will be the look on Elpida’s face to that comment. As Glacara starts to move towards her though, she draws back for just a moment, giving Aiden a glance before deciding to just go with it.
Focus on what she wants to achieve. That might not be what she just voiced.
There’s the slightest of shivers as the stone fingers rest at her temple and her face actually clears, making her look a lot younger. That doesn’t last long, her eyebrows go up and she flushes again. “Oh! I see …” beat “I know wha’ I need to do …”
“This,” says Elpida, “is not my ‘inner potential’ except in so far as I can punch things harder and turn shit to stone. My inner potential is oh god I want to scream,” says Elpida, dryly. “Also, yeah. Lovely.” She looks down at herself, “if you’re into snake-tits, I guess.” She makes a face.
Varos coughs into a fist, trying not to laugh at Elpida’s incredibly dry comment. He’s a little disappointed at being ignored as test subject but at least he can still possibly get more out of it than others might.
As it turns out, it -is- rather anticlimactic to watch, even when sharing the perspective of the person experiencing said inspiration. Even then Varos only gets more of the impression of a realization. That and Slaine’s reaction is all he has to go by in that anything had transpired at all, a brow arching behind his half mask as he reaches over to reclaim his drink and have another sip from it.
“Interesting,” he murmurs, neutral at best, but a slow, sly smile touches his lips. “Glacara, what brings you to Vesper anyway?” Because if she’s looking for referrals for work, he could certainly steer her in a particular direction.
“Oh, Gorgon I think you underrate what you’ve been given. I know quite a few people, well, beings who might find you more… inspiring than I.”
Glacara seems to sense that Varos might want a… sample and gestures to the blind man. Not that she knows he’s blind. It’s a single finger crooked toward her and a grin that’s rather knowing.
“So I’m told, Slaine. But I’m glad you liked it. Mister Varos? Shall we see what moves you? What about you Aiden?”
“I’m quite good. I’ve seen the effects of your inspiration.”
“You’re not still sore at me over those scars are you? In my defense her ‘idea’ did leave you alive long enough to… part company with her.”
Aiden just glowers.
“Still sore, yes, I see.” The stone woman sighs. “Is that why you’re going back? She’s not there anymore you know. As for me, I came here looking for… new experiences. Demon inspirations get old after a while and I was hoping that a more varied clientele might provide some inspiration for ME… Vesper seemed the perfect place though I’ll wager some lords of Dogwood could do with some… ideas.”
Slaine is silent as Glacara withdraws. Clearly she’s thinking about what she saw. For Varos, the images he gets from his touch on her are jumbled. Some of it has something to do with clothing, though.
“Ye caused that?” Glacara’s ribbing of Aiden finally gets through the fog of her own thoughts. “How could ye …” Slaines seen the scars and she’s slowly putting two and two together. She’s not going to encourage the … demoness? Gargoyle? … to stay.
“Yeah, like I said. Some people are into snake-tits. I’m aware I’ve been made into a great beauty of a sort. Do I need to hang a sign around my neck that reads ‘DO NOT WANT’? I will, you know, if it’d help. Especially with a frigging Satyr. Just who are you, anyway?” She has no idea, beyond what’s been shared so far. Which isn’t a lot.
She wrinkles her nose. Eyeing the stone woman still before she looks between her and Aiden and then shrugs at Slaine.
“Oh, if you want varied then you’ve definitely come to the right place,” Varos smirks. “I could introduce you to some people. Perhaps even on both sides.” It’s hard to tell if he’s joking while he grins like that, although only choice few know he’s made any connections in Dogwood.
He turns a curious look towards Aiden then. Oh, there’s a story there, but he doubts it’s going to be told, and with the look and feel he gets from the psychic then, he’s not inclined to dig. He’s not quite ready to shift gears in his opinion of Glacara however. After all, the way he thinks he understands it, she’s more like a skeleton key or a flint, opening or lighting a spark to what’s already there. So can she really be blamed for the actions taken in part of another?
His smile still holding, he takes another pull from his mug and then sets it on the table again, nodding at Glacara. Ah, but what to think about? “If you please,” he says.
“An art project, really. Something that came to life many hundreds of years ago during the turning of the age.” Glacara settles her fingertips on Varos temples. “Relax, Varos. Just let your thoughts flow… mmm… you’re a lot more relaxed than Slaine was. And… there it is…”
Elpida gets another smile. “But I’ve since discovered what I was and who I am don’t necessarily need to be connected. I get by in this world like anyone else does.”
Slaine’s distress is met with a slight frown. “How could I what? My services were asked for, I most certainly didn’t know what for. Her work on Aiden was painful I know, but she was a master artisan of her kind and her work is quite exquisite.”
Aiden glares again and Glacara coughs. She’s really, really not human. It’s not that she doesn’t empathize with Aiden necessarily but more that her moral calculus just… isn’t the same. Aiden didn’t die. And if he endured horrible pain it certainly wasn’t her fault.
“All the same I am rather glad that you’re alive, Aiden.”
“Thanks.” Aiden says dryly.
“Which is why I find it so confusing as to why you might be going back…”
“There’s something there I need. Not quite sure where to find it yet.”
“Oh? I might help with that.” The woman says, lowering her hands.
“Maybe… but not me.” Aiden takes a drink of his vodka and rolls the map up. He’s not going upstairs but he would like to drink now.
Slaine understands amoral but that doesn’t mean she’s not angry for Aiden. She’s seen the scars and has seen his pain at remembering them.
“I take ye’ll need lodgin’s, I’ll get Horace to see to ye. There’s a room on the first floor that’s vacant.” On the first floor at the opposite end of the building from Aidens room.
“Tell me wha’ we need Aiden an’ I’ll get it. I know the basics anyway…”
She’ll take her drink and then go back to sulking abou’ her Crown. “An’ Varos, I’ll need to come see ye soon.”
“Isn’t Galatea supposed to made of carved ivory?” remarks Elpida, maintaining the dryness that’s been held onto for the moment. It is, perhaps, deflection. All the same, she doesn’t look pleased with the words wielded at her, a rather irritated look flashing across her face. “Well, I can safely say I’m very connected to who I was and who I am, given that they’re the same person. I am not the ship of Theseus, thank you very much, and neither are you.” She then downs the wine she was given in its entirety.
Well that’s interesting. One never knows what new things they’ll learn just by those that come through the city, and there’s so much more beyond. Varos lets those thoughts filter on as he turns his mind towards other things at Glacara’s words, feeling her cool touch against his skin. He lifts his head, mouth opening in a quiet gasp with the resulting, his lips pulling into a broad smile.
“That was enlightening,” he laughs, picking up his drink again. “And now I can vouch for your services should I be asked.” Best he go to his most direct sources in the Nighthand to mention Glacara, of course. But she’ll certainly have introductions as needs be.
“Of course, Miss McClellan,” he says, nodding at the mystic. He pauses briefly, head tilting a little at her, but he dismisses whatever thought. “You know where to find me.”
Watching as Aiden puts the map away he nods a bit, having almost forgotten they’re due to travel to some terrible place soon. In that case he should probably be making his own preparations, but first he’ll just finish his drink.
Planning a trip to St. Louis isn't easy these days. An old acquaintance of Aiden's hopes to offer some inspiration.
October 15, 2411