A Crown of Stars

Earth, 3013

a part of A Crown of Stars, by Morpheus.

None

Morpheus holds sovereignty over Earth, 3013, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
167 readers have been here.
649 readers have visited this universe since Morpheus created it.

Setting

Default Location for A Crown of Stars

Minimap

Earth, 3013 is a part of A Crown of Stars.

10 Characters Here

Rabbit [10] "What do you expect from me?"
Piper Hadley [10] "Somewhere out there are the answers. I intend to find them."
Aeron Duvall [8] "Life isn't all that bad. Sure, it has its ups and downs, but what doesn't?"
Asher Drake [6] "It's not so much a process of learning as it is of unlearning. You must unlearn your superstitions and limitations. Only then will you be ready for what I can teach you."
Imogen Drake [5] "It can be hard to accept what we don't understand. But that does not mean we shouldn't make the effort. Many of the worthiest things to do are also the most difficult."
Senka Izar [0] "Soon you will see. Everything I do, everything I have done, I've done all for you."
Aliana Faust [0] "I don't care about losing people who don't want to be in my life anymore. I've lost people who meant the world to me and I'm still doing just fine."
Lillian Grant [0] WIP - Working on it in a wordpad, submitting CS here purely so I can see how it all looks coded.

Start Character Here »


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Drake Character Portrait: Imogen Drake

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Image


Prologue


“Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always.” –Dante Alighieri




Late April was a temperate time of year in London, chilly evenings and nights paired with cool, but not intolerable afternoons and mornings. The rain and fog, of course, were ever-present, greying out the surroundings like a dull filter over all visual sensation. The hours of midafternoon were among the busiest, as those with business at locations relatively far from their homes hurried to get it concluded as soon as possible, and others packed the public trains for their commutes back to whatever district they lived in. None, or at least, relatively few, wanted to be about after dark. Being out-of-doors after sundown was no more a death sentence than being indoors at the same time guaranteed safety, but people took comfort in the illusory sanctity of locked doors.

And, perhaps, at least somewhat in the knowledge that there were those who would defy the instinctual human need for security to ensure that those doors and locks could actually mean something. That the illusion of sanctuary could, at least a little, reflect the underlying truth of things, even if the doors and locks themselves had nothing to do with it.

It was not just anyone who would take on such a burden, to be sure, and those few who counted themselves members of the mysterious Order of Mismar were, generally speaking, quite unusual indeed. It took something of a deviant psychology to grow accustomed to the kind of work that involved hairsbreadth escapes, nocturnal hunting, and the constant risk of not merely dying, but being actively rent asunder by creatures so foul most could not look upon them without being overcome by the heady paralysis of fear.

Still, there were some things to recommend it. Asher, his hood pulled up over his head as usual, leaned back in his chair, crossing an ankle over a knee, picking up the water-spotted tumbler in one gloved hand and swirling the amber-colored contents about, releasing the distinctive fragrance into the musty dank of his surroundings. Apparently a century ago bars had been nighttime establishments, as had brothels and casinos. To be fair, some of those places did still run into the dark hours, but with the expectation that the patrons would make use of the communal housing offered in the back rooms, upstairs or in basements. It was a habit of the disenfranchised, however, or the very rich, not the people in the middle. For most everyone else, these things were evening routines, ways to brace oneself for the night to come.

For Asher, this—a sole lowball glass of single-malt, free of ice or any other accessory—was a way to prepare to face the oncoming hours of wakefulness, not bid them farewell. With the foot still planted on the ground, he tilted his chair back, until he was balanced rather precariously on the back legs alone, and watched the bar patrons go about their business from under the dark cloth of his hood. He didn’t look so out of place here; this was Outer London, after all, and not one of the nicer parts of it, either. Generally speaking, one found the more upscale (and cleaner) bars the closer in one got to the Opal Quarter, but this place was a dive, and it stank like one. Still, nobody so much as glanced twice at the lone man in one of the corners, nursing his drink with a slow savor, and he relished perhaps more than he should in the anonymity. Nobody looking meant nobody saw, and such a state of affairs was one to be drunk in with no less reverence than the scotch. Given his proximity to the wall, all it took was a small movement, and his head rested back against the smooth painted surface. He closed his eyes, for just a moment, choosing not to immediately open them when she came back into his awareness.

“You’re going to fall over that way, you know,” she said, her tone lacking any true reproach. It was, rather, given to a certain note of mistiness, a wisp that most people’s voices lacked. Then again, most people were fully in this world, except perhaps when dreaming. Imogen seemed to be half-dreaming all the time, one foot here, one foot somewhere else, somewhere few people could reach.

He’d never felt the sense of that with other witches. Maybe it was just her, or maybe she was the only one he knew well enough.

She answered his next question before he could ask it. “It’s done. The worm is in the ears, I think they say?” He cracked the lid of his good eye to look over at her with a vague sense of confusion, raising a brow. “Or was it whisper? I can never remember.” Asher supposed it didn’t matter—she’d done what she needed to do, and the next part was out of their hands.

Several days prior, he and Imogen had been dispatched from the Order’s headquarters in Rome to the Free Republic of London with a very specific mandate: bolster the number of active Mismarians by recruiting and training as many as they could. In reality, he didn’t see that being any more than five, but there was no mistaking that the number of interested parties would be considerably higher than that. The Order had a tendency to attract, partially because of the repute it had—there were few nobler professions than hunting, at least according to the Church. That did not mean, of course, that most properly understood what that really meant.

Which was where the rest of the process came in. The Order needed people who were clever and resourceful, and so weeded out those who were not so by choosing to announce the presence of the recruiters in a much more subtle way, one that made them difficult to find or contact. Rumors in the right ears and on the right tongues, and it would not be long before most people in London knew they were present, but not where they were or even who. Finding them after that would be the hard part, and while there were several ways to go about it, none would be possible without cleverness, charisma, or valor—all traits which Mismarians needed anyway.

So until their trail was followed, they would remain, and conduct their business as usual. Once they’d allowed a few days for the interested parties to discover them, a more formal process of trial and elimination would begin. How it happened had been left to his discretion—and Imogen’s, to an extent. But Asher was the senior Mismarian, and the decisions about how to handle things and who to recruit would ultimately be his. It was the first time he had been given such a task, and recruitment was usually left to much more experienced members of the Order. But a few disastrous hunts over the past year had left them in severe need of new blood, and recruitment was now on all minds—meaning that even the junior Brothers and Sisters were being given the responsibility involved. Frankly, he didn’t think he was much expected to succeed, which would explain why they’d been sent with little support to London, a populous place, but one with relatively little Church influence and historically slim pickings for any branch of the Many-One’s devotees.

Most trainees perished within the first year of the process. If they could make it past that stage, their odds of surviving went well up, but no matter how many years one had, the chance of dying of old age in this profession was well-known to be next to nothing. A Hunter lived his or her vocation, and he or she was expected to die in it, too. It was more a life than a job, and Asher was not so disconnected from other people that he could fail to understand why that was unattractive to so many. But… if he could get a few, even just a couple, and get them past that first year under his care, then he would consider himself successful.

“Don’t worry,” Imogen said, folding her hands in her lap and smiling over at him. “You’ll do fine.” He wasn’t sure if that statement was meant to carry the weight of her talent or just reassurance. She often left this unclear on purpose, perhaps to bolster his confidence without deceiving him. It was her way of trying to be helpful, he supposed.

“If you say so.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit

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Thick clouds hung in heavy layers high in the sky above London.The dreary weather was the norm for London, especially at this time of the year. Though difficult to tell by just a glance, it was still early afternoon, the sun's rays suffocated by the overcast skies. The lack of sun and earlier rainfall created a chilly atmosphere, not that it deterred the city's people from going about their business. The daylight hours were the only time that people could venture from their homes in relative safety, and no one wanted to be caught out on the streets when the sun faded. They had jobs that needed doing, work that had to be done, and errands that needed ran.

Among these people just doing their jobs in the chilly London air was Rabbit, a courier who was currently giving the small electric engine of his courier's motorcycle hell. He wasn't late, in fact it was the opposite, he was just ahead of schedule thanks in no small part to the vigor that he drove with. The vehicle cruised quietly at a brisk pace, as fast as the motor could carry him and the package that sat strapped to the back. He guided the motorcycle with a practiced hand, riding down a street he'd taken many times before toward the gates that led into the Opal Quarter. It didn't take long before he reached them. A flash of his courier's pass and he was allowed to pass beneath the opal encrusted gates and into the safety of the Quarter.

Even in the dim haze of the poor weather, the Quarter seemed to sparkle. Cleaner, nicer, better maintained, the disparity between the Opal Quarter and the other parts of London was clear, but Rabbit was not paid to judge, he was paid to deliver packages. He largely ignored the manicured buildings on both sides of him, his destination locked in his head. Eventually it began to materialize in front of him. The London Archives, a huge library storing the wealth of London's knowledge, both digital and analog. It continued to grow in size until he was stopped by the stairs that led into the library proper. Killing the motorcycle's engine, Rabbit plucked his helmet off and placed it on the bike, and took the package on the back.

He took the steps and slipped through the doors leading inside, striding toward the front desk, where he let the box rest. Said desk was part of a small rotunda with a marble-tiled floor, some kind of crest emblazoned into it. Against the back side of the rotunda were a series of doors that led back to the archives proper, the special collections and rare texts, that sort of thing, while the sides opened into two wings of more publicly-available material, a harmonious mix of computer kiosks and bookshelves, laden with obsessively-tended paper volumes, organized by type. The building was, overall, quite aesthetically-pleasing, done in shades of gold, tan, and cream, bespeaking a sort of elegance and cleanliness. "Delivery for the Archives," he began, reading the clipboard he'd brought in on the top of the box. "A collection of books from the libraries in Rome. I need someone to check and make sure everything is in order."

There was no one sitting directly at the desk, at least not at the moment, but the words, clearly-spoken as they were into an otherwise tomblike silence, summoned forth a member of the staff. The female, for indeed it was not easily-determinable whether she was actually a woman or still just a girl, approached the desk in the kind of unhurried but crisp way possessed by many a scholar, nodding slightly at Rabbit in greeting.

It was standard procedure to open the contents of a wrapped package in front of the courier to make sure nothing had gone wrong in transit—post was a rather expensive investment, after all. The young lady moved around to the back side of the desk, brushing a tendril of red hair behind her ear. The rest was pulled into a neat bun at the nape of her neck, but a few wisps escaped here and there. Pushing square-framed glasses up her face, she opened a drawer and retrieved a box cutter, opening the parcel with neat, precise strokes.

Flat eyes flickered up to Rabbit’s face for a moment, then she looked back down to flip open the top of the box, carefully extracting what appeared to be three books, though perhaps tomes was the more appropriate word, given their thickness. Books were rare in this day and age, though each of these was further wrapped in several layers of plastic, enough to obscure their actual appearance, which just meant that they would have to be opened as well before he left. "Any news from Rome?” Some traveled via electronic communications, of course, but word-of-mouth was as good as anything else, and official international communication channels tended to miss some details. Couriers were well-positioned to carry more than just packages across borders.

"They're surviving, just like us from what I heard," Rabbit said, jotting a note down on the clipboard. His eyes flicked from the contents back to the clipboard, confirming that the information matched. "The couriers who delivered this to our office did say they traveled with a few Mismarians though." It was standard practice for the International Postal Service to cooperate with the Church when deliveries were arranged between city-states.

"Not so unsual.” The young woman didn’t seem surprised that a courier had been in the company of Mismarians—it was practically required for safe international travel to go with an armed escort. Still, even with that considered, news of the Order was rare. "Though it has been a while since I heard of any new Mismarians in London.” Her face turned slightly thoughtful for a moment, and her hands paused in the work of unwrapping the first of the books. In the end, though, she only shook her head faintly, removing the last of the covering and setting the book carefully down on the wooden desk. The cover of it appeared to be red leather, and she donned a pair of latex gloves before attempting to open it, paging carefully through the thing, her lackluster eyes scanning up and down each new one with a cursory, but focused manner.

"They aren't the most open group," Rabbit agreed, leaning over the desk and watching the girl page through the book with mild curiosity in his face. "I didn't hear the couriers say they left, so they're probably still around. Somewhere," he added, tapping gently on the clipboard. He checked the book in her hands with that of the inventory and marked it down. He paused for a moment as a pensive expression crossed over his face. "Think it has anything to do with the rumors spreading around lately?"

"True coincidence is exceedingly rare, no?” The reply, though it came in question form, was very suggestive of her stance on the matter, and she moved onto the next book, unwrapping it as well and paging though it as she had the last. If she made note of his curiosity, she chose not to comment upon it, stopping periodically to adjust her glasses, which seemed prone to sliding down her nose.

Once the last tome was checked over as the previous two had been, she stacked them carefully to one side of the desk, then held her hand out for the clipboard, which required a signature from someone at the delivery destination. "I understand that recruitment for the Order is seldom direct, though the exact nature of the trials one must undergo change from time to time.”Rabbit hummed in agreement, and handed her the papers and a pen.

"If they took in anyone who asked politely, a lot more people would end up dead than they already do. Makes sense you have to show that you have what it takes, whatever that means." He ended the though with a shrug and a tug at his collar.

The woman’s fingers paused, her pen hovering over the paper on the clipboard, and she glanced up, meeting Rabbit’s eyes directly with a lofted brow. It was only a slight thing, but given how little her expression had changed over the entirety of the conversation, it seemed to convey a great deal. "You sound interested.”

His brow rose just as hers did. "Maybe I am. Are you?" he asked.

She blinked passively, her face regaining the blank expression it had previously held, and she looked back down at the papers in front of her, signing in a precise, small hand. M. Piper Hadley.

"Perhaps. Shall I tell you, if I learn anything worth knowing?”

Rabbit was quiet for a moment, a thoughtful air descending upon him before he moved again. He reached over the desk and plucked an unused slip of paper and wrote down his name, Elliot Andrews, and the rest of his contact information onto it.

"The name's Rabbit and I'd appreciate it. Should I return the favor?"

The librarian reached into her vest pocket, extracting a crisp white business card with the same name printed on it, as well as a phone number, presumably for the library. In the same neat hand, she added another onto the back, the word mobile next to it, indicating a cellular device. She handed it over with the signed clipboard.

"Please do.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit

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The day after her books were delivered, Piper had been struck with an idea. The International Postal Service was, by its very nature, one of the most organized enterprises in the world. Yesterday, Mr. Andrews, who apparently preferred to be called Rabbit, had mentioned that the courier for these items had come in with a couple of Mismarians. Ergo, there was someone in the city who was guaranteed to have information on the newest Hunters in London. And if she could catch him before he left, that information could be hers. It wasn’t a total solution, but it was a step in the right direction. That had been the better part of the morning. Now was phase two.

Reaching into the pocket of her jeans, much more casual than the library uniform, Piper fished out the slip of paper. She had said she’d share her progress, after all, and while she certainly had few compunctions about deception, she preferred to keep her word when possible. Besides, having an ally was bound to be useful at some point. Scanning the paper, she dialed the number into her phone and raised it to her ear, waiting for some kind of answer on the other end before she spoke.

"Rabbit? This is Piper. I know where we can start.”

There was a moment of hesitation on the other end of the line before Rabbit's voice came through, "What, no hello first? That's bloody rude." By the lack of wind washing over his end, it sounded like she caught him between deliveries. Another moment passed before Rabbit continued, "Well, I'm listening."

Piper rolled her eyes, her mouth pulling to one side. "I’d pegged you for the type of person who prefers not to have his time wasted. If I was wrong, just say so and I’ll be sure to include redundant pleasantries at every suitable moment.” People, honestly. That said, she still didn’t think she was wrong, and so she plowed forward. "I talked to that Roman courier you mentioned yesterday. He said that one of the Hunters he came in with was really easy to identify. He had a whole lot of scars on one side of his face and a bad eye, from the look of it. If he recruits in any sensible way, he’s somewhere that people can legally reach him, which excludes the OQ, and limits the possibilities to public locations. I think we should start with a bar. People talk in bars, right?”

Though her deadpan did not falter, she managed to sound a bit less certain of that, perhaps because she had very little cause to go to bars in Outer London, and was therefore only taking a guess at what they were supposed to be like.

"Hold on," Rabbit replied, something obviously garnering his attention elsewhere. Though his voice came through from a distance, it was still loud enough to be audible over the phone. "You piece of shit, why aren't you charging?" A metallic thump followed, with another curse.

A few seconds passed before Rabbit's voice came through the phone more properly. "Bars? Yeah... People talk in bars. Unless they're too busy trying to drown something. You have one in mind to start with, or are we going to have to go through the list alphabetically?" He asked, before another thump and a resulting groan was audible.

"Fucking... Thing."

Piper was quiet for a few moments, giving the matter some thought. Bringing the phone all the way back to her ear, she clicked her tongue once, softly. This was not exactly her area of expertise. "My father mentioned once that his Hunter friends liked a place called the Blue Clover. That’s on the West End, I think.” She looked down at the watch on her wrist and grimaced. "How close are you to the OQ gate? I can be there in ten.”

"Better give me twenty. I need to get this damn bike to charge, or I'm going to be useless." The line then suddenly went dead as the call was abruptly disconnected.

Unperturbed by the lack of a farewell, Piper slid her phone back into her pocket, grabbed an elastic off her dresser, and used it to tie her hair atop her head. Contemplating her wardrobe for half a second, she threw a leather bomber jacket on over her shirt, and wound a purple scarf around her neck. It was still a bit too cold to go without.

Twenty minutes later, she was leaning against the Opal Barrier, arms crossed over her chest, waiting for the telltale sound of an electric motor.

It took ten more minutes before Rabbit came into sight. He crested a hill that led up to the Barrier wearing not the vest and bowtie he wore the day before, but an ordinary tan jacket and a black helmet. The low drone of the electric motor followed soon thereafter and it wasn't much longer until he coasted to a stop beside her. His eyes were obscured behind his helmet by a pair of dark blue sunglasses. He stared at her for a moment before gesturing to the back seat of the bike with his head, where another helmet waited.

"Get on, and hold on tight."

Piper eyed the back of the vehicle suspiciously. It was relatively small, being that the thing usually only had to carry one, but then she was small as well, so that wasn’t really the issue. It had more to do with the fact that the only transport she had any experience with was the train, and that was very different from this. At least she didn’t have to drive—she wouldn’t know how. Pushing a gusty breath out of her lungs, she took the helmet on the back seat and set it over her head, unfamiliar with the correct metrics of fit but deciding that the fact that nothing poked or moved around much was good enough.

Gingerly, she swung a leg over the back of the bike, settling as well as she could into what space there was for her. "Where am I supposed to put my hands, exactly?” The general principle involved holding on to the driver, she knew that much, she just wasn’t sure how.

"Wherever is the most comfortable and what's less likely to throw you off on the first corner." Rabbit tilted his head to the side and looked at her through the corner of his glasses. "Careful, I'm ticklish," he added in complete deadpan.

"Exposing your weakness so soon? What will you do when I tell the witches?” Piper’s rejoinder was equally deadpan, but she shrugged and settled for sliding her arms around his waist. She was considerably shorter than Rabbit, which made most of the other options impractical anyway. "If you throw me off this thing, I will find out where you live and replace all of your bowties with bright pink ones.”

"I'll try keep that in mind. Just remember what I said about holding on," he said as he applied the acceleration. The bike was not quickest vehicle, managing an optimistically brisk pace, yet as Piper soon found out, Rabbit made the most of the small engine. The wheels squeaked on the pavement for a moment before they were off, jetting off toward the West End. Piper gritted her teeth and tightened her grip a bit, attempting not to make her lack of familiarity with such vehicles evident. She was probably failing. Rabbit made his occupation as a courier obvious as the pair took a few side-streets and alleyways that shaved the time it took them to get to the West End of London.

Once they made it into the general area, Piper guided Rabbit the rest of the way to the bar in question and before long they were parked out front. That part took a little longer, since, lacking intuitive knowledge of the city, Piper was trying to recall the route a GPS system had mapped for her earlier in the day, but they managed fine.

The Blue Clover itself was a nicer establishment, which would explain why her father’s Hunter friends liked it. People in that occupation made a good living wage—there was no need for them to slum it with those below the poverty line unless they had a different reason to. That said, she didn’t think they would be nearly so lucky as to find what they were looking for in here. It wouldn’t be that easy. Still, perhaps they could at least find the next step, and move forward on surer footing than they had now.

Leading the way in, Piper pushed open the door, which jingled faintly. Looking up, she saw that there was a small bell attached. Inside, most of the décor was dark wood and red velvet, and a faint scent of smoke hung in the air. Outer London aspiring to be the OQ; very few people this far out could afford to smoke regularly, unless they gave up something more important to do it. As if right on cue, beside her Rabbit went into his pockets and fished a cigarette out of its pack, adding more smoke to that lingering in the air. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"We’ll be wanting the owner, if we can get him. Otherwise, the staff might know something.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

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#, as written by Calais
Dark, and oddly, comforting, Aeron laid a hand against his chin. A lopsided smile crossed his face as an older man spoke, retelling the days events with a hint of melancholy coloring his voice. It was his job to pay attention to the details of the man's story, but it wasn't entirely Aeron's job to actually care about it. The entertainer, or so some had labeled him, Aeron continued nodding when it was relevant, and added his thoughts when asked for them. Smoke continued filling the bar, causing his nostrils to flare slightly as he inhaled it. Not a smoker himself, he could at least revel in the smell of it, allowing it to cloud his eyes slightly before he shifted his stance. The older gentleman finally wandered off, allowing Aeron to wipe down the bar table. He slid the damp towel across, watching as the watermarks smeared. The streaks gradually faded as his eyes clouded lightly.

His mind traveled elsewhere, roaming back to a conversation he had overheard. The Order of Mismar was searching for recruits. Perhaps this could be his chance to join? But where to start? It wasn't exactly an easy thing, finding the recruits and joining them. A sigh escaped the confines of his lips, mingling with the puffs of smoke in the air. He removed himself from the counter, turning his attention to the nearest person who raised their glass, pouring them another drink in the process. The Blue Clover, the bar he's been working at for nearly five years, was a good spot to hear gossip, but that was all there was to that. It was just gossip, nothing more. People chatted, but if one listened closely enough, the chattering could be fixed to listen in on one conversation. Maybe that's why they called it eavesdropping?

The sound of the door's bell going off caused Aeron to turn his head towards the source. Standing in the doorway, two people appeared to be conversing with each other. He was close enough to catch the loose end of their statement, or at least the young woman's statement, and he cocked an eyebrow. "If you're looking for Isaac, he's gone for the day," Aeron chimed in, crossing his arms over his chest. "In the mean time, the bar is under my care. Is there something I can help you two with, perhaps a drink?" he continued, uncrossing his arms and placing a hand on his left side. His lips pulled back into a playful smile as he glanced between the two.

The young woman addressed turned to her companion for a moment, and then shrugged, approaching the bar itself and hopping up onto a stool in front of where Aeron sat. "We’re looking for someone.” She paused for a moment, glancing around her, at the various people occupied with their own drinks or conversations. When she continued, her voice was pitched marginally softer, still in a flat tone. "You have not by chance encountered a man with many scars on one side of his face, have you?”

"Personally, I'll take a beer," The man added, taking the stool beside the woman and knocking the ashes of his cigarette into a nearby ashtray.

"A man... with scars?" he repeated the statement, furrowing his brows as he searched his memory. A friend of his, another bartender from a different bar, had spoken not too long ago of a scarred man. Was it the same person, or was it just a mere coincidence that these two were seeking a scarred man? Aeron clicked his tongue, and grabbed an empty glass, placing it in front of the blonde man. "'Fraid draft is all we have at the moment," he spoke, filling the glass up. "First one is on me," he stated, leaning forward on the counter.

"This man, the one you're looking for," he began, pausing momentarily to take a breath of air. "He wouldn't happen to be a Mismarian, would he?" he finally asked. "Personally, I haven't seen such a man, but," he stated, drawing out the last word as the corners of his lip quirked up. "A little birdie might have told me of a man who fits your description. And where he and another friend of his, are staying," he concluded. Maybe they could help each other out?

The woman’s eyes narrowed in something like suspicion, but in the end, she answered the question. Her hands, she folded atop the bar, interlacing her fingers, apparently disinclined to make an order of her own. "We believe him to be, yes. Is there something you want in exchange for this information?” Her tone suggested that she was fairly confident that there was.

Aeron thought it over for a minute, placing his forefinger and thumb under his chin, and rubbed it. "I'm correct in assuming that you both have heard the rumors," he spoke, his voice dropping a notch in volume. "The only thing I want in return, is to go with," he responded, pulling back from the counter and spreading both his arms across it, instead. "If you want to hear more, we could go somewhere a little more private," he suggested, jabbing his thumb behind him towards an empty corner in the back.

The woman glanced to the man beside her, raising a brow.

The man was chin deep in his beer when all eyes turned to him. His met that of the woman's before he finally swallowed and set the glass back onto the counter. Replacing the beer with his cigarette, the man shrugged. "It's a fair trade," he acknowledged, "It'll save us from dicking around the rest of the city looking for some other asshole who'd might've seen these people." The man took a puff from his cigarette before gesturing to Aeron.

"Lead the way barkeep."

A grin spread across Aeron's face as he motioned for one of the other bartenders. After making sure the bar was covered, he ushered the two strangers towards the back, allowing them to take their seats before sliding in himself. "Adam is a friend of mine who says that he currently acquired new tenants. His bar has a small apartment above it and he's been trying to rent it out, but from the description you gave," he began, raising his head to glance towards the door and bar. "It sounds like his new tenants might be the ones you're looking for," he concluded, satisfied that the bar was still running smoothly. He spread his arms across the top of the booth chairs, and leaned back into it.

"He says they leave before he closes and somehow always manage to be back by the morning. They could be the Mismarians since not many people brave the night," he spoke, focusing his gaze on the two in front of him. "Chances are, if we leave now, we can probably catch them before they leave,assuming they are there. But we might not make it before the sun sets. Adam's bar is a ways out. Oh, by the way, my name is Aeron," he allowed the disappointment to lace the tone of his voice for a minute before returning to it's normal tune. If they went now, chances were it would be dark before they reached the other bar, but then again, maybe they had a better chance of running into the one they were searching for?

"Piper. That’s Rabbit.” The young woman indicated the man with a gesture of her head, but then pursed her lips in thought. "With three of us, the bike is out of the question, but I’m not sure how long they’ll stay in one place. This information could be too old to be of use tomorrow.” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in the chair she occupied, then turned slightly, as if to inquire of her companion. "I would be willing to take the risk, but not alone. What does Rabbit think?” She didn't correct her rather odd use of the third person, so a fair guess was that it was intentional.

Once again, the man was caught with the beer to his lips. He finished swallowing, but let the glass linger on his mouth as he stared straight ahead, contemplating something. He then closed his eyes and sighed through his nose, taking one more swallow before sitting the glass back on the table. "What does Rabbit think?" he repeated, eyebrow raised. "Rabbit thinks there're vampires out there." He slipped the cigarette back into his mouth shrugged, "And Rabbit doesn't like the thought of getting his ass eaten by one again." Obviously at this point, he was mocking Piper's odd slippage of the third person.

"But," he added, puffing away, "This might be our only chance to find them." Sighing, he snuffed out the cigarette in a nearby ashtray and finished off the rest of his beer in short order, "If we promise to hurry the hell up and try not to get sucked dry by the bastards, then I guess I'm in too."

Aeron wasn't sure if he was supposed to take that seriously, or laugh. He decided on the latter, and chuckled faintly to himself, relaxing his arms and swinging his leg over the other. "Well then, if we get a head start now, we might be able to make it with just enough sunlight to spare. That way, Rabbit won't get his ass eaten, and Pips there, won't either. If worse comes to worse, we can always use Rabbit as bait," he grinned, standing up from his spot. He waved towards one of the barmaids and tapped his wrist, signaling that he was leaving for the day. His shift was, technically, over anyway.

"Shall we?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Drake Character Portrait: Imogen Drake Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

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The inside of the Fletcher’s Den was dim at this point of the evening, as it was not quite yet dark enough to trigger the automatic fluorescent lighting overhead, but not so light outside—where the sun was indeed setting—that the rays penetrated the admittedly-grimy windows much. The predominant odor in the still air was one of stale alcohol, but for all that it was not what she was used to, Imogen remained unbothered by it, settled into a chair at a table near the bar. For the moment, she was alone, a singular glass of something clear and fizzy set in front of her, a bendy straw and a little paper umbrella sticking out at disharmonious angles. In total, it was about half full.

Draped in a modest white dress, which fell to her knees but possessed a high neck and full-length sleeves, she looked considerably out of place in the dingy surroundings, though perhaps not as much as she could have. Her hair was braided around her crown, the ends trailing down her back, and she’d used a mild glamour to turn her eyes a deep brown. Asher said this was supposed to be at least a litte difficult on the potential recruits, though she knew that in the end, the ones approaching would have no real trouble yet. She was quite looking forward to meeting them.

Even as the front door opened and the three filed in, Imogen picked up her glass, using her other hand to steady the straw, and sipped nonchalantly at the beverage. It wasn’t like she was going to volunteer herself, after all, but the bartender should point them in the right direction.

The eyes of the shortest member in the group did at one point find Imogen’s, but they moved on to complete a general scan of the room, though if she found what she sought, it was not immediately clear. Given the proximity of nightfall, it was unsurprising that the made a beeline directly for the bar, leaning her elbows up against it in a casual sort of way, the impassive expression on her face shifting to match the general melancholy-tinged ease of most of the non-drunk patrons of the bar.

Waiting until she had the bartender’s attention, the redhead smiled grimly. "Evenin’.” Her voice carried the distinctive cockney accent usually characteristic of this part of the city, roughened and somewhat lower-class. "’Fraid we weren’t gonna be makin’ it in before dark, there.”

Imogen kept up observation on the three from the corner of her eye, though she was subtle about it. The bartender seemed to warm a bit to the young lady’s demeanor, shaking his head in what she at least took to be faint disbelief at their daring to be out so close to sundown. When he spoke, his accent was more or less identical to the one the woman had used. “Bit risky of you, mm? Well, s’pose this is the place to be riskin’, if you have to. Least of late. Hate to see a pretty miss get hurt.” He smiled, making apparent the faint dimples on his cheeks. Imogen attempted not to do the same—Adam was a rather forward twentysomething, and the ‘miss’ he was talking to was quite lovely, almost in the way one would consider a handcrafted porcelain doll to be lovely. Or at least Imogen thought so.

The blonde man who'd walked into the bar raised his pair of eyebrows as he walked passed the shorter woman, but whatever was on his mind he didn't voice it. Instead he took up a seat the furthest away from the exit he could while still being considered a part of the group. The man sat turned away from the bar so that when he leaned back, he leaned against it and giving him a clear view of the rest of the establishment. He gave the place a lazy once over before digging into his coat pocket for a square box of cigarettes. He went to open it, but thought about it for a moment before thinking better of it and slipping them back in.

"Might need them later," he explained to the other man in his company, "I feel like it's going to be a long night." Leaning back, he finally appeared to get a good look at the place and it's inhabitants. As his eyes cycled through the people, they paused and lingered on Imogen and her rather white dress, before continuing. Tilting his head toward the woman and the bartender, the man injected a comment into the conversation. "We wouldn't have made it if I didn't know that shortcut. Someone owes me a bloody drink," He said, pointing to both his companions.

The ginger-haired man simply shook his head, appearing to withhold a snort and glanced at his companions. "Bloody drinks aren't available around these parts. 'Fraid you'll have to wait till we get back to the Blue Clover," he replied, a grin appearing over his face as his eyes immediately landed on the bartender present. "But I can see if Adam will let you have one on the house," he continued, winking in the blonde haired man's direction before making his way towards the bartender. The two embraced each other in a friendly hug, patting each other's back before they separated. The two then engaged in an odd handshake, at first appearing to be a friendly normal one. That was, until it switched into something a little complicated.

"Adam here's the best barkeep, next to yours truly," he spoke, allowing one of his arms to hang over Adam's shoulder. A large grin covered his face as he stared at his companions, however; it seemed to disappear as he turned to face Adam. "Say, you wouldn't happen to have any more information on your tenants, would you?" he finally questioned, removing himself from the close proximity and settled between his two companions.

“And here I thought you were all here for me,” Adam replied, shaking his head slightly. Of course, from his tone it was obvious he’d thought nothing of the sort. He appeared to give the question some thought, taking up one of the lowball glasses and buffing the waterstains off it, presumably the residue of a dishwasher or something of the sort. Reaching up onto the counter behind him, he pulled down a bottle from a top shelf, then reached under the counter for a block of ice.

With a chisel, he knocked off a roughly-spherical chunk and placed it in the glass, filling it thereafter with a few fingers of the honey-amber colored liquid in the bottle. Imogen knew exactly what it would smell like. “The fellow orders the same thing every day. One of these, only without the ice. He’s got these scars, right? Like somethin’ mauled him pretty bad. Dunno much more about him than that; he’s not exactly the talkative type. But he always sits with the same person—and she’s right over there.” He slid the drink over to the blond man and nodded in Imogen’s direction. She knew he did, because she’d told him to, not because she was actually looking. Though as if on cue, she turned towards the bar and waved.

The redhead’s eyes followed Adam’s motion and locked with Imogen’s for just a moment, before she shrugged to herself and stepped away from the bar. The table at which the blonde woman was located was a smaller one, but there happened to be exactly three empty chairs there, a coaster in front of only one of those other places. "The bartender says you know the Mismarian? Or perhaps you are one?”

"Perhaps,” Imogen conceded, tough it didn’t sound much like a concession, exactly. "Perhaps not.” She took a sip of her club soda, smiling slightly at the feeling of the bubbles on her tongue. Setting it down on the table’s second coaster, she tilted her head to the side, spilling several locks of hair over her shoulder. The hue of it was almost as white as her dress.

"Why do you want to know?”

The blonde man's eyebrows drifted over his sockets as his eyelids dipped into a halfmast. "Perhaps not she says." He then shook his head and took a drink from his glass. A wince flitted across his face, as he was clearly unaccustomed to that type of drink. "Not exactly convincing me otherwise," he said setting the glass back down on the table.

He then got comfortable in his chair, leaning back and throwing his arm over its backrest. "Look, I don't want to dance around matter, so let's skip the bull. We want to be a part of your little club, for some reason." He added the last part with a glance at his companions, another brow raised. As if he wasn't sure why they were here.

What she might have said in reply to that was interrupted by a voice, tinged with the faintest hint of frustration, though it was still a gentle tone. “Imogen.” She turned slightly to glance over her shoulder where Asher approached, his head still hooded, the unscarred side of his face the one facing the three newcomers. “I thought I asked you not to toy with the recruits.” She smiled up at him, and the pursed line of his mouth softened slightly. He sighed, and turned slightly to glance over the three potentials, though she had no doubt he’d been observing them all along.

“Please excuse my partner. She forgets that your psych evals are a later part of the recruitment process.” There was a faint hint of humor in that, almost undetectable, but Imogen recognized it quite easily. “You’ve found the right place. I’m Asher, and this is Imogen. I hope you’re all wearing good shoes—we’ve got a bit of a hike yet.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Drake Character Portrait: Imogen Drake Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

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The man who had introduced himself as Asher had given the group several more minutes to rest and finish their drinks, in two cases, after which point he’d explained that the recruitment trials would be beginning that very night. Apparently, several other people had found the Mismarians by various other methods within the past couple of days, but most of those had preexisting connections with the Church, and therefore an inside line on the information. Whether this was fair or not was quite irrelevant—part of being a Hunter was capitalizing on all of one’s advantages, and knowing who to ask for what.

Going out at night was hardly the safest thing, but considering the fact that a pair of Mismarians were present, they were safer now than they were ever going to be, and if they were serious about pursuing this vocation, they would have to do it regularly. Asher led them through the city, sticking mostly to the larger thoroughfares, though that much was hardly relevant. Imogen brought up the rear, letting the recruits walk in the middle.

And situated in the very middle of the procession was the blonde haired man, since having introduced himself as Rabbit. Out in the open night air, he walked with a mechanical gait, his hands clutching the handlebars of the bike he'd brought along, guiding it along and his lips clenching the butt of a lit cigarette. It wasn't much of a stretch to infer that the man was uncomfortable. However, it did seem to have a positive effect as well. He appeared to be much more alert, his eyes darting to and fro, even venturing upward on more than one occasions, and when he spoke, he spoke at just above a whisper.

"This brings me back. Only the brave or the fucking stupid wander around at night," he muttered to the non-Mismarians. It had the unintended side effect of raising brows and narrowing eyes around him, but if they were expecting him to go into more detail, they were sadly mistaken. "Hey, Boss," he called out to Asher, "How's the..." Rabbit hesitated, his face betraying the process of trying to find the right words to ask, "the, uh.. Vamp activity? Around this area." For a man who wanted to join their club, Rabbit was doing a poor job of hiding the fact that he was out of his element.

Asher didn’t glance back over his shoulder, because to do so would be to make his eyes useless in their protection for however long he had them angled backwards. Nevertheless, he didn’t have a problem answering the question. “There has not been anything much reported, of late,” he replied, “But I am aware that even this much is a risk. That’s why the first phase of your training will be happening somewhere safer.” He chose not to elaborate further, but that was not to say that Imogen was of the same mind.

"It’s important to learn to move around at night,” she added, her tone unusually direct. "But we won’t be letting you get eaten just yet. For the first month or so, you’ll be training in the Opal Quarter.” That was, indeed, where Asher was leading them. He might have chosen not to reveal the duration of their safety however; the constant sense that tomorrow could be much more dangerous was one of the psychological factors that he remembered having weeded out a fair number of recruits when they had first undergone the trials. But he trusted his sister, and he knew that, all appearances to the contrary, she had a reason for just about everything she did.

"We should've taken that last right if we're going to the Opal Quarter. Would've shaved our time down by a few minutes," Rabbit added, though more quietly. Presently, the man seemed to know his place.

"Because walking a bunch of helpless recruits down a dark alley in Outer London at night isn’t an unnecessary risk at all.” That was from the diminutive redhead, since identified as Piper. She wore a grim sort of expression, but it was hard to tell if it was brought about by the circumstances or just the way her face looked at rest. She had to take a stride and a half for most of the other candidates’ single steps, given that the majority of them were rather tall, physically-fit individuals, and she was quite small. Still, she showed no signs of being strained by it, of yet.

A soft snort escaped Asher; that girl was quite possibly more deadpan than he was. There would almost be something disconcerting about that, if he didn’t think it would serve her well. Rabbit, too—it was a rare person who could survive in this line of work with no sense of humor. And any sense that wasn’t already black as pitch died pretty quickly.

Though it was not the most efficient of routes, they did indeed reach the Opal Quarter in good time. There were only night guards at the gate at this point, and they always stood on the safe side of it. Asher glanced back and nodded to Imogen, who smiled dreamily and approached the bars. Poking her head through, she removed something from her pocket and waved it around, though it was impossible to hear what she was saying. Asher suspected it was just her credentials, but one never knew for sure with Imogen.

Either way, they were through a few moments later, and the gate clanged into place behind them. Asher led them for only a little while longer before he stopped, signaling for all of them to do the same. “Form a line, please.” Once everyone was more or less shoulder-to-shoulder, and Imogen had come to stand beside him in front of them, he nodded slightly, reaching up and grasping the hood on either side of his head. He pulled it down more because it was rude to continually talk to people from within its confines than because he wanted to; in fact he quite hated doing so.

The reason was clear enough—the entire left half of his face was a hashed mess of scar tissue, raised white lines jagged and rough even against the fairness of his complexion. His left eye was a milky blue-white, the brow above it cut in half by another mark. Even a chunk of his ear was missing, the top of the shell skimmed off by something. He pretended there was nothing unusual about it, and hoped dearly that they would take his lead as well as they could in that. “As most of you know, I’m Asher Drake. This is my sister, Imogen, and we’re both Hunters.” He pursed his lips together.

“That said… this is our first time recruiting or training. You should all know that the Order of Mismar is dealing with a significant personnel shortage. The circumstances are dire, else they would have made sure to send at least one experienced trainer here. But they didn’t, and so you get us. If that’s a problem, you’re welcome to wait until the next time someone with experience comes by.” It probably wouldn’t be for a while, though. There was no mistaking that for a lot of these people, this was their one chance. Still, he felt obligated to let them know just what they were dealing with.

“Recruitment isn’t competitive, really. There’s more than enough chance that you’ll give up or fail all on your own. We take everyone who can do all the things we’ll ask of you. I don’t expect our skills to be up to snuff yet, but I expect you to get better, and I expect you to do what we tell you to do. If you can manage that, the rest of it is our responsibility. I can promise that we take it very seriously.” He pulled in a breath, and then exhaled heavily. “If you’re all still interested, we’ll move onto the first exercise.” He paused a moment for anyone to leave or protest, but when no one did, he glanced over to Imogen, who reached into one of the pockets of her dress and removed what looked to be a purple silk scarf. It was about as long as her arm.

"I’ve hidden two of these somewhere in the Opal Quarter, within this square mile. Not necessarily on ground level,” she smiled again, this one containing a touch of mischief. "There are twelve of you. The object of the exercise is to find the scarves and bring them back to me. The winners will be the people who can do this, and the losers will have to do laps around the Quarter.”

Asher just barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Two important skills for Hunters are observation and the ability to move quickly and efficiently through any terrain. Stealing the scarves from others is not against the rules, but you aren’t permitted to harm each other. Clear?”

Aeron, who introduced himself earlier after Rabbit, remained quiet, listening to the conversation going about. He remained silent, even after they were told to line up, and continued surveying the current situation. He seemed at ease, relaxed almost, however; there seemed to be a stiffness to his stance. Perhaps it was just nerves working themselves out? He remained quiet even still, listening to the hunters and seemed intent on staring past Asher rather than looking straight at him. Whether it was out of courtesy to ignore the scars, or some other reason, he did not say.

"Steal two scarves, sounds simple enough," Aeron spoke, sliding a hand into pockets with a hunched stance. There was a hint of sarcasm, or something like spite, leaking in the words he spoke, but he should have known that things were never that simple. He did, after all, volunteer. "Where do we start?" was the only question Aeron seemed to have for them.

The corner of Asher's mouth ticked up almost imperceptibly on the good side. With his left hand, he made a wide sweeping gesture, as if to encompass the whole of the surrounding area.

“Wherever you want."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Drake Character Portrait: Imogen Drake Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

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Rabbit was not among those who immediately ran into the night in search of the illusive scarves. Instead, he stood quite still-- a look of confusion on his face. He still held the bike's handlebars in his hands, but he made no move to start it up and ride off into the night in search of the small scraps of cloth. His first action was to walk forward toward Asher and Imogen with the bike beside him, but before shoving the vehicle toward the former. "Hold on to this for me, boss. Don't want to make it too unfair for the rest of them," he said with a cocky grin before pausing again. "Oh, and don't break her. IPS property and all that."

The good side of Asher's face pulled into something like a wry smile. “Sure."

Turning around to face those that were still around, Rabbit jerked his head backward as he backstepped, indicating that they should probably get a move on as well. "What about it Pip? Any more smart ideas?"

The girl in question pursed her lips, her eyes narrowing slightly, though it did not seem to be an expression of displeasure. Glancing over at Asher and Imogen, then back at Rabbit, she tilted her head slightly to one side. "I was always told that a Hunter doesn’t do anything alone that she can do with a team.” Clicking her tongue, she shrugged. "Neither of them said the rule was one person per scarf… or one scarf per person, for that matter. If we all bring it back, we all succeed.”

Of course, there weren’t too many people left. Aside from Imogen and Asher, it was Rabbit, Piper, and Aeron the bartender. "So… what about it? Alliance?”

Aeron seemed to watch the exchange, keeping silent to himself until Piper suggested an alliance. "Well, they did say the winners, as in plural and not singular. Our chances of succeeding rests on us being able to cooperate, does it not? Losers have to do laps around the quarter, so an alliance would be good," Aeron chimed in. "Because frankly, I'd rather not have to run after running over this town searching for scarves," he added, a smirk pulling at the corner of his lips.

Behind the group, Imogen and Asher seemed to have vanished, though they had clearly taken Rabbit's vehicle with them. Whatever the trio decided, it would be without input from their instructors.

"Well, they're bloody slippery," Rabbit noted the silent exit of their instructors. If he seemed at all put off by it though, it was hard to decipher with a simple shrug of his shoulders. He jerked his head toward a street, imploring the others of their alliance to plough forward in that direction.

"I don't know the streets of the Opal as well as the rest of London-- the Gates don't swing open for ordinary people like myself," Rabbit said, obviously quickening his pace as he walked. Even though the clothing he wore was loose fitting, it was clear a slender man was beneath it all. It wasn't too much of a stretch to suppose could take the laps they'd have to run if they lost without much issue, other than having to run them in the first place. "Come on, let's get this done. We can take it street by street, one person keep their eye to the right, one to the left, and one upward-- maybe we'll find a damn scarf tonight."

"I’ll look up.” Piper’s reply was immediate and sardonic. "I’ve had a lot of practice.” She was good on her word, and the three of them turned down the first street that became available. It seemed somewhat unlikely that finding the scarves would be as easy as sticking to the well-lit places after all.

The alley they found themselves in first was short, relatively clean, though the shadows in it were deep, and seemed to shift with an almost sinister air. Perhaps it only seemed so to those who had long been taught to avoid the hours after sunset. There was still bare twilight left yet, but in very little time, the sky would be completely dark, save for the pinpricks of the stars—for the moon was new this eve.

Presently, they reached the end of the alley, and Piper examined the side of the building that terminated the paved road. A few trash cans were stacked to one side, and she pondered these for a moment before shaking her head. "Might help us to get some vantage, right? We could see further from higher up.” A pause. "Can one of you give me a leg up?” While the cans might be enough extra height for Rabbit or Aeron, she was not tall enough for that to be an option.

Aeron seemed to contemplate something, almost as if he were giving great thought to what Piper had spoken. Not a minute later, Aeron raised his left leg and gave it a soft shake, a small smile appearing across his face. It was apparent that Piper had not meant it literally, however; Aeron appeared to not be able to contain himself. "'fraid this is as far as my leg can go up, Pipsqueak," he spoke, a hint of false disappointment laced behind his statement. "I'm sure Rabbit's leg might be able to go higher though, given that Rabbits tend to jump," he added, turning his gaze.

A dry mocking laugh came from Rabbit's direction, followed by the word chav. Piper snorted.

Nevertheless, he set his leg back down, and walked towards Piper, lacing his fingers together before lowering his hands enough so that she could place her foot in the cusp. "Shoulders are leverage for stepping too. If you need them, of course," he added, winking at her in the process.

Piper, for her part, did not look the least bit amused at Aeron’s joke, nor his nickname for her, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes at him in a feline sort of way, but nevertheless when he offered the boost, she took it, stepping into his clasped hands with one foot and grabbing onto the ledge of the roof when he tossed her. For a moment, it was unclear if she would be able to make it the rest of the way up, because she hung there, swinging slightly back and forth, before hefting herself up with a grunt and several less-than-graceful scrabbling motions. Neverthless, it got the job done, and she stood up afterwards, crossing the roof and eventually disappearing from sight.

It took a few minutes, but when she returned, she stood on the edge of the roof and looked down at both of them, her expression a trifle more urgent than it had previously been. "There’s a bunch of people gathered, it looks like, on one of the roofs further down. I’m not sure, but they might have found one.” As to what the three of them should do about it, she offered no opinion.

"Think we can make it there from the roofs?" Rabbit asked, taking a step backward so he could get a better look at them. He then sighed and took the cigarette out of his mouth before looking at Aeron, "They might've put them on the roofs. It would be far too easy if they were out in open on the streets-- and that Asher seems like just enough of a hardass to do that."

Rabbit replaced the cigarette in his lips and looked between the garbage cans and the roof in question. It was clear that the gears in his head were spinning as he thought something over. His head then tilted to the side as he appeared to settle on something, taking a few more steps backward. "I'll give you a fucking rabbit," he told Aeron before bolting toward the building. He lifted off the ground, jumped up onto the cans, and used that leverage to send him up to the lip. He grabbed onto the ledge, his feet kicking in the air trying to find purchase on the building and push him the rest of the way onto the roof.

"Well don't just watch!" He told Piper.

Piper frowned slightly, but advanced to the edge of the roof anyway, kneeling and wrapping both hands around Rabbit’s forearms, her thin fingers surprisingly strong in their grip for one so small. "You know I’m one-ten soaking wet, yes?” Her inquiry was muttered through clenched teeth, as she attempted to use her legs to help pull, a splotchy flush beginning to appear over her cheeks with the exertion, which was perhaps understandable—lean or not, Rabbit was a much larger person than she was.

"Push his feet up or something?” That, she directed to Aeron, still on the ground below.

Aeron pursed his lips together, glancing up towards Piper as she spoke. He seemed to contemplate her words before moving towards the cans, manuevering himself so that he was beneath the dangling Rabbit. "Just... don't kick me," were the only words spoken as Aeron manuevered himself around the cans. Placing the palm of his hands beneath the soles of Rabbit's shoes, he pushed, giving Piper better leverage to pull Rabbit up. Once she managed to pull him up, it would be Aeron's turn.

Rabbit did not make it easy on him. His feet were still kicking when Aeron positioned himself under him, but his spasms slowed to a halt as they redoubled their effort to push him onto the roof. With a second wind and one final push, Rabbit finally rolled unceremoniously over the lip of the ledge. He reached for his cigarette in his lips only to find that during his struggle he'd broken it. He rolled his eyes at the revelation and spat he now useless butt out. "Think this kinda thing is going to become common? Because damn."

With his words said, he spun around and laid down belly first by the edge, extending his hand for Aeron to grab on to. "Come on mate, let's see if we can get you up here without looking like a total ass," Rabbit said, gesturing with his hands for him to get a move on it too. A belabored breath that might have been a sigh from anyone else issued from Piper, but nevertheless she mimicked Rabbit's posture, though her own arms did not have the reach of his.

He didn't have a running start like Rabbit did. He stood on the cans, staring up at the hands that offered to lift him up, and tilted his head to the side. "Something tells me we'll accomplish that more times than necessary," he retorted to Rabbit's comment. A contemplative look crossed his face before he half way crouched, launching himself as high as he could to latch onto the same lip Rabbit was previously hanging from. Once he managed to settle himself, he released one arm and latched it with Rabbit's. He managed to pull himself up the rest of the way with Rabbit's help, and used Piper's hands for more leverage. "Well, that was fun," he spoke, the amusement laced in his voice.

"So, shall we?" he stated, gesturing for one of them to lead the way.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

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From the roof they’d managed to stand on, the three could see quite a distance in most direction, though they were in a few places blocked by other, taller buildings. This was the residential area of the Opal Quarter, though, so there wasn’t much over three or four stories tall. Visible to their north, down the visual corridor formed by an alley and several taller apartment buildings, they could see another roof, perhaps belonging to a grocer or a restaurant or something of that kind, and there were indeed several other people gathered on it, though to what purpose was unclear.

Even as they watched, however, the crowd began to disperse, and it was suddenly quite evident to the observant what was going on—they’d been bamboozled. For some reason, all of them had raced to the roof, spent several minutes in frantic searching, and now they were leaving, no evident victor. Unless there was some other explanation, that one seemed the most logical. A few of those on the roof looked less certain about getting down than however they’d managed to get up, and one particularly sly fellow ran around the building, moving any objects that might serve as steps well out of range. Considering the drop was about fifteen feet, it was a considerable, though not insurmountable, inconvenience. Perhaps it had been the point all along, it was hard to say.

West was the way they’d come, the streets luminous and bright behind them. South was blocked off by several much taller buildings, ones that would be quite impossible to climb for individuals of their skills and current physical capacities. East, though… there was a reasonable string of roofs, each with about four to five feet of space between it and the next. Perhaps, if they were clever, it would provide an efficient route through this cluster of homes to what looked like a school, complete with park and playground, in the distance. There was, of course, no guarantee that what they searched for would be there either.

Piper considered the options, chewing thoughtfully on her lower lip, her eyes narrowed to slits, catlike and dark in the absence of much illumination. It seemed likely to her that succeeding would mean employing at least the very basic rudiments of the skills hunters were known for, one way or another—meaning that, as Rabbit had mentioned, it was highly improbable that either of the scarves Imogen had hidden were on ground level. Considering how difficult it was for them to get onto a roof, it made sense to stay on them for as long as possible, and thereby maximize their chances of happening across one of the hidden objects.

In the end, she tsked her tongue softly, glancing at her two teammates out of the corner of her eyes. Odd, how easy it was to conceive of them as such—she had never been much for groups. But they seemed willing enough to listen when she spoke and help when she needed it, and she supposed that merited the same in turn. Reciprocity was always a good rule, one she preferred to follow when possible. "I think we should not bother following the horde. Even if they do find one, it seems unlikely that of all of them, we’d be the ones to bring the thing back in the end.” Harm was against the rules, thankfully, which meant that any theft attempts would have to be subtle, but too urgent for any method she would have used. Better to try something else.

She unfolded her arms, leveling one towards the east in a pointing gesture. "The park and the school seem like good places to check. I really doubt she hid one anywhere that would force us to break and enter a residence, but an empty building? Could be on the roof or in the trees or something.”

Aeron seemed to stand in one spot, glancing over the rooftops as if surveying the area for something. He turned to face Piper when she spoke, and placed a hand underneath his chin. He seemed to contemplate what she had spoken, and took a deep breath. "Could be," he spoke, releasing his chin and allowing his hand to fall back to his side. "Since we're up top already, might as well check out the park first?" he questioned, as if he were questioning himself first.

"The probablity of it being in a building seems too easy, but it might just as well be there," he continued, as if he were now second-guessing himself. He released a gentle sigh and shrugged his shoulders. "Let's check out the school first," he finally decided, turning his head in the direction of the building.

Rabbit's dry wit was noticeably absent from the conversation between Piper and Aeron, at least until a scraping sound reminded them he was still there. He had a table in his hands, dragging it over toward the lip between their roof and the next leading toward the school. He adjusted it somewhat before taking a step back, and nodding, visibly pleased with his own cleverness. "To the school, right?" Rabbit asked, tossing a glance their way. He then began to back step even more until he stood near the opposite end of the roof.

He took a few deep breaths, bouncing on the heels of his feet to warm up but he still looked a little nervous. "This is dumb, I'm going to break my damn legs," he whined as the absurdity of what he was about to do hit him. Still, it didn't stop him. Lunging into it before he could think better about it, Rabbit set off into a dead run at the table, and at the last moment jumped on top and used it as a springboard to hop over it and toward the next roof.

He gained enough distance to clear the gap, but miscalculated his momentum. After a few steps on the new roof, his feet slipped out from under him causing him to slide a few more paces on his chest. After a series of loud curses, he stood up and brushed himself off, beckoning the others to follow as he stood near the edge to help them when they landed.

Piper wasn’t exactly sure where he’d gotten the table, but physics dictated as usual, and the fact that he’d used it as a springboard when it wasn’t held down by anything meant that he’d be the only one who used it, because it had tumbled down into the space between roofs under the force of his weight. She wasn’t even sure if that had been a clever move or not. Whatever the case, he was clearly on the other roof, and that did mean something.

Chewing her lip, Piper thought the problem over in what she took to be a much more reasonable fashion, moving up to the lip of the roof. It was probably a good twenty feet down—the side they’d climbed up on was much lower due to a slope. Not a fall she’d want to take, at any rate. The building Rabbit had jumped onto appeared to be some kind of restaurant—there was a tarp banner advertising some form of special hanging on Rabbit’s side, underneath his feet a bit. A tiny smile quirked Piper’s lip, and she gestured at it with her chin.

"That has to be secured on there with some form of rope or cable, yes? If Rabbit pulls it up, we can use it to get the rest of us across.” She spoke to both of them. "And then we can take it with us, which will make the rest of these roofs a little easier.” Getting the first person across each time would still be difficult, but she was willing to bet she was light enough that the right assistance from the others would boost her over any larger gaps.

They might just be able to make this work.

"Vandalism? What are we, bloody criminals?" Rabbit replied, looking past his feet at the banner. He then nodded in agreement, "I like it," and began the process of acquiring it. He found where one end was tied off on the roof and undid the knot, dropping and letting the banner slip off of the thick rope. Moving to where the other end was tied, he refrained from untying it and instead he recoiled the rope back up and then threw it to the roof where the others waited...

... Or rather, he tried. The first attempt didn't carry far enough and the rope ended up just slapping uselessly against the face of Rabbit's building. He paused for a beat, before recoiling the rope to try again, and just like before the rope failed to carry, leaving Rabbit with a frustrated look on his face and a curse on the tip of his tongue.

Piper watched the first two efforts, her eyes narrowing upon the second as the end of the rope fluttered uselessly far from her location. "Rabbit might want to weight that.” Her advice was dryly delivered, but did carry that unmistakable tone of and you should have thought of this yourself.

With that in mind, Rabbit began to scour the roof for something heavy to tie the rope to so it wouldn't fall limply fall short any more, though there was a certain indignant hitch to his shoulders. While the roof was relatively bare, he did seem to have an idea, as he paused by a rather rough looking bit of roofing. A bit of twisting and turning, and he managed to extract one of the bricks from the roof. "This'll do," he muttered to himself testing its weight by tossing it between his hands.

Satisfied with the brick, he returned to the rope and tied the loose end around the brick. Then he began to lasso it, spinning the brick in a tight circle "Watch your heads!" was the only warning he gave before he whipped the rope across the gap.

Despite the warning, Piper didn’t quite get out of the way in time, and she fumbled her attempt to catch the brick, dropping it on her toe with an unceremonious thud. She grimaced at the shooting pain up her foot, but said nothing, stooping to pick up the brick. "I’m lighter, so I’ll go across first.” It would be easier to get Aeron across if both she and Rabbit were able to hold the other end.

"Don’t drop me.” So saying, she approached the edge of the roof, then gripped the rope as far up as she could, dropping off the roof as lightly as possible and swinging down, colliding feet first with the side of the second building. Fortunately, climbing up a rope was easier than trying to pull herself up with only her arms, so she walked up the side, more or less, turning around to toss the brick-end of the rope back to Aeron.

Aeron did his best not to laugh, and seemed to settle on a snicker. He, however, grimaced at the same time as Piper when the brick fell on her foot. When she finally made it over to the other side, the rope was tossed back to him. He managed to catch it, without the fumble Piper provided, however; he glanced down over the edge of the roof he was on. He took a deep breath, and glanced back towards the other two. "It's all or nothing," he muttered, tapping the edge once, as if to ensure that it was secure enough for him. It was, perhaps, not his most graceful moments. Unlike Piper, who had managed to brace her feet against the wall the first time, Aeron's full body collided with it when he fell off. A disgruntled noise escaped his throat as he tried to find his footing.

Eventuallly, he made it up the side of the building, landing on the roof and hunched over. His breathing was a little ragged as a nervous chuckle escaped him. "To the school then!" he stated, throwing his fist in the direction of their destination.

Despite their obvious lack of experience or grace, the group’s teamwork and planning proved to be enough to get them to the school—beyond the notice of their competitors and much more quickly than weaving between buildings would have been.

The schoolyard was both dark and quiet, the outline of the building faintly limned in moonlight with help from the occasional street lamp. The building itself was rather large, constructed primarily of brick, marking it as an artifact from before Ragnarök, though the mortar was fresher than that, suggesting that it might have been put back together after falling apart. It was three stories in total, a large clock face over the main entrance. Above this, a flat roof was adorned with a single flagpole, from which something fluttered faintly in the breeze…

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

0.00 INK

#, as written by Calais
The school wasn't as large as Aeron thought it would be, and for a moment, he was grateful they wouldn't have to scale any more walls. He glanced up, and the smile that was once on his face, was now gone. He could see, very faintly, something in the distance. A frown adorned his face as he scratched the side of his face. "You know, I don't have my glasses with me, so could one of you tell me what that is, at the top?" he inquired.

He had a feeling he knew what it was, but he couldn't be too sure. "Because I vote throwing Pips up there if that's the case," he continued, though he was only joking. The thought, tempting as it was, wasn't something they could actually pull off. He sighed and placed a hand on his forehead. "Unless Rabbit wants to volunteer, we could always throw him up there too," he was serious with that statement. He shook his head, though, and pressed forward towards the school. A frown marred his face, however, when small orbs of light filled the hallways. "Couldn't have chosen an abandoned school, no," he stated.

Chances were, those were the janitors, or security guards. They were, after all, still in the Opal Quarter. "No, that would be too easy, they said," he continued to mutter, though more to himself than to the others. He glanced their way and shrugged his shoulders. "Any sugggestions?" he asked, tilting his head towards his two companions. They could go through the front doors, but that was assuming they were opened. Perhaps there was another entrance somewhere, one that was left unlocked?

Rather than answering directly, Piper seemed inclined to let her actions speak for her. After a moment of examining the building in front of them, she started off to the left, jogging around to the side of the building, her eyes narrowed, as though she searched for something in the relative darkness. It appeared as though she found it, however, because a tiny half-smile flickered over her face for just a moment, and she raised a hand to point.

"Service entrance. I’d be willing to wager there are stairs with roof access somewhere nearby. Someone must raise and lower the flag, after all.”

"And I'm willing to bet shit's locked," Rabbit answered, suitably unimpressed. To test this out, he approached the door and attempted to twist the doorknob. It refused to move, and Rabbit threw his head back and looked at Piper, eyebrows raised. "Imagine that. A locked door at night." Quickly turning back toward the door before they could see the upturn in his lip, he dropped down to eye level with the doorknob and peered into the gap between the door and the wall beside it.

Without saying anything else, he slipped a hand into his back pocket and pulled out a pocket knife, flipping it open, and sticking the blade into the gap. "You just have to jimmy the mechanism a little and..." with a twist of the knife and a pull on the knob, and the door slowly swung open. Surprise. Now let's hurry before we get caught," he said opening the door so that Piper could go first.

"Nothing like a little breaking an entering to go with all the feats of derring-do.” Piper’s tone was flat, but understandably quiet as she entered the building first. Tilting her head to the side and brushing a few loose hairs behind her ear, she tiptoed up the first staircase, as the service entrance had indeed deposited them right into a stairwell, concrete and steel painted white, mostly. She seemed to be listening intently, presumably for sounds not theirs. Unfortunately, every slight scuff of their shoes echoed loudly, to say nothing of the sounds of their breathing.

At one point, though, she stopped abruptly, holding a hand out to halt the other two as well. The sound of muffled voices could be heard, perhaps from one of the hallways or further up the staircase. It was a tense few moments, but eventually the voices receded, and Piper continued to lead the way upwards. The roof proved to be the fourth landing, and unlike the other door, this one was open, giving freely under her grip and letting them back out into the night air.

And sure enough, there, fluttering on the flag pole, was a deep purple scarf.

Aeron stared at the purple scarf, glanced from each side, and shrugged his shoulders. This was going to be too easy, and he felt a slight chill crawl down his spine. "Anyone else get that feeling?" he threw the question out, glancing at his two comrades before allowing his eyes to settle on the purple scarf. Again, he shrugged his shoulders and walked casually towards the pole. He glanced up, tilted his head to the side, and inspected it. It didn't seem too difficult to raise it, however; he wasn't in the business of raising and lowering a flag.

Someone told him there was an art to it, and if he wasn't careful, the flag could get destroyed. Maybe that person was being over dramatic, however; as soon as Aeron made to lower the flag, the pulley jammed a quarter of the way down. Aeron tugged on the rope, trying to shake it loose, but it wouldn't budge. He chuckled nervously to himself, and grabbed the rope with both hands. He took a deep breath and pulled with as much strength as he could muster, but still, the rope refused to budge. "Any chance there's a ladder nearby?" he questioned nervously. There was a slight chance that there might be one back the way they came, but that also meant sneaking around the school, and carrying a large ladder without making any noise.

Chances were very slim on that idea. He glanced at Rabbit, and then allowed his gaze to rest on Piper. He squinted his eyes in a contemplative look, and rubbed his chin in a thoughtful manner. "We could always make a human ladder, though," he stated. That, however, meant that one of them would have to be on the bottom, and be able to support the other two. He could do that, but they still wouldn't be tall enough to reach the scarf. Perhaps one of them could scale the pole?

"Do you think you can make it up the pole if I gave you a boost, Rabbit?" he asked the taller of them. He could give Rabbit a bit of a boost, and maybe Rabbit would be able to climb the rest of the way. That, of course, was assuming Rabbit had the upper body strength to do it. Piper would be the easiest to lift up, but chances were she'd still not be able to scale it any better than they would.

"I don't see myself doing anything other than sliding my ass right back down," Rabbit answered. He stood back a bit from the pole and gazed upward the the flag, his arms crossed contemplatively. Taking a few steps closer to the pole, he grabbed the rope and tested it, though he didn't seem to expect a different outcome. It wasn't that type of night, after all. Instead, he looked back at Aeron and Piper. "I'd rather try getting everyone to grab and pull before making someone play squirrel. Maybe we'll unjam it. Honestly, I couldn't give less of a damn if we wreck the pulley, long as we get that goddamn scarf."

As it turned out, that was about all it took, though it was no easy feat to unjam the pulley mechanism. Still, with a sharp, hard tug from all three of them at once, the scarf came loose, descending the pole on its rope until it was close enough to grab.

The scarf itself tuned out to be of a rich eggplant purple silk, smooth in the hands almost like water. If there was any doubt as to whether it was what they were looking for, the Star of Mismar was stitched onto the end in glittering silver thread, set within a circle as was common for the insignias on more formal uniforms belonging to those in the order. It seemed that all they had left to do now was deliver the item to Asher and Imogen—and keep it away from any other searchers in the meantime.

"Right… let’s go.” Piper’s tone was urgent, but not unduly distressed. Rather, she took the scarf, currently in her hands, and rolled it up, shoving it into one of the pockets of her jacket. "Probably better if no one can see that, just in case.” The explanation was perhaps unnecessary, but from the way she pursed her lips, she may have been saying it aloud mostly for her own benefit.

Returning to the door that led to the stairwell, she paused at it for a moment, pressing an ear up to it and waiting for a few seconds, then slowly pushing it open. Gesturing the others down first, she followed after, holding the door as it closed so it wouldn’t make any needless noise.

Unfortunately, even stealth would not be enough to help them here. They must have triggered a silent alarm or something on the way in, because they were no more than halfway down the stairs to the exit when the sound of a siren could be heard through the walls. If they strained their ears, they could also detect the sound of several small vehicles approaching and then coming to a stop. An educated guess would allow the inference that it was New Scotland Yard, which of course only operated within the OQ this late at night, behind the protection of the Opal Wall. It would seem that several officers of the law were surrounding the school.

Aeron grumbled a set of incoherent words, beneath his breath. He knew it was going to be way too easy to retrieve the scarf, and he paused in his steps. They were almost there, and could have returned to the two mismarian's, however; it seemed luck wasn't on their side tonight. From the sounds outside, and the sirens, the building was likely surrounded, and that left little room for choices. He took a deep breath and leaned over towards a window, peeking over to see the damage. He sighed softly and rubbed his forehead. What were they going to do now? He glanced towards his two companions and pursed his lips together. Piper could pass for one of the students if she claimed to be so. Perhaps a late study? He scoffed to himself at the thought. That wouldn't get them very far.

Time, as it was, was not on their side, and Aeron could hear the tick of a clock nearby. They would likely be arrested if they tried to explain themselves, whether they lied or not. "Looks like we don't have much of a choice," he muttered, pulling himself away from the window. "Unless someone has a better plan, one of us will have to distract them while the others can make a run for it. I can be a distraction if you guys can sneak out the back," because it was the only thing he could think of at the moment. Better him than them, at least.

"A sacrifice play? Honorable. But fucking stupid nonetheless. How far do you think you'd get on your own?" Rabbit was pressed up against the wall, staring out of the window and following the shadows of what was no doubt the officers going to cover all of the exits. He closed his eyes as a series of wordless swears formed in his mouth, culminating in him pinching the bridge of his nose. "It'll be hard to report back to the bosses if you're in jail, mate," Rabbit pointed out. Leaning heavily against the wall, it was clear that the whole night was taking it's toll on him, and it wasn't done yet.

"Dammit," Rabbit cursed shaking his head. They didn't have time to discuss this, so with that he pushed himself off the wall and grabbed Aeron's shoulder, moving ahead of him. "I'll do it," Rabbit stated plainly as he grasped the doorknob leading into the second floor. "I'm a courier, I'm quicker, I can lose the cops in the streets. I'll meet you guys back at the gate by morning. If not..." A smirk flickered in between his lips for a moment as he said his next words, "Then I expect someone to bail me the hell out of jail."

With that said, the door swung open, and Rabbit bounded down the hall. Not even a minute later, the faraway sound of shattering glass was heard, likely his idea of an escape plan.

Piper looked like she wanted to say something, but in the end, she refrained, simply shaking her head. Pursing her lips, she narrowed her eyes as the sound of the police taking notice of the broken window reached them, a few voices shouting freeze and the like. What sounded like a whole lot of running feet followed, and she grabbed Aeron’s wrist, tugging him after her as she practically flew down the stairs.

"Come on. We’re not letting that idiot get arrested. I have an idea.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Drake Character Portrait: Imogen Drake Character Portrait: Piper Hadley Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

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As far as plan went, it wasn't the smartest one he had. Actually, it was pretty bloody dumb. The string of thoughts going through Rabbit's mind couldn't respectfully even be called a plan. After breaking out a second floor window with a desk from one of the classrooms, he jumped through and landed on the ground below. It wasn't the most graceful of landings, and by some miracle he escaped breaking his legs on the way down by tucking into a roll. Still, a nasty bruise was beginning to well up on his shoulder and he was pretty sure his knees were bleeding.

The plan had achieved one of its intended effects however, as he could hear the shouts and commands of the police officers behind him. For the next part, he'd have to lead them away from the school building so Aeron and Piper could make their escape. Rabbit huffed as he ran, they'd better make their escape. He would be extremely upset if he found them in the same jail cell.

Rabbit's feet carried him off of the school's campus and back on to the Opal Quarter's streets, the voices of the police and sirens still behind him for the time being. He caught a few of their demands, to stop, put his hands up, stop running, and give himself up. However, that wasn't part of the plan, at least, not yet. At the first alleyway he passed on the street, he took a hard turn and darted into it, jumping a few of the trashcans along the way, and entered into a side street. He wasn't as familiar with the Opal's streets as the rest of London's, but he had the general idea.

It was clear, however, that the officers also knew the area quite well, logical considering that this was their regular patrol, probably. They remained hot on Rabbit’s heels as he sped through the alleyways, by now the shouts to halt having ceased, likely to save the effort and spend it on pursuit, instead. Unless something unexpected occurred, they could probably catch him in another block or two.

The chase wound around another corner, and then a third in quick succession. There was a moment where no officers had yet turned in the way he was running, some muffled discussion, and then the sound of retreating footsteps. Somehow, they'd all chosen to go the wrong way at the last cross-street.

A couple of long moments later, however, there were more footsteps, these ones lacking the heavy tread of pursuing police officers. "That was a stupid plan.” Piper’s monotone was soft, but still audible. She crossed thin arms low over her ribcage, cocking a burnished copper brow at Rabbit, then shook her head slightly. "But we should get moving before they realize we duped them. Think you can get us back to where we started?”

"Let me catch my breath first," Rabbit said between pants. While confused on why the police would take a wrong turn in their pursuit, he was not the type to look a gift horse in the mouth. However, he was rather interested on why Piper was here, and without Aeron at that. "Yeah, but it was a plan," he pointed out. One more deep inhale, Rabbit straightened and crossed his own arms, giving one last look toward the direction the police before scanning his immediate surroundings. If his internal compass was correct, and the street he passed on the way to his current location was the same one he remembered then...

"It should be that way," Rabbit said, pointing in the general direction of the Opal Quarter's gate. "As a crow flies, anyway," he added, noting that he was pointing directly at a building. "Hey, where's Aeron anyway? The plan involved his ass not landing in jail, remember?" Rabbit said, starting off down the street and walking backwards so as to talk to Piper.

"He’ll be by in a second, I’m sure. I sent him ahead. Less noise that way. He may have beaten us back, actually, but I still have the scarf so he can’t win on his own after all this.” Her tone carried no accusation, as though she was not sure whether he’d try even if he did have it, but she said no more on the topic.

"You know, I never thought the old misdirect-with-thrown-object thing could actually work, but I suppose it makes sense.” The two of them took a few more turns, remaining generally true to Rabbit’s initial estimate of their location, and before long, they turned back out onto a main road, where Aeron was indeed visible. Piper flagged him down with a wave of her hand, and they headed for where they’d last seen Asher and Imogen.

"I do hope finding them is not the last leg of this challenge.”

"With the kind of night we've been having, I'm sure it'll be the easiest," Aeron retorted, a hint of sarcasm seeping through. "I think it'd be best to stay low for the remainder of the night. We might have sent those cops the wrong way, but they'll still be out on patrol. It's a good thing they'll only be looking for you, Rabbit," he stated, shrugging his shoulders lightly and sending Rabbit a slight smirk. "I highly doubt those two would be where we first left them," he muttered more to himself than to his companions.

"If they were keeping track of us, they'd have to be somewhere close, right?" he trailed off, holding his chin in a thoughtful manner while crossing his free arm around him.

"They'd fucking better be," Rabbit said, throwing a squinting glance in a circle all around them. It'd been too long of a night to end with them failing to simply find the Mismarians. That or end up getting eaten by a stray vampire. At the thought, Rabbit's shoulders quivered and he zipped his jacket the rest of the way up his neck. "They still have my damn bike," He added, though most of the usual vitriol was drained.

Fishing into one of his jacket's pockets, Rabbit fished out a bent cigarette, and popped it a corner of his mouth. "If we don't run into them soon, we might have to scale another building and look for them..." He said, though he wasn't thrilled with the idea. He felt they'd climbed enough buildings for the night, and wasn't looking forward to struggling up another. Lighting the cigarette, he took a drag and pointed forward with his head.

"Lets keep moving in any case."

They weren’t quite back to where they’d begun when, it seemed, the Mismarians found them. Or at least, Imogen did, jumping down from an overhanging roof ledge some two sorties above them and landing on her feet with all the grace of a cat. "You know,” she remarked conversationally, "you could have just told them you were with us. We do tend to get a pretty free pass with New Scotland Yard.” Her eyes, a dull russet under the light, gleamed with ill-contained mirth.

"But a pass is a pass, and yours was rather impressive, wasn’t it, Asher?”

“It was, though we’ll see how impressive they feel when they wake up tomorrow morning.” Imogen’s brother melted out from the thick shadow of an alleyway to their right, Rabbit’s moped still in tow. “You’ll probably want to sleep as soon as you get home. Free advice: soak yourselves in hot water first, or you won’t be able to move much later.” He handed the bike over to Rabbit, then held out his hand.

“Your proof?” He looked directly at Piper.

A look of mild surprise crossed the young woman’s face, but she nodded, producing the scarf she’d tucked in her jacket pocket and handing it over to the Mismarian. "Please don’t tell us it’s the wrong color.”

Asher smiled, just a small one, and shook his head. “Nah, you’re good. Congratulations, you three. Since you’re here together, I’m assuming you mean for this to count for all of you. What do you think, Imogen?” He turned towards his sister, who tilted her head to the side, raising her index finger to her lips as though to ask for silence.

"I won’t tell the others if you don’t, dear Asher. I think they’ve all earned the reprieve.” She smiled a Cheshire sort of smile at the three tired recruits. "But, you’ll still need to be back tomorrow night. In the meantime, we’ve rented you all a few beds up the street.”

"Thank God," Rabbit said, clearly not wanting to take the return trip out of the Opal Quarter at night.

“Training is sundown to sunup, here. You can all make your way over tomorrow on your own, I should think.” Asher folded the scarf away and tucked it into a pocket of his heavy cargo pants. “It’s not every day, and not always the same ones, but expect about four sessions a week. We know you have other lives in the meantime, but you should expect this to become your life eventually, and prepare for that.” He nodded at the trio, a clear dismissal.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Asher Drake Character Portrait: Piper Hadley

0.00 INK

Piper pursed her lips, shooting the building in front of her a suspicious look. Unnecessary, of course—she was somewhat familiar with it now, and she knew it to be the place where her trainers were staying. She supposed there might be a more formal title for them than that, but they’d never used it, and so she didn’t know. Perhaps a question she could ask her father, but she hadn’t exactly gotten around to telling him that she was joining the Order yet. Not because she didn’t want him to know, but rather… she wanted to make sure she had a chance first. If she was to fail, she would prefer to do it with as few witnesses as possible, and she especially didn’t want him to know of it.

But her errand today was another possible bump in the road. She knew that the Mismarians had likely pulled the official records of all of the candidates, to check for things like criminal records and whatnot, but there was something that wasn’t on any of those records that they would want to know. She just wasn’t so sure she wanted to tell.

Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself. This was no time for cowardice. She couldn’t change what she was, and if it prohibited her, then she would just have to live with that. Brushing nonexistent lint off her tan sweater-vest—she’d come here directly from her shift at the archives—Piper pushed open the door to the Fletcher’s Den and entered, scanning the tables for the distinctive faces she was looking for.

Asher was sitting at the same table Imogen had been last time, off to one side and with his back to the wall, facing the entrance. Her father always did that, too—refused to put his back to strangers. She wondered if she would be like that after a few years. His hood was up over his face, but she recognized him by his posture and the few tufts of platinum-blond that escaped his cowl. She strode to the table in question, but did not presume to be seated without permission. For all her flat irreverence, there were things she would not disregard.

"Asher.” She found it odd that he and his sister had wanted to be addressed by their first names rather than anything more formal, but respected the instructions. "Do you have a moment to spare?” The question was delivered bereft of any particular emotion, but it was not a light one even so.

The Hunter thus addressed pushed down his hood, though quite a lot of his face was still obscured by the way his hair lay shaggy and mostly unkempt. His fingers toyed absently with the rim of his glass, more an idle motion than one with any specific purpose. He blinked over at her, the mismatched quality of his eyes only lending to the unfortunate appearance of his face.

“Only if you have a moment to sit,” he replied dryly, jerking his chin at the one directly across from him at the table.

So Piper sat, recognizing a command when she heard one, even if he was polite about it. Settling into the wooden chair, she folded her hands on top of the table, an old little gesture her father always had. He’d told her it was because it was polite to show strangers and acquaintances that your hands were empty, a tradition that he claimed dated back to before Ragnarök. She had no idea, herself, but she figured it couldn’t hurt.

For a moment, she studied the hunter in front of her. Of course, she was immediately curious about how he’d obtained the white marks that hashed across half his face, but though she was often blunt to the point of rudeness, she didn’t ask. Perhaps she would at some later time, but not today. They gave his face a sort of harshness, she would say, but though they were clearly marring, she didn’t consider them hideous. They were just… different. Clearly, he did not think so, and she supposed she wouldn’t be too keen on them if she had to wear them, either. She realized she was staring, but she didn’t check herself or apologize or try to hide the fact, because she wasn’t sorry, and she didn’t care if he knew.

Instead, she spoke. "I’m a witch.” Her tone was quiet—she did not desire anyone in the room to overhear her, after all. She went to great lengths to cover up the truth of her heritage, because to do otherwise would saddle her not only with suspicion, which was inconvenient but tolerable, but also likely with oversight, and she did not desire to be treated like a felon on parole. "Grey, of course. It’s been kept off the records, but I thought it best to tell you now. I have heard… that this is not always prohibitive for joining the Order, but I have also heard that you are allowed to turn people away for whatever reason you want, and I have to say I really don’t want to endure months more of training just to be turned away for being what I am later on.” She would vastly prefer that it happen now, before she began her transition between lives in earnest.

Asher’s face didn’t change much while she spoke. He swirled the liquid around in his lowball for a few seconds when she was done, then tipped his head back and downed the rest in a pair of gulps, shaking his head slightly and setting the glass back down on its coaster with a dull thunk. “I’m impressed you managed to keep it off the official records,” he murmured, picking the glass back up and staring into the bottom of it as though to confirm that it was indeed empty. A drop circled the edge, but nothing more remained.

Pushing an exhalation through his nose, he put it back down and made eye contact with Piper across the table. “I can’t really fault you for being a witch,” he said. “Imogen’s one, too.” The good side of his mouth inched upwards. “But I’m glad you told me. You’ll all be split up for individual training eventually, and she’ll probably want to work with you for a while. Do you have a specialization yet?”

Piper blinked. Whatever she had expected, it was not that. She was surprised to learn that Imogen was a witch, but more surprised by how easily Asher spoke of it, by how conversant he was in the words for things in the Craft that she had never really spoken about with anyone. It would seem that his sister was very open about certain things that Piper had always thought no one talked about. But it was an honest question, and for the moment, she saw no harm in giving an honest answer.

"I’m an alchemist. My tutoring has been… intermittent, but I’m familiar with the major texts, and I achieved journeyman status about two years ago. I’m best with potions and biochemical reagents, but I can do at least something in any of the subfields.” She was a bit proud of that, and it may have seeped slightly into her words, though she hadn’t meant anything to be boasting. Just factually accurate.

"Do you think I should tell the others?” It was a question that had been occupying her mind of late. It seemed best to be honest, but… if any of them had reason to hate her kind, it may well disrupt team dynamics, and she wasn’t sure they could afford that.

Asher’s fingers smoothed idly over the edge of his cardboard coaster, rather well-used if the bends in it were any indication. Then again, the bar wasn’t exactly a high-class establishment. He pursed his lips. “The decision’s yours,” he said eventually, reaching up to run a hand through his hair. The motion did nothing to tame it, the fluffed ends merely springing back into their bedheaded places afterwards. “We’re required to tell your partner if you reach the point where you have one, but no one else has to know, and I can understand why you’d want to keep it from people who might not complete the training.”

He hummed a note at the back of his throat, propping his chin on his hand. “But if you want my advice, I’d tell the people you get along with best. That’s part of how we pick partners in the first place, and you don’t want us to be the ones springing it on someone who believes they can trust you. It doesn’t have to be now, but you should do it eventually, I think.”

Piper nodded. There was sense in the words, and she was never one to ignore logic. She acknowledged that it was difficult for her to be objective on this matter, at least completely, because being a witch was such a large, unavoidable part of her identity. And an unfortunate one, sometimes, but inexorable. "Thank you.” It wasn’t something she said all that often, being the kind of person who disliked relying on others, but she could recognize when she had received good advice, and wasn’t grudging with her gratitude.

She paused a moment though, still scrutinizing him, then spoke slowly. "You… you knew already, yes?” It would explain his lack of surprise. Even if his sister was a witch too, which would go some way to producing his easy attitude about it, it was still an extremely rare trait, and it should have produced more of a reaction, she thought. The most reasonable answer was that he’d already known. But how?

Asher inclined his head. “You’re not in the official records, but Vimmark Hadley did include where he’d found you in his petition to the Order for the dispensation to adopt you. It wasn’t a difficult guess from there.” He tilted his head slightly to the side, studying her in turn, though he was unable to hide his discomfort with being looked at so intently, shifting slightly in his seat, and reaching for his glass before he seemed to recall that there was no longer anything in it.

“You needn’t be concerned that it is common knowledge even among the brothers and sisters, however. I did a lot of digging on all of you; it’s not something anyone and everyone who works with you will repeat. And the documents were difficult to access, even for me.”

Even for him. That made it sound like he was someone important, though she would not necessarily have guessed as much from the way he presented himself. Perhaps he only meant that recruiters were supposed to have easier access to information on the recruits. But of course, she wasn’t the sort to let something like that assuage her, and she began to think back on all the stories her father had told her, attempting to recollect any mention of someone named Drake. Nothing was immediately forthcoming, but her aural recall was not nearly as good as her visual, and so perhaps she would ask him, just to be sure.

For the moment, however, she had concluded her business, and Piper supposed that Asher had more to do than sit around talking to her all day, so she stood briskly, inclining her head. "Then I’ve no more to say. I bid Asher farewell.” She paused a moment, waiting for something like a dismissal, but once she’d received it, she was efficient in her passage to the door. There weren’t many hours left until sunset, and she still had a few errands to run.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rabbit Character Portrait: Aeron Duvall

0.00 INK

#, as written by Calais
Aeron held a smirk on his face, something of a half-smile, as he wiped at the bar. They had managed to pass their first test, all three of them, and it was cause for some celebration, was it not? He gave a few regulars a on the house tab, shoved a few drinks to the newcomers, and drank one himself. He released a rather loud, satisfied sigh as the cup he held, collided with the bar table. He could hear the chuckling of a few patrons in the back, and merely shook his head. He was getting a chance, albeit small, to join the Order of Mismar. To say his confidence had been given a slight boost, would be an understatement. He was confident. Confident, perhaps due to the small amount of alcohol in his system, or some other means, but confident nonetheless.

He continued serving drinks for the remainder of his shift, enjoying the small talk he received from his customers, and entertaining them with small tricks of the hand. He broke a bottle, or two, while performing one such trick, but shrugged it off before continuing. When it was time for a short break, he welcomed it. He sat himself behind the counter, sitting on one of the bar stools, and toasting the replacement bartender. He took a drink, his face twisting into some kind of disgusted look, before coughing back into the cup. He glanced into the drink, and then towards the barkeep, who merely shrugged his shoulders. With a shake of his head, he placed the cup down, and turned towards the company.

Normally, the sound of the bell would be enough to cause Aeron to turn towards the person who entered. This time, however, he kept his eyes glued to the contents of his drink. If anyone knew him, they'd know his tolerance for alcohol wasn't very high, and whatever drink he currently had, had a high content. The odor was enough to give that slight away. "One of these days," he muttered to himself, taking a deep breath before trying to down the drink again.

"You know, if you aren't man enough to handle it, then you should probably just stick with beer," The newest patron said, taking a seat beside Aeron. The blonde haired man wasn't a stranger, but he might as well have been. It was the first time Aeron had saw him in his usual work attire consisting of an immaculately ironed vest and bow tie. He went to peel off the pair of black leather gloves off his hands, and lifted the pair of sunglasses to sit on top of his head. He turned toward the bartender on duty and whistled, gestured for a beer.

Turning back to Aeron, a tight grin sat on Rabbit's face as well. "Unless you're trying to be like a certain Mismarian we know, then by all means. Choke it down. I'll stick with something I can handle... For now." It was clear that even Rabbit was a little more cheery than usual.

Aeron frowned when Rabbit's voice met his ears, however; it wasn't what he said that caused his frown. It was what he did, that pulled the reaction, and he turned to stare at Rabbit. "You know, you're lucky he doesn't come and slug you in the face for that," he stated, taking another sip from his drink. He managed to keep his face straight--for the most part--and sighed. "As a fellow bartender, it's a bit... rude when a customer whistles at us like that. Maybe next time just say 'Hey 'keep.' We usually respond pretty well to that," he continued, turning his attention back to Rabbit.

He was rather lucky, considering that the bartender who replaced him wasn't known for his friendly smiles. He merely waved it off as the man gave Rabbit a look, and gave him his ordered drink. He said nothing as Aeron chuckled nervously. "And I'll probably pay for that later, but hey, let's celebrate a bit, shall we?" he stated, raising his half empty cup towards Rabbit.

Rabbit simply shrugged it off uninterestedly. Instead, he too raised his beer and clinked the glass, taking a long drink. "I'm going to get shitty service for the rest of my time here, aren't I?" It didn't sound so much like a question, but a dull observation. Shaking his head, Rabbit simply took another sip and resumed the conversation. "Think we'll be able to make it through training?"

"Not a chance," he replied honestly, a bright smile on his face before taking a drink again. "We might if we're durable enough, but..." he paused, letting his gaze rest on his cup as he swirled the contents around. He wasn't sure if they would continue with this streak of luck, they had going. There was no knowledge of what trial would be next, but he had chosen this, hadn't he? They all had. "I'm sure that if we keep working as a team, we can," he concluded. They could do this, survive the exercises they would undergo and come out on top.

"So, what brings the Rabbit down the hole?" he questioned, changing the subject slightly. A small grin formed its way onto his lips as he glanced at Rabbit from the corner of his eye.

"You and these terrible puns," Rabbit said, throwing his hands up. Still, he seemed to take it in stride and went on to explain, "I just got off of work, delivered the last package of the day. I was in the area, and a beer sounded really good." He took a long draught of the beer and then turned back to Aeron. "Figured I'd see if my team mate was in, see how he was doing, and see if I couldn't score a free one," he said, waving the half-empty bottle at him.

Turning away for a moment, Rabbit rested the mouth of the bottle on his lips and blew, causing a dull whistle to emanate from the bottle. He did it once more before continuing the conversation. "So why do you want to be a hunter? It sure as hell isn't because of the job security. Adrenaline junkie?"

"Terrible puns make the world go round," he shot back before downing the last of his drink, pulling his face back in disgust as he did so. He really should drink the lighter stuff. He chuckled at Rabbit's statement, and motioned towards the bartender, giving him a signal for two more beers. "You're lucky your team mate can get away with those things, too," he replied taking a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. He contemplated Rabbit's question, though. The reason he became a hunter? Was there a right reason to become one? Mulling it over a few times, he placed the drink back on the cup holder and leaned back in his chair, allowing his arm to hang off of the side of the his leg.

"Adrenaline junkie, me? I guess you could put it that way," he answered lightly. "I guess mostly because I want to leave a mark in the world, you know? Maybe make some difference here," he continued, swirling his drink as he glanced into it. "I know a lot of us don't have it easy, and most of us have lost something in this crazy hell hole, but," he paused momentarily and shifted his gaze towards Rabbit.

"I'd rather my kid sister not have to live this life much longer. But I'm a romantic that way!" he continued, raising his drink up and leaning back in his chair. "Bet you were thinking something better, right? Sorry to disappoint you, Rabbit," he stated, feigning a disappointed tone to himself. "What about you? Why'd you join?"

Rabbit seemed to think for a moment, rotating the beer bottle in his hand. "Not especially. Can't get much grander than trying to save the whole damn world," he said, raising his bottle. He then sighed and leaned forward in his seat, staring dead ahead as he seemed to mull something over in his head. "Repayment, I guess?" he began before shaking his head, "Not revenge repayment, that's stupid and petty. I'd like to think I'm above that shit," Rabbit said with a dry chuckle.

"I mean I have a debt I feel like I need to repay. The Mismarians they, uh.." Rabbit said, appearing to lose the right words to say. He paused for a moment and thought it over again, before shaking his head. He held up a finger signaling that Aeron wait a moment and began to undo the buttons on his suit vest. "Don't get too excited," Rabbit warned as he finished the buttons on the vest and began on the buttons on the shirt under it. "It's not all coming off," he added.

Once the buttons on the shirt was halfway undone, he peeled the shirt off of one arm and held it out for Aeron to see. Small scars adorned his forearms, but grew in density after they passed the elbow. The upper arm and shoulder was where the scarring was heavier, as the skin was still discolored from whatever accident caused it. Deep gashes that had a few years to heal were present on his shoulders and on the ribs that were visible. "Fucking vampires," Rabbit cursed under his breath. "I should be dead. The Mismarians found me before the damn thing sucked me dry, and then made sure I didn't bleed to death after. The way I see it, I owe them my life."

Aeron bit back a chuckle when Rabbit spoke, and remained silent as the man continued speaking. He whistled softly at the scar on Rabbit's arm and refrained from touching it. His hand gave a visible twitch, however; he grabbed his cup instead, and downed the rest of the contents. "To each his own, right?" he spoke, leaning back in his chair as he glanced at Rabbit from the corner of his eyes. "I'd feel obligated to the Order, too, if they saved my ass that way," he added, removing his gaze and briefly catching the time clock.

"Looks like the break is over. Look on the bright side, though. You know one of the bartends so you get free drinks tonight," he stated, saluting Rabbit in the process. He stood from his chair, pushed it in, and made his way towards the back of the counter. He paused, momentarily, and glanced back towards Rabbit. "Let's not get our asses killed, 'kay?" he stated, shaking his head softly. For every training exercise we complete intact, I'll convince the boss to let you drink for free. If we get our asses killed, well then we get cut off," he proposed, though he wasn't entirely sure he could convince his boss for that one. It was worth a shot, though, right?

Rabbit smirked and raised his drink, "I'll drink to that."