Class Is In Session

Summary:
January 7 2015: Constantine begins teaching Mack about the basics of keeping alive in the magical world.

House of Mystery

Aside from the impossibility of how one enters the place, the House of Mystery is, at first glance, a richly-appointed Victorian era mansion. A great marble statue of a robed man holding an open book and a staff resides between the grand staircases in the great entryway. To the right of the entryway are open doors leading to a sitting area-slash-lounge, furnished with well-worn leather chairs facing a roaring, cheery fireplace. There's even a bowl of candy on the coffeetable, along with a few books. The study furthur on looks like an occult shop collided with an antique laboratory and exploded- crystals, copper wire, books, bunsen flames, titraters, and all manner of books and equipment scattered all over the place. A few scorch marks on the ceiling denote either unexpected failures or successes.

Beyond these three rooms are hallways that seem to go on forever, and doorways to all kinds of unexpected rooms and nooks and crannies. Thorough exploration yields only the knowledge that Euclidean geometry no longer applies in this space, and that the House seems to have a playfully sinister mind of its own, moving rooms and hallways without warning. This is clearly not a place to go wandering unaccompanied.


Characters

NPCs

  • Rufus (Mack's Dog)

Mood Music:
None


The lessons were supposed to be light and casual, but if there's one thing John Constantine is bad at, it's keeping things informal. He and Mack are sitting in the living room of the House, surrounded by magical accoutrements and devices, while John lectures to the sailor. He's not a terribly good teacher- he's too intense and moves a little too fast, often without stopping to ask if his student is keeping up.

"All right, so moving on to demons," John says, setting aside an old grimoire and shoving away some iron they'd used to practice warding off the Fae. "Demons are basically living evil. I have no idea /why/ they exist- some people theorize that they are the embodiment of mankind's evil deeds. Other people maintain demons are a natural outgrowth of evil, that they're more like the mold you get in your shower."

"Wait wait, slow down Chauncey. So the iron, does it have to be a specific type of iron? There's lots of kinds you know. Like, will my cast iron frying pan work? Steel? What?" Mack is overwhelmed and it shows in her pained expression of befuddlement. The ship captain is settled crosslegged on the floor by the couch in a pair of sweat pants and a hoodie, her short cropped hair mussed from nearly pulling out at the breakneck pace of the lessons.

Rufus is settled on the couch as if he owns it, and likely the reason why Mack is on the floor. He is also snoring, a lovely deep rumble to accompany John's lecturing.

John squints and rubs the bridge of his nose as Mack backtracks. "No- the Fae are allergic to 'cold iron'- iron that's been refined and hardened. Natural iron, like iron ore, won't do it, but steel, being iron that's just been more refined and treated, will work just fine."

He rests his elbows on his knees, palms together as he looks at Mack. "Fae are creatures of chaos. They're born of it. Refined iron represents order, progress. It's the antithesis of what the Fae are, and it wounds them horrible to be struck by it."

Mack nods and she jots down some comments in her Hello Kitty notebook. Hey, don't judge, she bought it for her daughter before she found out the kid had moved on to My Little Pony. "All right, got it. So demons are a mystery for the most part? They're not like, fallen angels and that stuff from the bible?" She chews on the end of the pen, a bad habit, but one she falls to when she doesn't have a cigarette to puff on.

"Well- ok, the Fallen aren't precisely demons," John hedges. "They're more like anti-angels. And they're far, far beyond anything you're ready to deal with. The best I can ready you for is something fairly low level- a parademon, a stray water nymph, that kind of thing. A Fallen is one of the six hundred and sixty-six angels who followed Lucifer during his rebellion. They were cast down into the Pit with him, but because they defied God's order, they gained some peculiar powers of their own once they found independence. They're still slaves to Lucifer, but they're far more able to interfere in humanity's fate than 'good' angels are. They're all fawning, bootlicking arseholes," John scoffs, "so I can't say I see a difference. If it serves their Purpose, an angel will kill you with no explanation at all, Fallen or otherwise."

"Really? Wow, that sucks. Who wrote the Bible, FOX News?" Mack asks, because that's a whole lot of spin for one book. "What about that soggy bastard that tried to drown me in the engine room of the Folly?" she asks. Good woman, she looks for specifics. Rufus snorts and rolls over, putting his back to them. Jerk.

"That's what I call a parademon," John says, reaching for the grimoire again and leafing through it. Finding the section on them, he clips a hundred or so thin, small-print pages together and hands the book to Mack. "Parademons are mostly useless. They're not strong enough to manifest on our plane independently, and they're not sneaky enough to take on a human form for very long. So they bind themselves up with an element or a metaphysical concept, like water, or darkness. When they interact with us, that's how they do it. Parademons are dangerous because they can be so unexpected, but they mostly stick to things like classical elements and basic fears, because they're not very bright or clever."

"There are a few ways to deal with them. Blessed weapons and holy water can injure them, and reading certain religious passages can hurt their ears and disorient them. It takes a certain amount of faith or willpower to make that work, though," John admits, "and because they're not wholly manifest, blessed icons aren't as effective as if a full-blown demon had been summoned here."

"Dealing with parademons requires a bit of imagination, some inspired bluffing, and willpower to make it stick. Usually invoking the opposing element works nicely," John suggests. "Banishing them with brute force is a bit less artful but if you can trap them, it'll do the job."

"So fire to deal with the water demon?" Mack asks, jotting down more notes in some barely legible handwriting. She makes a doctor's script look like block printing. "I have grandad's St. Brendan medal." She tugs out the medal from the hoodie, fashioned as a ship's wheel. Patron Saint of sailors and navigators. "Would this work for a focus? And how do you trap them?"

"That's a good one," John says, leaning forward and peering at it for a moment. "Icons of the blessed saints are always a good way to get a demon's attention, and a family heirloom has a certain power to it that one you get from your local five-and-dime doesn't."

"Trapping a demon means some spellcraft," John says, shifting his weight forward a bit so he can grab at his beer, freshly poured from a tap in the kitchen. "You can use a pentagram to summon a demon, but you can also use it to trap one- if you have cheat notes handy. One of the Seals is in that book," he says, nodding at the grimoire at Mack's feet. "It's a basic one but it works well enough for most demons. Once you have it trapped, you have a good bit more time to study it and refer to your books and find out how to banish it most effectively."

Mack cracks open the dusty tome to the indicated page and sneezes. In that moment she looks like a human-sized Tinkerbell, because that sneeze is in the way upper register and wakes Rufus up. It's like a squeak. She wipes her nose on a crumpled Kleenex from her pocket. "So the Lesser Key of Solomon?" she clarifies.

John leans forward to look over the top of the book, his head nearly brushing Mack's. "Yeah, that's the one," he confirms, leaning back and sipping more of his beer. "Don't go messing with it, though," he warns Mack. "Learn the basic permutations and leave it be after that. Lots of amateur demon hunters learned the Key and a basic dismissal invocation, and died horribly when they decided to modify it on the fly so it's more 'efficient'," he says, fingers hooking in the air. "Stick to what the book says, learn a few of the conjuring adverbs and their modifiers, and don't get clever."

"John, I can't figure out square roots. I sure as hell am not going to go mucking with altering magical mumbo jumbo," Mack declares. Point. At least she's practical. "I've never been accused of being clever." She sets the book down and stands to stretch her legs, giving Rufus a gentle pat and cracking her back with a resounding series of pops. "I'm thinking of signing up for some self defense classes at a dojo. I mean, it's probably worthless against demons and fairies, but against idiots like those kids trying to summon that nasty thing?"

"Not a bad idea," John admits, taking a long pull from his beer mug. "Don't find one of those amateur hour schools that caters to women, though," he advises. "They just give bored housewives a workout and some false confidence. Find wherever the local military-type chaps go and learn from that bloke. I guarantee they'll happily show you a few moves that are designed for street fighting, not looking pretty in a gym."

"Right, I'll make sure it's not a lipstick and high heels course," Mack says with a chuckle. She shoves Rufus a bit to make room on the couch and settles down beside the giant dog. "So I've been busy with the holidays and Maggie being here for a few weeks. How've you been?" she asks. "I didn't want to inflict my kid on you, so I steered clear. We were staying in one of those weekly suite hotel things anyway. Her step-mother didn't want her living on the boat while she was here, the bitch."

"Fuck her, she's not your kid's mum, you are," John snorts. "And good job not bringing her around. I don't like kids, and the little buggers don't like me," he declares. "And I'm not about to let a bloody child run loose in here. House has a peculiar sense of humor. For all I know, the last resident is still stuck in these halls somewhere," he says, jutting a chin at the stairwell, the only steady location in the house aside from his workshop and parlor.

"I'm not her mom. I'm her mother. Biology. I suck at being a mom. Really," Mack protests. "I can barely take care of me, John. Her step-mother does a good job with the basics, she just doesn't approve of me or anything about me. Could have to do with the fact her husband knocked me up after they were married." She winks, clearly in good humor about the whole mess. She looks towards the stairway and grimaces. "How did you find this place anyway? Or did it find you?"

John's face flickers, and if Mack is at all perceptive about people, she'd clearly note when he's putting his 'poker face' on. Not that he's necessarily lying- just that he might be prepared to not tell the truth.

"It's kind of a long and involved story," John says, reaching over and tugging on one of Rufus' ears playfully, stalling for a few seconds. "To be blunt, it's not the kind of information you want to know," the Hellblazer finally admits. "Just knowing it could make you a liability. Hell, the fact you've /been/ here makes you a target, though those are some long odds for anyone trying to break in," John says. "There are a bloody good number of enterprising souls who would love to steal House, and the less you know, the better."

Mack sighs a little. "I know what you're saying is for my own good. But all this mystery and the non-answers are making me crazy, man. I'm already a babe in the woods, stumbling around in the dark. The lack of information might sound like it's protecting me, but it might also get me killed." She watches him with the dog sadly for a moment. "I get it though. I won't push. Just frustrated."

"Welcome to the world of magic," John says in wry tone. "No one gives away trade secrets in this game. For all I know, this is a clever long con and you're working some angle to try and get me to hand you my wallet. That happens enough in this business that most wizards tend to be fairly wary and isolated. And," he says, "I don't know what kind of wizard you might be. Ordinary people go a bit mad with a bit of power in their hands," he explains. "They become avengers, purifiers, inquisitors, or sometimes they turn an ear to the dark side itself." He finishes petting the dog and slouches into the sofa. "If you start mucking around with infernal powers, then I am to blame for anyone you ever hurt or kill, and it falls to me to make sure you'd never do it again."

"I wish I was smart enough to do any of the crap you just said," Mack mutters. "But I'm afraid you got stuck with a dud in the smarts department. I've got street sense, and good old fashioned elbow grease, but Einstein I'm not." She fwumps back against the sofa cushions and shoves her hands in the pockets of her hoodie. She might be pouting. Someone is feeling a little self pity in the post-holiday season.

"That makes you more dangerous than a lot of ivory tower type wizards," John points out. "That's a literal term, not a figure of speech- the Ivory Tower is one of the oldest institutions in the world for magical education. But they look down on 'hedge wizards', as they used to call them. People like you, who stumbled onto the world of the weird by accident or mischance."

"If you've got street smarts and you work hard, you're far better off than a clever git from the Tower who has spent a few decades with his nose in a book. Sure, he can recite every incantation from memory, but very few of them have ever been in a tight enough pinch to do it on the fly. I've had to whip up a home-brewed Key of Solomon with nothing more than some string and a can of spray paint."

That seems to bolster Mack a little bit. She'd started feeling like she was drowning all over again, just in information that was way over her head. "I'll do my best not to get you in trouble, John. I mean it. I didn't ask for this, but neither did you. This is a responsibility to me." She smiles a little and reaches over to punch him in the shoulder, companionably.

John may be on the scrawny side, but like all wiry fellows he seems to be nothing but sinew and bone under his stained white dress shirt. "Yes, well," he says, eyes shifting around the room before diving into his beer mug. "Couldn't bloody let you die on that boat. Be just as irresponsible of me to walk away and leave you hanging on that boat until the next time some wanker demon showed up."

"You try damned hard not to be, but you're kind of a nice guy underneath all the snark and scotch," Mack teases. "But if I haven't said it before, thank you for helping me. I really do appreciate it, even if I'm like a snail in a rabbit race."

"At least you know it's a race," John says with a sly grin over at the lanky sailor. "And let's not be too liberal spreading around rumors about how decent a bloke I am," he asks the woman next to him. "I've got a reputation I'd like to maintain and I don't want certain beings thinking they can get to me through friends and allies. It's kept more than a few people alive over the years, believe me."

"My lips are sealed," Mack swears, giving the scout's honor gesture, which is ironic as she was anything but a girl scout. "If anyone asks, you're a complete douche, you stink like a bilge pump, and you are as attractive as an anglerfish. Sound good?"

"Well," John hedges. "I don't know about those last two. Feel free to spread it around that I'm a handsome bloke with a keen sense of fashion," he says with an airy wave of dismissal. "I'm sure someone, somewhere, will be intimidated by the idea of tangling with a fellow who looks smart while he's dismissing the Unholy."

"Keen sense of fashion? Do you even own a second shirt?" Mack asks, eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Fashion sense indicates you own more than one outfit, pal. And the handsome part, well, I guess you might be moderately attractive, maybe." She puts on a long-suffering look.

"Thanks," John says, pulling a face. "And yes, I own several shirts," he rebuts with a sneer. "It's a practical sort of outfit. Can't see stains on the slacks from kneeling in God knows what, and the white shirt with a tie, I can walk into anywhere I like without being second-guessed. Also it makes getting dressed in the morning easy."

"And I've got the trenchcoat," he points out. "Trenchcoats are cool."

"All right, I'll give you that one, the trench coat is cool," Mack admits with a chuckle. She stands then and reaches for Rufus' leash, clipping it to the dog's collar. He snuffles and wakes up, his inner "walkies" radar going off. "I should get back to the boat. I have to get at least a couple hours sleep in before work tomorrow." She plucks up her notebook and gnawed upon pen.

John rises and moves to the door, drawing on it with a piece of chalk. The images flare to orange life and vanish. John hammers his fist on the door three times and it swings open, right onto the deck of Mack's ship. "There you go, luv," he says, gesturing grandly. "Right on time and target."

"Now that's something I wouldn't mind learning. Getting a taxi on the docks is a bitch," Mack mutters. She flashes John a small smile though, and heads through the portal. Rufus jumps up to lick his face, then pads after the captain.


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