To Haunt A Soul

Summary:
October 5, 2014: The knights of the circle Orboros have unleashed the hunt in Gotham for one soul- and Vorpal learns that his days are numbered.

North Point

North Point was once roughly analogous to the seaside resort-like
neighborhoods around New York's Cony Island. It's… not that nice anymore.
The general decay of the area had set in decades before the earthquake in
2009 shattered what infrastructure was left. These days North Point as less
seaside resort than coastal ruin. Even the buildings that have been repaired
seem to have become run down unnaturally quickly and the criminal element is
very, very comfortable here.


Characters

NPCs

  • The Knights of the Circle Orboros

Mood Music:
Bless The Child


Gotham is a city known for odd sights and sounds. It hosts the (Goddamn) Batman for goodness sake and his varied rogues gallery. It's strange. It's beyond strange. But some things are strange even for Gotham. Like the sound of hoofbeats over the rooftops. No, it's not Santa, nor is it a reindeer. It's, in fact, four suprisingly fast and sure footed elk, each green as grass and each ridden by an armored figure in similar colors.

Something's in the air again tonight. The Green Knights are looking for something by the way the bound from rooftop to rooftop.

The Parliaments of Trees and Bones are meeting again, and this time they meet at the same place-that-is-no-place. They have been sending their lesser emissaries to one another, sending spies and observers and meddlers and jesters to broach the unwanted secret: the broken circle has become unbroken, the snake devours itself again, the humans who declared themselves above the Emergent Powers and twisted chance and circumstance to force the crises that threw down Atlantis, that brought the drought to the Eden and drove the Heroes into the Dreamtime, the arrogant thieves were back.

Note, no actual Druids were harmed in the production of this diatribe. The Circle Oroborous is only a scary story told by people who don't want you to take charge of your own fate.

Gar felt something tingle across his spine. He looked up and saw a green elk, and frowned. "But I'm down here?"

Keith O'Neil wasn't exactly in his most alert mode. Plied with food and drink during their meeting with Danny Rand, he was walking with Gar back to his apartment in full Contentment Mode. And he was beginning to feel the very beginnings of Damned Sore Mode. He was looking forward to the promised treatment to reduce its onset and on to blissful sleep.

"What?" Keith asks, looking up from his phone, catching a fleeting glimpse of greenitude. Now, there are a few green peeps in the tri-city area, but to his knowledge he was currently dating the only one who could also become green animals as well.

"Of course, something weird is afoot. Or ahoof…" he mumbles, reaching into his brown leather jacket for his hand mirror.
"Go ahead and birdify to chase after whatever that was, I'll be with you as soon as I've put the fur coat on."

The riders check and circle. It's rather like a fox hunt this, if the fox were a sort of ineffable force of chaos. Something else draws their attention, tough. Something below. The Green Knights sign to one another as their mounts bound from appartment to office to fire escape as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Yes… something's down there greater than the quary they were chasing. This demands investigation.

On another rooftop nearby reality distorts and tears and a man steps through. Tall and lean and predatory, he glances around. He too has heard the whispered rumors of the Devouring Wurm and he's not amused. Not for the reasons of the Parliament, though. If the whispers are to be believed, these are the ones who called down the Wild Hunt in Gotham… and no one screws around like that in his hunting grounds.

"On it," Gar says, and takes on the form of a swift. (What is the airspeed of a laden swallow? Depends on what you're swallowing.)

The green bird flies upward at close to sixty miles an hour, and circles, apparently devouring insects (and in actuality, trying to figure out what these far-too-agile elk are doing.) As they move down the fire escapes, somehow managing not to trigger the usual Gotham Fire Escape Intruder Defense (shotgun loaded with rock salt) the bird-brain mutters to himself about escapees from Mallory and how they're breaking the rules. He just misses the man ripping a hole in space, as if space had done anything to him to deserve that treatment, flying through the location a second before it eructates the Wolf out of its abused innards.

It's a matter of a quick incantation and a mirror glance, and the cheshire cat is on the case. He cannot fly as fast as the green one, but his rabbit holes allow him to cheat. He's not quite sure what to make of the sight of the elk and what they are dragging, but the strangeness of it all does not carry any good omens. He has his back turned to the visitor, otherwise Vorpal's weirdness alarms would be blaring high and loud. Right now they're more or less at a mezzo-forte. Puce Alert.

There's an immediate shift in the movement patters of the Knights when Vorpal rabbit holes. They check and wheel momentarily, confused and then begin a new pattern. From the air it's clearly a closing spiral on a moving point. One centered, if one has the perspective to view it properly, on Vorpal. From rooftop level though it simply looks like they're playing a maddening game of follow the leader in a wide arc.

The Old Wolf doesn't notice Gar. Mostly because he's also focused on the knights. He doesn't call upon his divinity though. Not just yet. Instead he pricks his thumb with a pen knife and presses a drop of blood onto his long crimson scarf. The scarf lengthens and seems to writhe as if alife. Then he throws himself off the rooftop, the scarf lashing out to catch holds on nearby buildings and swing him with improbably durability. It's like being Spiderman if Spiderman could web sling and not pay attention to it.

From the air… yeah, that's pretty clear. Gar sprints down to Vorpal, and says, "They're after YOU!"

The last two yards is Gar turning from a swift into a swarm of green, africanized bees, which spins into a close swarm around the purple cat.

"Watch ou… what is THAT?"

A dozen pairs of multi-faceted eyes spots Fenris swinging around like some sort of implausible videogame character. Well. Fine. So other people can do weird travel powers too. Huh.

"They're-" Why? Who on earth would want to come after him? The night glows purple as he summons the Vorpal Blade, focusing on the construct to keep it by his side.

Gar brings attention to another approach. And now he is visibly nervous- the man is swinging too fast for him to see his features, otherwise he might recognize him.

"They're coming for me. So that makes me the liability," Vorpal thinks quickly. "I could rabbit hole around, try to confuse them. Make them come to us on a territory of our choosing." The cat narrows his eyes, trying to keep everybody within his line of sight, but it's simply not possible with the crazy spirals.

One of the four knights sounds a blast on a hunting horn. Yes, this new quary is worthy at least of attention and investigation. The others begin to spin through arcane gestures in their left hands. The effect is to throw up a great deal of 'mana static' around them, rendering their exact location difficult to determine and their movements much more fluid. The game's afoot!

Fenris continues to swing, using Gotham's 'natural' architecture (thank goodness for all those gargoyles) to swing onto the tail of the Knights. He knows a hunt when he sees one, even without the horn, but he hasn't figured out that they're chasing… wait… is that…?

Oh. Of course it is.

Gar finds himself a bit disoriented as light stops being polarized the way it's supposed to be, and he is forced to coalesce into a single body… the mass of bees lumps up and takes on the form of a great horned owl.

"Rabbit hole! Go!" he yells to Vorpal, preparing to dive through it after the cat.

Vorpal doesn't need to be asked twice. The Vorpal Sword disappears back into the realm of chaos magic, and the Cheshire creates a rabbit hole towards the next rooftop, diving through it and closing it behind him after Gar comes through. He repeats the process as fast - and as safely- as he can.

If they had a comm system, he could call on the other Titans for help. Raven, Zachary, Rain, any of his magical friends. But they didn't have one, yet.

~Note: Bring up comms next meeting~ If he made it to the next meeting.

"Why the hell are they after me?" Vorpal says, his heartbeat drumming in his ears. He keeps looking over to make sure Gar is with him.

The process of chain teleporting about the Gotham skyline does indeed keep the elk-knights from catching Vorpal. However they're damnably fast, and they do know how to hunt. Suspecting that there maybe some limitations to his ability to move about, they quickly split by twos, attempting to form a V with Vorpal and Gar in the center, herding them until they run out of room.

Or at least that was the plan until a man with a strange scarf flips down onto a roof top in front of one of them with an Unreasonably Large Sword, which he whips at the elk. There's a flash of light as magic meets magic and while the blade doesn't cut the creature in half like it should, it's progress comes to a sudden (and painful) halt as it's own protections force it to stop.

Herding. Herding teleporters… but … herding requires that you can interdict movement, force it in a direction you want it to go. That's … how many of these things are they cheating to create? Gar follows through the rabbit hole, and the next, but he's brought up against Vorpal on that one and is knocked to the ground where he becomes a squirrel, and hisses his irritation at the elk-hunters nearest him.

"What do you want!?" he demands of the green 'knight'…

Vorpal snarls. Every muscle in his body tensing to fight-
And then his rational mind forces him to rethink. Tooth and claw would be suicide. As he collides with Gar, he comes to kneel next to the squirrel.

Elk have the advantage, with their antlers, and their knights, against a sword. That is why he focuses his will into a long, pointed shape. A lance that he can thrust at the incoming creatures from a kneeling position- he too read Mallory as a child. When the man intervenes, he finally gets a clear look at his face.
"Fenris?"

The Knight raises his visor. Beneath what's visible of his face is human save for the red, cat slitted eyes. "The Sidhe." Is his answer. To be honest none of the knights know quite what to make of Vorpal yet, save that he's in their baliwick and therefore something to be looked at closely.

The 'ftz' of magic on magic at the lead of the V causes the knights to wheel once more, this time drawing blades. Those arcane gestures becomes glowing balefire around their free hands as they guide their elks with their knees… if indeed the beasts need any guidance at all.

"Old One! Your interference in this matter in unwise!" Fenris bares his teeth and actually growls, human though he looks. "Your poaching in my grounds is doubly so."

There's a tense moment where the matter hangs in the balance. Fight, flight or talk? It could go any way…

Gar looks at Vorpal, and does that thing he talked about in the morning. Where he stood as a squirrel, there's a mountain-lion-sized cat, brilliant green, with tiger stripes and the feather tufted ears of a lynx, and a long lion's tail. A Sidhe Cait.

"And what do you want with such a thing?" he demands, and the fact that he's taken on the form of one of the children of Cait Sith does not make him quite what they want, but it does strongly confuse the matter. And bringing chaos is what the cait Sidhe like to do to humans. Even when they're simply a Changeling taking on a mythical form.

Vorpal grits his teeth. He understands why Changeling is doing what he is doing, but there's nothing about this situation that he likes. He's not in control, he gets an inkling of the mystic power at play, and it cannot compete with his own version of it- shackled, as it is, by the human soul to which the Cait's spirit is bound.

He slowly stands up, dismissing the spear and instead reaching within himself, just barely tapping at the seal to his soul that guards the conduit to pure chaos. He cannot meet them in equal combat, but should they attack, he has no qualms about summoning the chaos wave.

"The Sidhe are not yours to obtain!" he hisses. Fear, he exhudes fear, which Gar would probably be able to smell easily. So would Fenris. This is a threat for which he is ill-equipped, which means that he is the liability, and his team-mate is at risk. The presence of Fenris obviously has stalled matters, but these knights look insane enough to take him on at the slightest provocation.

And, who knows? Maybe they could take him on.

He keeps his hold on the seal, but prepares for the worst. In case they attacked… well.

Even if Fenris could win this confrontation - and against this power he has not yet been tested - anyone capable of making him assume his true form is a force to be reckoned with and at some level one has to balance 'winning the fight' with 'leveling Gotham'. Clearly, the Destroyer Wolf isn't willing to go that far yet. Fortunately, neither to the knights seem willing to press the matter to outright confrontation.

Yet.

Instaed one by one the baleflame flickers out on their hands and the one that got hung up on the edge of Fenris' blade nudges his steed a few paces back. Four sets of eyes are on Vorpal. He's the only thing that matters right now, at least to them.

"Thou art not as thou shouldst be." One intones.

"Thou art twisted. Crippled." Says another.

"Thy destiny shackled." The third notes.

"This Circle must know." The leader says, almost addressing his companions rather than his opponents.

"What? Your brains are full of spiders and you've got stale and rotted garlic where your souls should be," the green cait-sidhe spits at them, "your body hairs are worms and may your beards grow ever longer, but never break the skin! You arrogant revenants, who gave you the judging of the Cait Sidhe? You were forgotten before the warders closed the doors, and well it was done!"

Yes, it does seem that Gar takes on the nature of the thing he becomes, because he's cursing them up and down and back and forth, though whether it's having any real effect or not … or whether it WILL have … is still to be seen.

Vorpal opens his mouth to speak, but then Garfield is… doing his shtick. For a brief moment, he thinks the world is definitely not ready for two of him, and then he shakes his head and keeps his eyes on the men.

The circle? What circle? He sends the question to the Cait within him… .

Fine.

"The last foolish enough to utter such nonsense at us was Senchan. Scamper away, dusty knights, this world is not your own." He growls and takes another step forward, claws drawn to make his point.

Vorpal is, irritatingly, roundly ignored. As is Fenris, who is still holding a defensive set, blade and now rod up at the ready. One of the knights reaches outward, siezing on Gar's animal nature and calls upon the ancient rights and pacts of the Circle Orboros. Then he twists. He has his own point to make though how well he can make it on Gar is an open question. After all, the man isn't precisely an animal of the sort that the Circle is accustomed to manipulating and commanding.

This is why the Parliament of Bones does NOT want these bastards to return - they somehow got their hands on rites and powers never intended to be touched by anyone less than themselves, and they have by them, inroads into places where none of the Great Elementals ever thought that something so short-sighted as an unAscended human could touch.

Gar falls back into his human form, screaming, and collapses to the ground. He glares hate at the knight, and pulls on something of his own… these elk that they ride are not what they should be; they are extinct in the world today, so they were transformed or they were brought forward — they need to be FREE, to return to the Red…

"GAR!"

Vorpal's rage ignites completely and the night glows purple with magic. It is not his customary anvils but rather dozens of large spikes- ten feet in size- that appear in the air and hang there, glowing brightly against the night sky. The spikes, not being focused on, can only exist for a few seconds at most, but a few seconds is all that is needed for one to be released and be potentially deadly- or an entire rain of them to descend. They appear and reappear in the air as one vanishes and another one takes its place, never in the same spot.

"Touch him again and die by my hand. Leave, before my mercy is exhausted."

Sparks of chaos magic dance across Vorpal's claws, and his eyes have the dull red glow of sheer rage emanating from them. His face, which combines equal elements of the human and the feline, is twisted with a monstruous level of rage.

The Knight's Elk rears and for a moment there's a contest of wills between Gar and he before the green creature just vanishes to… somewhere. Perhaps to the Red. The other knights relight their balefires and begin to advance and for a moment it looks like it may come down to a fight before Fenris, still human is abruptly between them.

"ENOUGH!" His voice thunders and there's power to it. Everyone is suddenly reminded that the Old Wolf, Fenris, the grumpy if helpful park ranger is also the Wolf of the End Times. The Destroyer. He points his blade at the knights.

"Depart." He snarls. It's an abjuration and there's power to that too. The knights give back a few paces and then look at eachother, silently conferring.

"Until the next time, then, Fenris Wolf." They fade back into the Green and their presence vanishes from the world.

The God-Wolf swings back around to Gar and Vorpal. "Control yourselves." He says in a much gentler, more sympathetic tone. "My patience is also finite." He says in an almost conversational tone, by way of reminder. Others may contest his claim to his hunting grounds, but when it comes down to them he will defend it to the death. He must. His nature will not allow otherwise.

Gar isn't answering Fenris. He's on his hands and knees, vomiting up something slimy, yellow-orange, wrigging. As air touches it, it burns and smokes, dying in the oxygen. It doesn't really belong in this spacetime.

As the knights retreat, the spikes fall on the floor where they once were and shatter, now that Vorpal is no longer keeping them aloft. The reason being is that he is kneeling next to Gar, the bravado brought on by rage giving way to the truth it was trying to hide- that he is very scared, young and inexperienced.

"Gar- Gar, are you alright?" he asks, reaching out to touch Gar's back but obviously not knowing what to do. He looks up at Fenris, obviously concerned and confused.

They came hunting for him. And they had done something to Gar without even touching him. It had only been the god-wolf's presence that had stopped them from… what? Collecting him? Killing him?

Fenris just watches. The threat passed, the sword vanishes sometime when the other two aren't looking. He just… stands there until Vorpal looks up at him. "He'll be alright. They wanted to hurt him, to prove to the both of you they had to be taken seriously. Fortunately for him, he is also to be taken seriously."

Fenris sighs, looking to where they vanished. "Those were simply outriders though. They'll be back. More and more powerful to boot."

Gar finally finishes vomiting out whatever it was that the spell tried to inflict on him, and he coughs once, and then stands up, leaning on Vorpal.

"They don't belong here. They're not part of this world any more. I don't know how they got back, but I keep hearing a voice that says they have to be sent back out or killed, before they … something, I can't turn that into words, it doesn't make sense."

Gar looks at Vorpal. "They want you to be like you used to be, that's what they meant."

Vorpal stands up with Garfield and puts an arm around him, a protective gesture even though he is very aware that he has little power to protect. It is probably why he hugs him tight.

They wanted him to be like he used to be? He shudders. The Cait Sidhe, free… and Keith?

He was only alive because the Cait Sidhe was merged to his soul. "What do we do?" he asks, looking at Fenris with a pleading look.

It's a well-known, established fact that Rookies often think along the same lines, due to inexperience. The thought of numerous knights of that ilk, more powerful than the ones they had faced, makes his blood run cold. The ones with lesser power had hurt Garfield. What would the more powerful ones do to him when he tried to protect him? What would they do to Zachatry, who was incredibly gifted but still very much green behind the ears? Or Robin, for that matter, who had no mystic defenses whatsoever.

Although it was the wrong pantheon to think of in this instance, he very much felt as if the sword of Damocles was hanging over him.

~Unless we acquire formidable magical allies, they will eventually manage to get to you~
~Maybe killing others in their wake~

He looks at Garfield, and then he looks at Fenris.

"I… I don't know what to do."

"At least you know enough to admit that. For tonight, go home. Rest. Tend your… companion." A faint smile colors Fenris expression. "They will not return tonight. They know I will be watching and for now that will be enough. In the morning, take council. And remember that there is an Old Wolf about who objects to poachers like that."

Gar is still shaken, still fighting off the after-effects of the curse. He stares numbly at the smouldering, evaporating worm-like things, and then looks at Vorpal.

"Can you get us home. I'll be OK in a bit," he says. And then he'll figure out what to do, who to call on. He has people, friends, allies. He won't just hang back and let them murder his Keith. They don't know what they've called down on their own heads.

"You're going to sleep," Vorpal says firmly, while keeping his arms around Gar. He's uninjured, he can easily carry Gar back through the rabbit holes- when you can tear holes in reality, no place is really that far away. "We can talk about this in the morning, Now it's my turn to take care of you." as the wolf suggests. He shoots him a look that brooks no argument. At least for the moment.

A rabbit hole opens, but before he steps through with Gar, he turns to Fenris. And then he bows.

Cats never bow. "I am indebted to you. If it's in your power to at least give me a name so we know who they are…"

Because it has occurred to him that, perhaps, John Constantine might know. John Constantine might help, in that house of his of many ways. Just maybe. But he needs a name, a title, a hint- names are important both in research and magic, and even if he can't have a True Name, a false name can reveal just as much.

"You're dealing with the disciples of the Devourer Wurm. The Circle Orboros. Those Who Ride the Dragon's Tail. They are ancient, powerful, and utterly ruthless. Whatever you do with them, Vorpal…" Fenris pauses now, having said Vorpals name but looking at the pair of shapeshifters now. "Be very, very careful."


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