The Academy of the Esoteric Arts is a visually impressive building from the outside – domed halls and towering spires dominate the skyline of Dragon’s Gate in Vesper. Inside, the school is no less impressive and the people that study there are … exclusive.
It’s here though, that many turn when seeking information on the Arcane. Not all, in fact not many, are given entrance. One of those few who are is Justicar known as Cal Deven and today, his trip brings to seek out Professor Ingherhast.
Ingerhast’s office is on the top floor of one of those towering spires, accessible through an elevator, and according to her ‘office hours’ she’s supposed to be there.
Megana went through her all her notes and personal research and the books that were on hand..or as good as for her at least, and didn’t find anything that really helped her figure out what the hell is going on. The Shifter is frustrated. She doesn’t like having to rely on someone else, period..but especially not when those she cares for are in danger or being messed with.
The Shifter Priestess has come up short on her own though so today she has made her way into the Academy, a place she knows well from the decade she spent in study. Professor Ingerhast isn’t someone Megana knows well, having been one of the ones the young girl hadn’t been able to charm or bend or bind to her will or even impress with her mastery over her powers or studies. At least not so far as Meg had been able to tell. Not everyone is easily read. “Doin this for Kaji..doin this for Kaji..doin this for Kaji.” It’s a softly murmured mantra as she makes her way into the elevator, eyes focused on the floor. After a moment she adds even softer.. “an the others..”
Ideally, Cal would have had someone along who had one of the dolls with them, so Ingerhast might see them directly, but alas, such was not to be. The Justicar does smile fondly at the Academy the moment he steps onto the grounds.
There is no other place in the world that is home to him like this one is, and he treads the familiar paths to Ingerhast’s offices without needing the benefit of either a map or a guide.
If there is anything he lacks in all the world, it is presence. Or rather, he is one of those people who must consciously activate it if he wants to do anything like commanding it. So it’s really no surprise to him when Megana steps into the elevator and doesn’t even seem to see him.
Lady Shadowcleft mutters her mantras and he courteously listens to them before he says, “I’m sure Kaji appreciates your efforts on his behalf, Lady Shadowcleft.” It’s sincere, and courteous enough– courtesy is his default, for the most part, when he’s not dropping one of his low-key quips.
“And it is well you are here. Three heads might come to a solution better than two.”
The elevator opens into a hallway. The hallway itself is well lit. At the end though, as Megana well knows, is a darkened office and the only light seems to be pooling in the middle of it.
As their steps echo across the floor as they draw near a voice floats out “Is that you, delicious Cal? Come in, come in, I’m just wrapping something up…”
Megana’s hand goes to her hip and the dagger there but stops midway. She seems torn between embarrassment, chagrin and amusement. No use pretending she’d been ignoring him instead of hadn’t even noticed him. He’s a Justicar, he would have noticed her reaching for a weapon.
“Hi there.” Meg says instead. The Dark Lady must be laughing that she picked the exact moment he is here to come questioning. Perhaps its for the best though. Ingerhast may be more inclined to help him? She isn’t sure. “I tried to grab one of them but they are all away or working. I left messages though to stop by here when if they have a chance.” She says it in a mild tone not betraying her extreme frustration with the situation. At least not more than she has.
..Megana manages not to snicker at Ingerhast’s greeting to the Justicar. Barely. She does watch for his reaction from the corner of her eye though. “The Shifter steps out the elevator and strides down the hall in swirl of skirt and flared midnight blue leather duster. “Professor.”
He did notice. And he didn’t even flinch, or jump, or look inclined to defend himself in any way. He doesn’t seem put out by it either. He just watches Lady Shadowcleft with his head tilted and one eyebrow slightly quirked. “Ah, good,” he adds, when she says she left messages for the victims of this particularly strange crime. “Perhaps we will get lucky, and at least one of them will be along shortly.”
And of course, he pays as little outward mind to her chagrin as he does to her startlement.
“It is indeed I,” Cal says, and well, he just smiles, because he doesn’t mind his nickname a bit. “What a pleasure it is to see you again, Professor Ingerhast.” He offers her a little bow upon entering her office, and straightens. “We’ve a problem we very much could use your help with.”
The inside of the office is dim, as evidenced from the outside. The light making a pool in the centre but the edges of it cast in shadows. The Professor isn’t at her desk, as one might expect, though both probably know better. Her voice seems to come from those same shadows. “How could I forget one of our delicious ex students. And one who seems to find the most interesting ideas.” The voice has a clicking sibilance to it and an large, hairy leg extends from the ceiling out of the shadows.
The rest of the body soon follows… a huge orb weaving spider. She’d be 8ft tall and that across, at least. “And Megana, a pleasure to see you as well.” She looks to door, looking a little disappointed, as disappointed as a spider can get at any rate. “Did you bring Kaji with you?”
Those multifaceted eyes turn to Cal next. “A problem you say? I should have guessed. How may I help you?”
She doesn’t show it but so far, Meg is impressed by Cal. He isn’t like any of the Justicars she’s had the misfortune of meeting before and he seems to have a sense of humor. So very rare.
Interesting ideas? Hm. Megana eyes Cal before nodding her head respectfully at Ingerhast. She blinks once in response to the Professors greeting. People rarely consider or say it’s a pleasure to see her. She’s a little caught off guard, but her eyes narrow every so slightly when Ingerhast mentions Kaji. The desire to protect the young man she has taken to in a way she never did her true son is so very strong.
Megana opens her mouth to speak but then closes and looks to Cal again. Asking for help, so fucking hard. So hard. At least for her. Maybe he’ll just explain. Should she owe him one if he does. Oh Dark Lady. Even the thought of owing a Justicar makes her want to hurl her guts up. …So far he’s okay though, she has to admit if only to herself. And Kaji of course. the one she’s told some of her worst secrets and most shameful admissions and who still loves her anyway. Her eyes close for a moment. “..Your help..would be..very welcome.” And though it was clearly a struggle, The Shifter seems entirely sincere. Hopefully Cal is ready to actually explain. That seems to be as far as Meg is getting for the moment.
Cal Deven will indeed explain. Explaining seems to come naturally to him, at least.
He looks up and up to Ingerhast, and says, “Professor, several individuals in the city have been receiving effigy dolls that follow them about. The working theory of the crime is they might have been sent by Harvesters or agents of Harvesters as retaliation for actions various individuals, Kaji included, took against them. We have sent some messages to try to get some of the victims here, but we wanted to see if we could borrow your expertise. I think it’s prudent to break the link somehow before we use them to try to track down the culprit, but–”
Here he spreads his hands. “I also felt it prudent to get more information, to guard against unpleasant unintended consequences. Time is a bit of the essence; we fear they might be a prelude to the death of each person so targeted, and we’d like to prevent that as soon as possible.”
Very shortly after the Justicar and the Shifter arrive in Professor Ingerhast’s office, the echoey sounds of a new set of footsteps herald another person approaching. Then there’s a somewhat timid knock at the office door, and one of the younger members of Gran’s kitchen staff is standing there looking very uneasy until he sees Meg.
“Miss Meg,” the relief in the lad’s often squeaky voice is palpable. “I was told to bring Miss Frizz here?” He holds out his hands, revealing the red-caped mouse and a plain little drawstring bag, presumably containing the effigy.
Ingerhast many orbed eyes blink as Meg says ‘please’ and Cal explains. “Well Miss Shadowcleft….” She says in a slightly clicking voice as her body shimmers and becomes that of woman with Slavic features and long dark hair. “This must be important indeed….”
She looks at Cal with a frown “Dolls that follow them around. That’s unusual, even for here, but not … unheard of. There’s a few possibilities of course. They might be orrunculous or animated by magic alone. Tell what you have done so far in tracking this down….” Clearly she knows Cal and doesn’t think he’s done anything worthy of a lecture … yet.
“I don’t suppose you bought one with you?” the Slavic woman blinks as the lad appears “Ah…. welcome Miss Frizz.”
“Bless you!” Megana smiles at the kid and holds one hand out for Miss Frizz to climb onto, carefully taking the drawstring bag in her other. “And thank you for coming Miss. The more information the Professor has, the better.” Meg murmurs.
“Megana had listened to Cal’s explanation, nodding but not really adding anything. Now however she turns with a grave expression on her face. “There is nothing, Nothing, in this world or any other more important to me than Kaji..and Miss Frizz and the others are my friends.” Ingehrast probably knows that Megana had no friends at the Academy. The only thing remotely resembling one had been the older student she’d roomed with that had for some strange reason decided it was his job to look out for the girl.
“This isn’t a magic I’m familiar with. Using a doll image as a focus to do damage to someone yes but it doesn’t have to be near them to work, it needs to be with you and it certainly wouldn’t follow someone around. I’m not convinced personally it’s the harvesters and I’ve noted that only people I care about have been targeted. At least so far as I know.”
“Miss Frizz,” Cal says, nodding gravely at the mouse, once Lady Shadowcleft has greeted her. He also remains silent while she expresses her feelings on the matter, giving said feelings the respect they deserve while choosing to look elsewhere– namely at their host– until it is done. He tilts his head thoughtfully as she notes only people she cares about have been targeted. This puts a new angle on the case, and suggests it might not necessarily be Harvesters at all.
“Your timing is impeccable,” he adds, to the mouse.
But he turns his attention back to the Professor. “So far I’ve interviewed all the recipients and have advised them not to try bashing them or burning them. Your office was the very next stop in this investigation. Miss Frizz here is in fact one of those very recipients.”
And then, with absolutely no fear in admitting he doesn’t know something, he adds: “I’m afraid I have never encountered the term ‘orrunculous’ before, might you explain it?” There is, after all, such a wealth of information to learn about magic that it’s not really all that inconceivable to miss terminology that doesn’t much relate to his own specialties in that area.
Suss skitters over to Megana’s hands readily, and then promptly up her sleeve and onto her shoulder as the kitchen lad turns to leave with an expression that makes it clear that he’s only too glad to be away from this place.
<~ Hello, Professor. ~> She remembers the creepy, predatory woman from one of her previous trips here, but being close to Meg’s neck is actually quite reassuring. The lad who brought her here was quick, and he carried her gently enough, but he kept forgetting that being jostled about in a human’s hands like a marble wasn’t entirely comfortable. <~ Perhaps if you saw the thing? ~> She leans just a little bit to look at the drawstring bag still in Meg’s hands.
No bashing. Fine. would it at least be okay to fling it across the room?
“A Homonculus…” Ingerhast says, knowing that Cal is asking for the others “… is a representation of a being …”
The slavic woman looks between all present. “So multiple people all connected? Anyone else you know of?” Megs commentary gets a look “There are things that can be bound to a being, but doing so is generally … difficult and requires something of the being to create the binding. Which might be why the Harvesters seeking revenge are a good possibility. But it is good that you are thinking wider than that.”
“No … bashing or burning them. Let me guess, Miss McClennan tried to bury hers in the ground, didn’t she?”
Interesting she thinks Slaine got one. “And yes please, Miss Frizz, I would like to see it…” back to Cal “Now tell me, Cal. What else have you found out about these things?”
Megana smiles as she listens to Frizz, gently stroking the mouse to comfort her if she’ll allow it. “Probably best no tto risk it for now but I promise you, when I find who has done this, tossing them across a room will be the least of what I do them.”
The Shifter seems utterly unconcerned about this admission. In fact she gives Cal a rather sharp look. He’s trying to help and hasn’t tried to arrest her or treat her with any of the usual suspicion and she truly appreciates it but there is no way she’s going to let these people get away with doing this. Not just because of Kaji and her friends, or her own personality, but because of her reputation. She has never allowed anyone to mess with what she considers her own. Starting now would be a sign of weakness that would only encourage her enemies to come after her whether or not the people or person behind this is one of them. She can’t afford to let it go. Meg blinks again, wondering how Ingerhast knows Slaine is someone she’s come to care for but doesn’t comment on that.
“That’s all we’ve really learned to date,” Cal explains to Ingerhast. “They follow the victims around, and annoy them. And I had the same thought, that it seemed like something that would need a reagent from the victim. It’s Kaji, Ms. Frizz, Elpida and Vargr, I believe; Miss McClennan did not in fact receive one.”
He gazes over at Lady Shadowcrest at her sharp look.
At length he says, “Discussions of dealing with them are, as yet, premature. Much of my own duties in that matter, as a Justicar, would depend I imagine on matters of jurisdiction and the feasibility of bringing certain parties in alive.”
He all but addresses the ceiling as he says it, musing this bit about jurisdictions and the like aloud, as he is.
<~ I warned Miss Slaine to NOT open anything she receives from an unknown benefactor. ~> Miss Frizz leans into the comforting gesture from Meg. <~ Are you sure you want to see the thing? It’s … really ugly. ~>
She looks down at the drawstring bag again and this time it falls to the floor out of Meg’s hand as if it suddenly became considerably heavier, then scoots over the floor across the room as if kicked.
And then Suss waits for the stupid thing to come back. Hopefully it’ll just wind up at Meg’s feet. Any closer and she’ll hiss at it again.
“Miss McClennan didn’t? Hmmm. Then perhaps it is not harvesters. She was an involved as Mister Frost and yourselves Miss Shadowcleft and Miss Frizz.” Ingerhast ponders that. It wasn’t that she thought Meg had become fond of the Mystic, it was the Harvester connection it seems. “If it was the Harvesters, why did they not send one to her?”
That’s something to think on.
As the doll comes skittering across the floor, Ingerhasts eyes drop and she stares at it. It doesn’t remain where it is though, moving almost instantly from its position on the floor to propped beside Frizz on Megs hand. “Well. Now. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything like that. Be a dear Cal, and pass me that purple covered book over there. Turn to page 256 and read it for me….”
“Miss Shadowcleft, Miss Frizz, how do you think we should proceed with this?” Is she asking because she doesn’t know or because she wants these two to think about it?
Miss Frizz HISSES at the stupid effigy.
There is a lot of blinking being done by Megana tonight. She nods in Cal’s direction though and decides that now she definitely does indeed “owe him one”. Damn. But also Yay! She’s no longer really interested in waging a personal war against the Justicars. Having one willing to work with her and maybe even form an alliance with if she can manage it.. Oh this has possibilities.
“Yes, it looks nothing like you.” Meg smiles at Miss Frizz. The Shifter frowns. “I.. don’t know. If it were a person or creature I’d try to overpower the connection and take control. It isn’t easy but I’ve had to do it before.” Oh the pain. She prefers not to remember. “But this.. it isn’t alive. I’m not sure I could do anything. Is there some type of tracing or tracking spell that could lead back to whoever made it maybe?”
This is an office that Kaji’s come to know well. Maybe that’s why he’s not given much trouble when he’d come along this way, although he still gives a brief knock on the door before setting foot inside. He’s pleasantly surprised to see that the rest of the gang’s here, so to speak- both new acquaintances and old.
“There a party I didn’t know about?” he asks, smiling crookedly as he nods at his friends, shifting the strap of his backpack over his shoulder. “Hey Professor Ingerhast.”
Cal moves to the aforementioned book and pulls it out, lifting an eyebrow. It doesn’t take him long to get to the appropriate page. “The linking ritual,” he reads, “is an ancient magic allowing animate and inanimate objects to be tethered together.” A pause, he runs his finger down the page. “The usual bit of vague academic wandering…”
And then, “Ah. Here we are. There’s a ritual here, though I’m not clear whether it creates the links or breaks them…I suppose if you know the ritual for one you could theoretically craft the other– one which requires Angel Amethyst and Stygian Iron to work. A rare reagent, Angel Amethyst. Very rare.”
He frowns thoughtfully. “Also known as a Demon’s Diamond…Nobody can even agree on where one can find the first, but the second would be the iron shed from the wings of a demon.” His eyes cut to Lady Shadowcleft. “One which might be summoned,” he adds.
Kaji arrives, and the Justicar offers him a greeting. “We were just discussing the dolls,” he explains.
Suss turns as Kaji enters the office and waves one little hand hello to him. <~ I don’t care that it doesn’t look like me, Miss Meg. It follows me. I don’t like it. ~> Her dark little eyes turn toward Ingerhast again. Clearly, she’s expecting the professor to at least have an idea on how to get rid of the things. She’s increasingly wanting to see exactly how far she can ‘throw’ the hideous little effigy.
Ingerhast chuckles as Kaji arrives. “Delicious Kaji, Miss Shadowcleft neglected to tell me you would be joining us. I am led to believe that you have one of these effigies as well, may I see it? And have your dolls been behaving themselves in general?”
It’s possible they haven’t if they’ve been left behind. The longer the dolls are with a person if they’re left, they might well throw … a tantrum. Personal property damage is definitely a thing.
“You could try to overpower the link and take it over Miss Shadowcleft, but don’t you think that whatever, or whoever, has made these and linked them to your friends might be rather strong? Or have a way of tethering the connections? Sometimes being more subtle is the best thing.”
As Cal reads and expounds, the Professor nods and chuckles again “You always were a good student, if a little too single minded. That is correct though, Stygian Iron comes from the wings a particular demon. One I’m sure Miss Shadowcleft will be able to find, summon and convince to part with some of them…” It should be noted the Spider Professor doesn’t say … bargain.
“Demon’s Diamonds. Ah, another trip down memory lane. It has been found in two places – the top of a mountain or the depths of the earth. But only on a particular time of the year, when the magics that run through the Leylines align in a particular way…”
She looks at the group “Once, in the Golden Ages, that time was known as All Hallows Eve…” Now that’s something Kaji definitely knows about.
Megana moves carefully towards Kaji to hug him, mindful of Miss Frizz on her shoulder. “…That’s..” She pauses and considers. “There was a demon leading the cult we found before the harvesters. Or at least involved with them. But that is something a sufficiently powerful Shifter could get if they wanted to risk it.”
Meg closes her eyes in concentration, sorting through her stores of mental knowledge. After a moment she shrugs and moves over to Cal to study the spell. “How many people have access to this book?” Of course it isn’t necessarily the place whoever did this got the spell but it can’t be all that commonly known. And if it was, those ingredients… Quietly she considers her options for getting the Iron. “Do we need Iron for each person or will this work for all of them?” Because that could be a problem… or turn into one eventually. Meg shrugs again after looking at Kaji and Miss Frizz. It doesn’t matter. “I’ll get it.”
“They might be but I’m rather strong and I could call on..” She closes her mouth and decides not elaborate. She doesn’t want to risk their lives due to her own arrogance or the desire to pit her will and power against this new enemy. Besides the Professor is right. “Sometimes that is the better way. That’s why I’m here.” When she finds these people.. Oh is she going to hurt them. Hurt them ways most people can’t even begin to imagine. “All Hallows.. what the hell. That means they got this crap together last year at least, right? It hasn’t happened yet.”
“Figured that might be it,” Kaji replies to Cal, nodding. He returns Meg’s hug before slipping his backpack off so he can open it. “I actually didn’t know you were all going to be here,” he admits to Ingerhast. “Now where’s…. -here it is. It hasn’t been doing much beside looking creepy.” He pulls the thing out, holding it rather gingerly like he’d rather not touch it. Given that he’s seen no point in leaving it behind if it just appeared, he’d been keeping it in his backpack whenever he’d gone out, just to save him the trouble of unpleasant surprise appearances.
As Cal reads from the book, he frowns. “Sounds like a lot of trouble to go through for something like this, just to be an annoyance. Would they be capable of anything worse than what we’ve seen so far?”
His eyes sweep across the others, pausing on the professor before looking at Megana again. He can’t help but make a face at the mention of demons. He’s…more than a little tired of dealing with them. “Wha, seriously? Figures,” he mutters.
Of course it’d have to be that time of the season.
“Mountains, at least, we have aplenty,” Cal points out, even as he tilts the book so Meg can get a better look. He shoots Suss a look that carries some sympathy, but ‘single-minded’ rather describes him to a T. “At the top of any mountain, Professor, so long as it’s at the right time? Or is there a specific one we’d need to target? At the very least I can open us a portal to one, so a long, dangerous expedition won’t be required.”
Not that everyone is necessarily in love with traveling via portal, but.
“I’d say they’d be capable of much worse. A link like that can be exploited in a number of different ways, and as you’ve already observed, Kaji, one doesn’t simply pour that kind of time and energy into a spell like that to pull a prank, or to be an annoyance, or even to intimidate.”
Once Meg’s done looking he will dive into the index, just to see if there are more mentions of the linking magic and what it was typically used for.
Once hugged greetings are done, Suss takes a moment to settle a little more securely against Meg’s neck under the collar of her shirt, feeling like there’s little to nothing that she can contribute at this point, other than letting the Justicar and the professor experiment on that hideous mouse toy.
It could only get uglier if it had buttons for eyes.
She hisses at Kaji’s effigy just like she hissed at her own. She can’t really ‘feel’ the magic in them, but they’re creepy, and she doesn’t like them.
“A mountain that a leyline runs under, Cal.” Ingerhast confirms “It’s a good thing there’s one not far from here.”
“This book is from my own personal library, Miss Shadowcleft. I translated it to something that beings on this plain could read. The information isn’t secret – you just know where to look for it or have been taught it. But there’s not that many who would know it.”
Seeing Kaji’s response to the time of the year, the Professor nods. “It’s coming up soon, yes Miss Shadowcleft. The spell could have been conducted at any time – the materials can only be found at a particular time of year.”
Kaji’s question has the professor frowning “Anything linked to you could be dangerous. It might drain you or it might be used as a link to you. Who knows until you look deeper.”
“Well, my delicious friends, it seems you have somewhere to start. Is there anything else you need of me?”
“Thank you.” Megana says fervently. They do have a place to start. She can plot what she’ll do when to whoever did this later. Right now she’s got some strategic planning for how best to get the Iron to consider.
She isn’t really surprised the book is translated writings from elsewhere. She can read almost every written word with the right or..hehe write.. spell. Just as she can understand almost every spoken word if she forgoes her ability to read, and she’s dealt in trading or bargaining for such magic before..of course others would do the same. “We don’t have a lot of time, but enough I think.:”Ah, yes, of course,” Cal says, in response to the ley line portion.
But he finally replaces the book, handling it carefully as he handles all books.
“Nothing from me. Thank you for your time, Professor, it has, as always, been most enlightening. If you’ll excuse me,” this to the rest of them. “I believe I’m going to see about making the most of the time between now and All Hallows Eve.”
There’s a great deal of prep work for him to do, for one thing; it seems they have some major actions upcoming and he’s got no interest in being caught flat footed. He slips out with brisk efficiency.
Kaji groans a little at that, not that he’d expected otherwise, really. Or at least, he supposes he shouldn’t have. “I’d sure like answers on the ‘who’ and ‘why’ aside from getting this dealt with.” He’s not sure what more they can ask Professor Spider, however, although at least they have something to work with in the matter.
Glancing at Cal, the necromancer blinks, raising a hand in a half-wave as the Justicar slips out after excusing himself. “Yeah, I guess that’s it for now. Thanks though, Professor Ingerhast. I’d wanted to ask something else, but maybe we can talk another time.” He has to get ready for other things, so more’s the relief that he’s not the only one working on this case.
Megana nods and settles an arm around Kaji, careful not to jostle Miss Frizz. “Thank you.” She repeats. She’ll let the others say goodbye and then get them back to Gran’s and start planning. Now she owes the Professor too.. but in this case it’s definitely worth it.
Interested parties drop by the Academy to gain some insight from the resident Spider professor regarding the mysterious doll plague.
October 19, 2410
Academy of Esoteric Arts, Vesper