A park set aside in a corner of Market Town has been reserved for ritual magic and summoning spells. Oh, its not obviously for that purpose…but that’s what it is. Stone pathways set in diagrams resembling protective wards, statues set just on the edge of the park with runes of warding set into their bases, a faint hum of protective magic lingering over the area. For those not particularly well aware however, it could just as easily be another park. It even has a gazebo, and park benches!
Of course, inside the Gazebo is currently a woman in an ornate dress, with pale skin and dark hair. In one hand is a dead rabbit with a severed head. In the other is a knife. She’s covered the floor of the gazebo in all sorts of strange glyphs and runes, some of which she’s even painted on her forehead. The blood of the poor hare is still hot and steaming, and the head has been unceremoniously tossed to the side, discarded. She throws the body into the center of the diagram, and reaches down to pick up another hare, secured in a small cage. She takes a knife to its throat, slowly cutting, and begins to chant.
A rift begins to form.
More toward the middle of Market Town, amongst all of the other vendor booths, Zyx is wrapping up her wares for the day. It’s been mildly busy, but having spent most of her day working on a commissioned piece, she’s ready to take a break and maybe have a snack of smoky quartz.
Completely unaware of the ritual being conducted not so far away, she collects her gemstones and puts them all in a small pouch then steps away from her now completely bare and vacant booth. Makes it easier to let the night vendor set up if she leaves it clean.
Afternoon. Post lunch rush. And while dishes and cleaning up aren’t done, some of Gran’s cupboards are bare. Today’s Jesh’s turn to make the foray into the market and pick up a few things, despite the girl’s protests – mostly on lines of she knows nothing about buying spices, and what do you mean me?!?
Of course, with a note thrust into her hand, and the specific vendors to contact listed quite clearly, along with making Jeshua repeat each until until all were certain the girl would remember them, Jesh was sent off to procure Gran’s good so that supper could be tended to without further ado or fuss.
Plus, Jesh argued to herself, once it was inevitable that she was the one going, she could stop by and see if the crystal lady was around. She wanted to tell her about her necklace. That she was right, it seemed.. uh.. well, Jesh wasn’t sure if ‘happier’ was the right word, but the small crystal seemed to glow a lot brighter, picking up pink and blue hues where there were none before.
The park is along the way, but it’s not really a place she’s stopped before. And given she’s on a mission, she can’t really dally much. Though as luck has it, the exact places she needs to go are within spitting distance of that park and the gazebo. One might actually wonder why..
The last park in Vesper that Kaji had specifically visited ended up getting a bit torn up from traps set by two different technowizards and a bunch of soul-ripping Harvesters. That…hadn’t been a fun night, even if the whole thing had been planned out. As it is, for as long as the teenager’s been here in the city, there’s still quite a bit that remains unknown to him, but then Vesper is a pretty big place, and sometimes if you aren’t looking specifically for it, you’d never find it.
For once Kaji’s not out on errands for Gran, but then that’s probably because Jeshua’s been saddled with them. Not that he was slacking! Working at Gran’s is mostly a part- and spare-time thing, and now and then he’s off to get some practice in at the Justicar’s or poking around the city in general. It hasn’t been so simple to go through such routines of late ever since the latest developments with those creep-o dolls, and Kaji was of the opinion that they’d been much better off simply reappearing in hand even when you threw them far off than having them come to life and move about on their own. It’s worse than babysitting!
Kaji’s got his backpack slung over a shoulder, facing frontwards because it’s partially open and said doll is peeking out like an over-curious kitten. Kittens are cuter, and these mystery dolls happened to look like whomever they’d been delivered to, and not in the most flattering way. It seems to perk and point, and Kaji’s inclined to look. Maybe he might have noticed the gazebo before, because hey, gazebos! But usually you don’t see someone…doing stuff there. With dead rabbits. “Uh…?”
Xaereas continues to chant, and the rift forms; a small glowing blue rift, just barely large enough for communication and to pass simple things through. Tossing the second rabbit underneath the rift to join the first, she continues chanting. The woman reaches into the cloak she wears over her dress, and reaches into her pocket. She takes out a small leather bag, opens it, and plucks out a few gems. One by one, she tosses them towards the rift, where they vanish inside. She ceases chanting at the rift, and begins shouting at it in some magical language or other, “Xeethorax, the quick one! I conjure thee by thy first name! Nialzon the fast one, I conjure thee by thy last name! Wind-runner the competitive one, I summon thee by thy proven name! I offer you the standard payment for services rendered; a year and a day. Come forth!”
The rift continues to grow larger, eventually looking to be several feet across and high; and then starts to grow transparent. Something on the other side can be seen…something large and…shelled. Its unclear what.
Jeshua’s stroll through the market area is less of a leisurely thing than a foot dragging. She’s got a sneaky suspicion that procuring spices and these other few sundry items is just the next step to teaching Jesh how to cook, and really, if she’d wanted to do that, she’d have given up the stables ages ago in favour of trying. And now that she was working at the Restorium, she had even less reason to need that secondary skill. At least nobody was telling her it would be valuable for when she wanted to settle down, something her mother had harped on her at, a something that Jesh had always rolled her eyes inwardly and wondered why she’d want to settle down with anyone there.
Feet dragging, the gem collector’s booth in sight, Jeshua is right close enough that now she’s got full view of what’s going on on that gazebo, and while she’s stopped cringing in terror every time magic comes up in her vicinity (likely a good thing seeing as she’s been finding her own voice there more frequently these days – the wellspring, once opened, seemingly wanting to flow with vigor), but sacrificing creatures? Chanting? Summoning? There’s magic and then there’s what on earth is that lady doing, and should we all be concerned?
And like any good rubbernecker, Jesh stops to watch. Fascinated and repulsed in turns and yet unable to do anything about it, even if she knew what to do. Something niggled in the back of her brain that this should be familiar. She just didn’t know why.
Kaji might be just a little bit on the iffy side about Rifts. Mostly he’s concerned about the things on the other side, especially ones that want to take your soul or something to that effect. He shoves his doll back down in his bag, closing the top a little more despite knowing it’ll protest, but he’d rather play things safe than sorry, especially when whatever happened to these dumb dolls affected you.
He’s still watching the rift that opens as the woman goes through some sort of summoning incantation, and if there’s anything Kaji knows, it’s that you shouldn’t interrupt someone in the middle of things like this, although on the other hand, if it means for something bad, then wouldn’t an interruption be called for? But then again, who’d be dumb enough to summon something to start trouble in the city out in the open? …of course there was that rat swarm but it wasn’t exactly out in the open….
At least he’s not the only one watching. Seeing Jeshua not far off, Kaji steps over towards her.
Kthzyx steps out into the main walkway, looks about seemingly idly, then waves hello to Jeshua and Kaji, approaching the pair but then slowing to a stop when she sees what has caught their attention. She can see far more of the light spectrum than humans can, and that rift is … bizarre-looking. So, she asks the obvious question: “What is that?”
The rift bulges and crackles electricity, then there is a loud popping sound and an explosion of strange, pugnant spells and odd music. Then, in an instant – the rift is gone. The dark-haired sorceress is standing there, still holding the bloody knife, looking at the summoning circle.
In the middle of it, instead of a demon, or some abomination from beyond space and time, is… a snail.
A really big snail, about the size of a horse. It has two large eyes which peer at the sorceress curiously, blinking at her, and its mouth is filled with row upon row of small, sharp, pointed teeth. It smells faintly of lavender, oddly enough. Other then that, it looks like a normal snail.
Jeshua unconsciously sidles closer to Kaji as he joins her, her brow furrowing as she continues to watch the goings on at the gazebo. Like him, she knows better than to interrupt – if only because knife wielding, magic using, possibly demon summoning folk don’t take kindly to being interrupted and that magic-blade combo is really one she’d prefer not to be on the receiving end. Besides, something is floating around in the back of her brain that says half-summoned, non-bound things are BAD in ways that made Chi-Town look like a friendly place to hold a mages convention.
“What’s she doing, do you think?” Other than the obvious.
A spare moment given to Kthzyx, but only a spare one. If whatever it was on the gazebo went bad, Jesh would really like to be able to run, or otherwise do something more than become lunch. And, really, given those thoughts, she probably shouldn’t just be standing here either, but she can’t seem to help herself. Besides, Kaji was there too, right? And Kthzyx.
Though nothing – nothing – could have prepared her for what shows up in the summoning circle. Her hands pressed to her lips, the girl can’t hide her giggles. So much for terrified by magic?
“Hopefully not trying to invite any eldritch horrors to visit,” the young necromancer mutters, but he’s pretty sure that with names like those the woman had called, it probably wasn’t. Of course if she were summoning demons then that would still be a little concerning. Kaji glances at Kthzyx as she comes to join them. “A portal? Err… a rift, I think that’s what they’re mostly called, here. Megana would know more about it. Wait, what is that?”
He squints as the rift expands and crackles, brow furrowing at the effects accompanying it- wait, is that music? Wha? Is he the only one hearing that? He looks around, but this isn’t Disneyland and there aren’t speakers hidden in the eaves of the buildings.
“….uh…huh.” The resulting is, well, not quite anticlimactic? It’s a snail, yes, but it’s a huge snail so that’s…got to count for something? Except that it’s kind of the opposite of all the quick and fast and wind-running titles that the sorceress had been naming. “Are we supposed to applaud or something now?” It’s a show, right? It’s gotta be a show.
Not offering any speculations or questions, Zyx simply watches and honestly doesn’t see what the whole fuss is about. The summoned creature isn’t breathing flames, or causing earthquakes, or promptly trying to eat people. It seems quite sedate, really. “Impressive creature,” is all she can think of to say. And honestly, it is impressive. The eyestalks are efficient visual sensors, the teeth are likely very efficient, and the shell — it’s portable in-built shelter. Impressive!
Xaereas, for her part, calmly, coolly, dispassionately stares at the snail, the way one might stare at a car, or at a particularly obtuse cat. Not a glare, not really. But not far off. Her brow furrows slightly as she thinks. After a moment, she reaches into her velvet cloak, opens a pocket, and pulls out a sheet of vellum. “Fine, whatever.” she says. “You’ll do. Sign.” She holds out the sheet of paper to the snail, as if expecting it to suddenly sign it.
The snail stares at her.
For her part, Jeshua can’t stop giggling behind her hands, even if it’s a much softer giggle now. “I don’t even know what an eldritch horror is,” she tells Kaji. Which is likely just as well, because why does he know about them? Though anything with ‘horror’ in the name can’t be all that good.
She, too, looks to Kthzyx. “Whatever it was, it involved killing things?” Which causes her to frown now, and consider. “Actually, that’s probably not great either, is it? Though does that mean the snail is evil? Or just big?”
Though Kaji may have the right of it. The brow furrowing remains. “Maybe? I mean, maybe the rabbits were lunch and to make it look good?” She gives him a shoulder shrug. “I”ll clap if you do?”
Right. Not a show. Kaji’s not sure what to make of it as the woman seems to be expecting the snail to autograph her paper. “Erm, that’s all good then,” he says to Jeshua, because eldritch horrors aren’t things that anyone wants to be acquainted with.
“Eeeeh…” He’s not quite sure he believes the bit about using the rabbits and- well okay. To be fair, he has no basis to measure how shows are conducted (if any even are!) around here, so shrugging, he nods at Jeshua and lifting his hands…applauds. Because what else do you do!
Zyx finally decides to give up on the speculating and just walks right on over and into the little park-like area that had been used for the ritual. “Hello,” she says to the woman requesting a signature from the gigantic snail. “What sort of creature is that?”
Staring right back at the large snail, Xaereas gives it a dead-eye look. It continues to stare blankly at her. She ignores the clapping and the small crowd, and continues locked in a staring contest with the snail. Eventually, the snail looks away, and makes a single sound. A musical note, actually, “Faaaaaaaaah” it chirrups.
At this point, the sorceress looks annoyed. “Oh by the…” She shakes her head, glancing backwards at Zyx. “Its a wild animal, is what it is! I didn’t go through all that effort for a stupid wild animal; I conjured up a supernatural mount!” She chants a spell, and another rift…a really tiny one…rips open. She starts shouting at it. “A wild animal! It can’t even sign a contract! Do I look like an animal trainer?” she yells into the rift. “The contract was very specific, and…” She peers at the snail again. She taps it with a foot. “…and I’ll….I’ll get back to you!” She closes the communication rift, and peers at the snail. “Hmm. You know…” She peers back at Zyx again. “Its not exactly what I was expecting. Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions.”
The snail continues to stare blankly at her. One eye bends backwards, wraps around one of the dead rabbits, then moves forward to shove it in its mouth. The eye pulls back out, and resumes peering around, while the snail begins to eat the dead rabbit.
Xaereas tries casting another spell; a binding spell of some sort, directed at the snail. It glows blue once, briefly – then the glow fades. “Aha! I see now. All I need is a saddle.” She peers at where the rift was. “Sorry.” she mutters in its closed-direction. She snaps a finger in front of the creatures eyes. “You! Pay attention. Follow me!” She walks down the Gazebo steps. The snail pauses a moment, picks up the empty rabbit cage, shoves it in its mouth, and begins eating the metal. It then follows after her, making strange musical noises.
“Its not an animal after all, just…stupid, I think.” She peers back it. “I have no…” A pause. “It’s a snail. A riding snail.” Another pause. “Yes, a riding snail. You want to buy it?”
Jeshua is really pretty sure clapping isn’t what one does here, but maybe if she and Kaji clap it will somehow reduce the farcical nature of what they’re watching. So she dutifully puts her hands together, in the inevitable counterpoint to his clapping so they sound like staccato waves through the air, and as luck would have it, those waves merge pretty much by the gazebo itself. It’s really of no import other than it blunts and changes the sound, creating spaces where there is nothing and then suddenly little echoes of the pair.
But really, she’s got no clue. Even if she understands saddle. And riding. But a snail? She swears she’s heard a story about that, only it was from one of those book things from long ago, that someone remembered. Some girl? In a pale blue dress? With blonde hair. Only that was weird too, right? Talking rabbits and all.. Then again, there were rabbits involved here.
Jesh quirks a brow.
Well, that didn’t go off as badly as he thought it might. At least he doesn’t feel like a complete dork clapping alone, anyway. “A-aw,” Kaji says as the snail almost sings. “It’s…kind of cute, actually.” Never mind that the lady who summoned it looks very upset about the outcome. He’s not very sure who all she’s yelling at through the rift but he supposes one can’t easily return something once it’s been delivered.
His smile wavers a little as the snail starts eating rabbits and then the cage that had previously held them. “Oh. Um. Wow….” Yeah, so that’s not very snail-like. He’s not ready to rescind his opinion of the thing though. It’s still singing!! Who can’t say it’s not cute??
“I uh. Don’t really have anywhere to put a giant riding snail, really…” Kaji regrettably informs the sorceress, as though this is the main problem. He’s pretty sure Gran would kill him if he brought one into the bed and breakfast.
“Oh. Thank you for the offer, but I don’t need a riding creature. I can walk just fine.” Zyx is nothing if not polite when she can be. “Could you perhaps return the snail to where he came from? That way you don’t have to worry about feeding him or anything like that.”
It’s clear that Zyx has absolutely zero concept of how much effort goes into a summoning spell.
“No.” Xaereas says blankly. “Its here for a year and a day.” She glances backwards at the creature, then over at Kaji, who seems like the best mark to her. “I’m sure they have stables here, same as they would for a horse. You don’t have access to a stable for a horse? How do you get around?” She raises an eyebrow, then glances back at the snail. “Come, riding snail.” She takes a few steps forward.
The snail doesn’t move. It continues chewing on the cage. After a moment, it spits the remnants of the cage back out onto the ground; twisted and half-bitten into pieces and covered in slime. The snail looks at them with its long eyes, then picks them back up…and shoves them in its mouth again, resuming chewing. Then it follows.
“I knew I should have summoned a faerie.” Xaereas mutters to herself. “Or a gargoyle, or a Rakashaka….” She begins wandering off, the snail sort of mostly following.
Jeshua, who has worked in the stables.. albeit not with horses.. or snails.. just keeps her mouth shut. Put the blankest look upon her face that she possibly can, and pretends she knows nothing about any sort of thing. That Kaji is the actual victim for this conversation is even better. Besides, Jesh was supposed to be doing something, right? Only, where did she put that note anyway?
Thankfully the strange lady and the snail move along. Though that doesn’t solve the where is Gran’s list problem. Oh well.
“Wow, that’s…a really specific timeframe. But yeah, there’s stables and stuff but…” Blink. “Mostly I walk? Or if we go out of town, we get a ride in a truck or the occasional mech. Or a sky cycle.” He really wants one of those.
He steps back to make sure the snail has plenty of space to go as the sorceress lady leads it off. “Maybe she’ll get attached to it?”
Xaereas tries to summon a ride. Unfortunately the rift offers no returns.
January 27, 2411
Market Town, Vesper