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Raven Aleister

A scruffy-looking Hunter with an ancient, half-finished engineering degree and a penchant for tinkering.

0 · 255 views · located in Modern Day/AU

a character in “Harbingers”, as played by StandardFiend

Description

Broad-shouldered, tall, and fairly well-built at forty-three years old, Aleister might have been at least vaguely attractive if he took better care of himself. Lengthy tufts of deep umber hair project wildly from his scalp an an utter unkempt disaster, and the once-classy five-o'-clock shadow is a twenty-four hour one across Aleister's rough-hewn features and waxen, coarse flesh. His auburn eyes blend only too well with the rest of his face, giving him a passive, almost distant air. On a good day his attire is only mildly disheveled, consisting of well-worn dark jeans or cargos and a loose-fitting button-up shirt. There are two articles with which Aleister seems never to part. The first is a pair of steel-toed combat boots which look as though they've seen a good deal more than their share of battle. The other is an ankle-hugging coat made of heavy leather that may, at one time, have been a pristine cordovan. The shoulders, cuffs, and hem of the coat are all padded with thick leather strips and dotted with silver studs.

Personality

Aleister often remains aloof. He is never particularly talkative, but he isn't submissive, either. In fact, he can be remarkably hard-headed and difficult to reason with at times. Fortunately, his tendencies have not yet regressed into violence against his friends and comrades. Some of the Watchers have noticed Aleister talking to himself, or perhaps to unseen individuals. All of these disturbing traits are caused by one serious flaw: Aleister's usage of Nocturne has progressed past mere addiction into the realm of dependence. What little sleep he manages to get is plagued by terrifying dreams and his waking hours are tortured by hallucinations that are becoming more frequent as the years of Nocturne abuse continue. The parts of his psyche that are still his own, however, allow Aleister the presence of mind to keep himself together when it counts; after all, the clandestine life of a Hunter is the only one he knows or understands. Nocturne injections, which have become near-constant for Aleister, keep him stable, but the amplifying effects of the alchemical drug are waning as his body adapts to its continuous presence.

Equipment

Pursuing a degree in engineering for a couple of years in his twenties, Aleister has always had a knack for building things and tinkering. While he might have the potential to join the ranks of Harbingers R&D, he prefers to construct his own tools from his own materials and employ them in his own missions--a very solitary lifestyle. But given his talents, Aleister's arsenal is never boring.

His primary melee weapon is a carbon-steel tomahawk perfectly balanced for fighting and throwing both.

Aleister's primary ranged weapon is a scoped, self-locking compound crossbow. He carries various ammunition for the bow, including bolts injected with a mixture of succinylcholine and sulphuric acid; the acid not only keeps the paralysing agent succinylcholine stable during storage, but causes significant internal corrosion to the target. These are primarily for use against vampires; while the succinylcholine will not fully paralyse a vampire, it mitigates the creature's overwhelming physical might should the shot prove nonlethal. Aleister's other main ammunition is bolts infused with silver nitrate for use against lycanthropes. He carries other utility rounds such as explosive tips and corded grapplers. Aleister crafts most of his ammunition by hand when given the opportunity, and is particularly proud of the proven effectiveness of his vampire-rounds.

The Hunter carries a handful of home-made fulmination grenades--a device based on the explosive properties of silver oxide and ammonium hydroxide. When triggered, the simple internal mechanism combines the two substances. Given a few moments to react, the compound will explode when jarred, releasing a semi-gaseous cloud of silver particles. When inhaled, silver is rapidly introduced into the bloodstream, making the grenades a potent stealth-weapon against lycans; due to the delayed reaction of the agents, they are not effective as a combat weapon.

History

Aleister has been working for the Watchers for the better part of his adult life. He was expelled from high-school for constructing destructive devices on-campus, but eventually found his way into a college engineering program where he initially showed promise and was on-track for a rewarding career. This, however, was only the beginning of Aleister's addictive tendencies, and drug abuse crept through the crevices of his mind until education was no longer an option. Only twenty-two years old and on the verge of self-destruction, he somehow found himself under the vengeful stare of a vampire aristocrat; his quick-thinking through a drug-addled consciousness and clever use of makeshift weaponry caught the attention of a Watcher leading a raid against the vampire's coven, and Aleister was offered the only job he would ever need.

So begins...

Raven Aleister's Story

Setting

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Character Portrait: Raven Aleister
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A hazy orange sun peaked over the tops of the shanty apartments on Niles, reflected in the jet-black paint of the twelve-year-old Bentley Azure cabriolet that eased into the curb with a subtle squeak. The canvas roof was stowed, letting the crisp morning air fill the cabin. Wesley Pratchett scrunched his nose at the not-so-crisp smells of the rugged neighborhood wafting through the air. In his expensive car and expensive suit, Wesley was far out of his element here, but this was the last trip he would be making into the suburbs for the foreseeable future.

Twisting the rear-view mirror to gain a more full view of himself, Wesley licked his thumb and pressed into place a few strands of hair which had come loose during the leisurely drive over. He then craned his neck and straightened his flat blue necktie, ensuring the gold broach bearing his family insignia was perfectly aligned atop the knot. Wesley pushed the door open and stepped out onto the street, keeping narrowed eyes on the apartment at the end of the closest walkway, a run-down structure in various shades of faded brown dotted by streaks of sickly green where plantlife had grown up and around the walls. Wesley couldn't suppress a grimace at the sight. It was a sad place on the brightest of days.

A gust of wind picked up around his ankles as his leather shoes alternately clacked on cracked pavement and crunched on dried grass along the path to the front door. At the end, Wesley's eyes lingered for the briefest of moments on the familiar name on the placard. He pushed the buzzer, and waited.

It was a full three minutes before the lock on the front door clicked open. Wesley reflexively glanced over his shoulder as he ducked quickly inside. It was dark in the hallway beyond. The only light came from a grated window above the door, and it was marred by decades of dust and cobwebs, granting the building interior an eerie air. The cold silence of the early morning didn't help the atmosphere, and Wesley shivered once as his body adjusted to the foreign climate. Out of nervous habit he adjusted the narrow horn-rimmed spectacles on his nose as he briskly headed for the stairs.

Wesley's destination was on the second floor, just a few doors down from the stairwell. With the backs of his fingers he rapped the door twice before twisting the knob and pushing into the room. It was even darker inside, slivers of sunlight leaking in through ratty curtains on the far side. Most of the illumination came from the screen of the silver Power Book on the kitchen table. The bright glow cast the shadow of a hunched man in a woolen turtle-neck in Wesley's direction.

The man clamped a hand on the back of his neck as he looked back over his shoulder for a moment. Turning his eyes down from Wesley he looked back at the screen. "Alright, Daddy's got to go, ducky," he almost whispered, in a fading Cockney accent.

The corners of Wesley's mouth twitched in some combination of sorrow and warmth when the reply came. He could see most of the girl's smiling face from the doorway: she was eight years old, with the most radiant blonde hair and sparkling emerald eyes.

"'Kay, Daddy. Love you!"

"Love you too. Bye bye, sweetheart." The man exhaled as he carefully pressed the notebook's lid closed. He looked back at the doorway again. "Wesley," he said in tired greeting, a genuine but weakened smile forming on his scruffy face.

"Aleister," Wesley replied with a taught nod.

"Give me a minute, would you?" Aleister said, pushing up from the table with both hands.

Wesley could see the slightest tremble in Raven Aleister's movements. "I'll be in the car," he said without argument.

Aleister nodded. He waited for the sound of the door clicking shut before setting about in motion. Everything he wanted to take was already packed in a duffel bag, waiting on his bed. His brown leather coat hung over the back of a nearby chair. He shuffled over to it and reached into one of the inside breast pockets, then pulled out a small vial, no wider than a pencil and no taller than a shot glass. In it was a deep violet liquid which gave off a faintly iridescent glow. As Aleister stared at the tiny glass vial, his expression was a mixture of longing and confusion, masked by his hollow eyes and unkempt features. The substance had him captivated in more ways than one. After only a moment's more hesitation, Aleister pulled away the plastic stopper and quaffed the vial's contents.

He closed his eyes, feeling the Nocturne begin to take its effect. Trails of ice moved down his arms and legs, then caressed his head. It wasn't unpleasant or painful. The chill turned quickly to warmth, and soon Aleister could feel the physically-amplifying effects of the alchemical drug. His muscles tensed. His senses sharpened. The room seemed brighter. He could smell the bacon cooking three doors down; he could even hear it sizzle in its pan. He inhaled sharply, then let out a gratified sigh as the Nocturne triggered his dopamine circuit. The pleasure was immediate and intense, and his mind told him to ignore the fact that it didn't hit him nearly as hard as it used to, that the pleasure was, in a figurative sort of way, all in his head.

After donning his characteristic coat, Aleister cleared his throat, then glanced around his kitchen until his gaze settled on the pair of dark sunglasses half-folded on the counter. He snatched them up and slid them comfortable into place, hiding the new pale, violet glow in his eyes. A few heavy steps took him to his tiny bedroom where he pulled on a pair of ratty leather fingerless gloves, so frayed at the edges that it was impossible to tell if they had ever been whole gloves or not. He pulled the tightly-stuffed duffel over his shoulder and walked out into the hallway without so much as one last longing glance at his former home.

Wesley was waiting in the Bentley, and ignited the engine when Aleister came out onto the dilapidated cement path, duffel bag bouncing against his back with every heavy step. With perhaps too little grace and respect Aleister threw the bag onto the rear seat, then slid into the luxurious bronze leather bucket seat next to Wesley.

"So," Aleister started as Wesley pulled out into the street, "what's this gig about, again?" His voice was much more alive than before.

"As I told you before, the Harbingers have resurfaced. Their benefactor is a man called Vageryn." Wesley looked over at Aleister and grinned. "You're their newest recruit."

"Fantastic, because working for you lot wasn't quite stressful enough for me." Aleister rolled his eyes behind his dark glasses.

Wesley's smile faded and his face turned grim as he stared into his shaded eyes, knowing the iridescent glow the glasses hid. "You know it would kill her if she knew what you--"

"Don't," Aleister interrupted gruffly. "Just... don't."

Wesley nodded. After a moment of silence, he went on. "Anyway, we don't know as much about this Vageryn as we would like. We don't know what his game is, why he's fronting the Harbinger organisation."

"You want me to spy on him?"

"Erm... in a manner of speaking."

Aleister nodded and chuckled. "You want me to spy on him. And what if this Vageryn catches on to our little scheme?"

"I'd say you'd best be careful." Wesley shot his passenger a mischievous smile.


It was a few minutes past nine when the Azure pulled into Arn Manor's parking garage and eased into a free spot. Wesley and Aleister rolled out of the leather seats without missing a beat. "Hey," Wesley called, grabbing Aleister's attention. He tossed the keys, and the hunter snatched them out of the air with reflexive precision. Aleister broke stride, taken aback.

"Not really," he replied, a doubting smile cracking his face.

Wesley shrugged. "Seems agents are responsible for their own transportation. Consider it... severance pay."

Aleister juggled the keys in his gloved fingers for a moment.

The grimace returned to Wesley's face when he considered why he couldn't see the gratitude in he knew was present in Aleister's eyes. "Listen," he said quietly as they continued toward the mansion proper, "I've got a meeting with Vageryn--business stuff. He knows you're here, so make yourself at home, and I'll talk to him about your arrangements."

Aleister nodded. "And, er... what about our arrangement?"

"Don't worry about it," Wesley replied, locking his gaze on the ground in front of his feet. "Just keep your end of the bargain. I'll make sure you're... taken care of."

Aleister stopped again, sympathy present on the visible parts of his face. "Look, I know you--"

Wesley waved him off. "No, no. It's not my business. Now, run along while the big boys talk."

Aleister clapped his old friend on back. "Yeah, yeah. Call me if you need a ride, eh?"

Setting

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Character Portrait: Raven Aleister
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The mansion was bigger than he remembered, even though it hadn't really been that long since Wesley had set foot inside. Perhaps the majesty of it was simply overwhelming. It was the sort of place one could never quite get used to. Wesley's top-floor studio apartment was all the accommodation he could handle. After a gentlemanly nod to Ingrid, he made his way up the right-hand staircase. Even with the majority of his admittedly trivial weight on the balustrade, a few of the carpeted steps creaked beneath him, lending an ancient quality to the manor; fitting, he supposed, since the city itself had grown up around it, and anything older than Pandora was older than anyone cared to remember these days.

Wesley located the door to Vageryn's study. Vageryn was expecting him, but out of courtesy Wesley rapped on the heavy oaken door a couple times before pushing his way inside, where he saw Vageryn standing on the far side of the room with his back turned. There was something unsettling about the study, something Wesley could never quite put his finger on. These meetings were uncommon and generally brief, two facts for which Wesley was especially thankful. Today, it was depressing into ominous, and he just couldn't catch a break. Perhaps a trip west, to the beach, would settle his mind.

The Watcher's eyes roamed the study, settling on no object for too long. The place was lined with books; hundreds, or thousands of them, more books than any man could reasonably hope to read in one lifetime. Passively he wondered if they were simply there for decoration.

Before an uncomfortable silence could think about growing, Wesley cleared his throat. "Vageryn. Always a pleasure to see you." Wesley took a few steps closer, confidence growing with each stride. There was no real reason to feel ill at ease here; at the end of the day, Vageryn and the Watchers were on the same side. "I presume you know why I'm here. Dropping off a new recruit doesn't exactly warrant a formal meeting."


There was something quite captivating about Ingrid, from her fiery hair to her almost mythical form, and Aleister's not-entirely-subtle stare lingered on her throughout the tour, hidden only by the dark glasses which seemed ill-suited to the dim lighting of the manor interior. Her physical beauty aside, it was Ingrid's eyes that held Aleister's attention most of all: they were the same lustrous emerald as his daughter's. Still, the way she spoke, the way she carried herself--Aleister knew right from the start that Ingrid was not a woman you messed with. While her nature as a Slayer was but a shadow of a thought on the outskirts of Aleister's mind, he had no doubt she could bend him over backwards and break him if it came to it. That alone was enough to keep him silent through her verbal tour of the manor--at least until Ingrid mentioned Vageryn's lack of balls.

Maybe it was the Nocturne-high, maybe it was the ever-present child recessed somewhere deep inside all men; whatever it was, Ingrid's completely unintentional faux pas garnered a rather hearty chuckle from Aleister. The look Ingrid gave him in response could have set fire to a block of ice, and something told Aleister it was a look he should start getting used to as early as possible. "Erm, right. Sorry, ducky."

Aleister took stock of what would serve as his new home for the foreseeable future. Everything he could need was here: a training facility, a warm bed, and most importantly, somewhere to set up shop. In fact, the only way the accommodations could be more perfect was if the latter two were the same place. For some reason, changing his entire life wasn't quite as harrowing as one might expect, but it wasn't Aleister's firm resolve that could account for that.

"I'd better get settled in, then," he said passively to Ingrid, then left her at the bottom of the stairs in search of a room to call his own. At random he picked a door and tried the knob--locked. He met with similar failure with the second door he attempted. "Third time's the charm," he whispered under his breath. The next door was locked, too. "Or not." At last, he found entry into the second-to-last door at the end of the hall. Inside, the room was empty but for basic furnishings: a narrow bed with sheets, a desk and chair, a chest of drawers, and a small nightstand. Despite the smallness of everything, no expense had been spared in their elegance and luxury. Aleister's entire apartment on Niles probably couldn't have paid for one piece of furniture in this room.

A tiny silver key was on top of the squat dresser, and Aleister casually swiped it up and stuffed it into his pocket, then laid his enormous bag on the bed and began to go through it. The bag's contents were simple, almost frighteningly so: clothes and weapons, almost exclusively. His crossbow was folded down in a black nylon sleeve, and his assortment of bolts were bundled together with it. His tomahawk was sheathed carefully and stuffed next to a small iron lockbox, where his remaining three fulminate grenades were stored. Bouncing around on his back was not the safest place for the volatile devices, but they were expensive and tedious to create, and Aleister couldn't bring himself to just leave them behind.

Aside from his not-so-tasteful assortment of clothing, that just left... of course. His computer was still sitting on his kitchen table. Of all the things he could have left behind. With a comical self-pitying sigh, Aleister set himself down on the bed and pulled out his phone. He pulled up the video chat and was about to ring his daughter when he caught his reflection in the glossy screen. Slowly, he pulled away his sunglasses and saw the pale violet glow staring back at him. He let out another sigh, the self-pity real this time, and put away the phone.

Aleister sat silently on the bed for a few minutes, then pulled another vial from his coat pocket.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilde Bernhardt Character Portrait: Nathanial "Nate" Winters Character Portrait: Raven Aleister
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An unfamiliar tread entered the uncomfortable silence that shrouded her like some cloak of arcane protection. She knew the footsteps of everyone in this building; their cadence, the pressure applied, the frequency, walking and running both. What she’d told Nathanial was the truth: she had to notice such things, in order to stay alive. This wasn’t one of them, and the lines of her body tensed, scarred mouth drawing down into a frown. It was just the barest trace of familiar though…

And then she had it. That morning, after her doorknob had rattled and she’d reached for her gun, the receding footsteps had sounded like that. She turned to look over her shoulder, mildly-surprised that the new-blood looked to be as much used goods as anyone here, considerably moreso than most. It wasn’t just his age, either. He was careworn, but in a way that suggested that what wore on him didn’t care at all, didn’t give two shits about what a mess they made of him.

It was exactly how she felt deep in her guts, and she scoffed when he spoke, pulling open the cabinet Damages gestured at with her undamaged hand. She might have reminded the old man of the early hour, but she was pretty sure he knew already. Hell if she could judge; she spent half her mornings a trembling ball of Nocturne withdrawal symptoms.

She brushed off the Slayer’s comment with a shrug, well-aware that it wasn’t an argument worth getting into and finished the last of the dishes, draining the sink and running a steady stream of cold water over the cut before she dabbed it dry with a paper towel. “Fragile human I may be,” she quipped readily, “but I’ve had worse battle-wounds than those delivered by wicked ceramic cups in the throes of death. The dishware may have the battle, but I promise the war is mine.” She raised a mischievous eyebrow flashed a lopsided smirk; distraction was an ever-welcome thing, and though she might never make indication of it, she was indebted to both men.

For even if she was currently not particularly welcoming the entrance of Moonlight Sonata into her arguably already-overtaxed brainspace, at least she was able to ignore what was issuing from the other room now. Speaking of which, it might be worthwhile to figure out exactly who it was that produced that particular piece. “So Shades, Vageryn rope you into this happy little organization, or what?”

Nah. Shades wasn’t going to cut it, but she’d prefer to reserve judgment on exactly what he should be called until she knew more than the fact that he was likely a hunter like her and also likely addicted to Nocturne as she was. That series of deductions was nothing more complicated than the fact that he was older than most Slayers ever got and didn’t walk like one. The Nocturne thing was a damn guess, really, but Hunters didn’t live so log in this business without a little help either, and damn if he didn’t remind her just a touch of her father ten years ago.

That was going to be a problem, she could already sense it, but it sure as hell wasn’t his fault and she wasn’t going to make him suffer for it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilde Bernhardt Character Portrait: Nathanial "Nate" Winters Character Portrait: Raven Aleister Character Portrait: Ginger (Gin) Parker
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Not knowing how long she had been playing, Ginger forced herself to stop. The repetition of the same melody over and over began wearing on his mind and she backed off, the piano bench skidding loudly on the wooden floor, then leaving her in silence as she twisted pieces of her hair together in her fingers. The grief still lingered, thoughts churning once happy memories into dark longings, but she had dealt with such for two years now. Though it was never easy, she had grown used to needing to ignore them.

She found her bag and eventually made her way back up to the main part of the mansion, hearing voices and figuring she had discovered the kitchen at last. Hovering outside the door, she heard the accent of that man from earlier, his sunglasses flashing in his mind's eye. She reasoned that she had only been upset and confused, irritation always twisting her judgements of people, hiking up her annoyance with human kind itself as whole. So, exhaling once and hoping her face wasn't still pink or puffy from crying, she pushed her dark hair over her shoulder and stepped inside.

Three figures were there and she glanced over each one quickly, hardly taking in details other than confirming that the sunglasses man was indeed among them. She dropped her bag at the edge of the seats, then took one, and stared at her fingers for a moment. There had been no greeting to her arrival.

So she lifted her dark eyes, suddenly realizing that her makeup was probably smudged around her eyes like a raccoon. But she didn't care much. Maybe a little. But that was the superficial girl inside of her longing to be in high school again and on the cheer squad and popular and pretty and...

She pressed her lips tightly together, forcing her old self away.

"So...what is there to eat around this dump?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilde Bernhardt Character Portrait: Ingrid Bowman Character Portrait: Nathanial "Nate" Winters Character Portrait: Raven Aleister Character Portrait: Ginger (Gin) Parker
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“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Hilde replied easily to the older man’s question. “The retirement package may be a hole six feet in the ground, but I have great dental.” As if to prove it, she grinned, a flash of pristine teeth, then snickered, which probably ruined the whole faux-vanity thing she was going for. Nobody with white lines slicing up their face could be too concerned with their outward appearance unless they wanted to drive themselves crazy. Hilde knew she wasn’t ugly, but in all honesty, it wasn’t the preferred aesthetic, especially when half her colleagues looked like models.

She was legitimately intrigued by the fact that this ‘contractor’ proclaimed himself also a craftsman, and if there were any credibility to that claim (the calluses and wear patterns on his clothing said yes), she might have a name for him yet. Good news, in her world, but she was prevented from inquiring further when another person entered the room. A single sweep of her eyes was sufficient- red puffy eyes, she’s recently cried, calluses are very new, so amateur. If she can survive with no formal training, she’s a Slayer. Scuffing on boots- they’re her favorites, or her only ones. Wanderer. Sweatshirt’s too loose for a woman who knows how to find jeans that fit so closely. Probably not hers, designed for a male most likely. Father, brother, boyfriend? Doesn’t matter- for her to gather quite a bit of information, but she wasn’t terribly concerned, and so she didn’t bother with more than that.

Choosing to completely ignore the fact that this woman had been weeping and was probably also the one responsible for the piano song (that was a simple process of elimination), she fixed her with an incredulous look. “Dump? Princess, if this is a dump, I’d hate to see the castle you came from.” Untrue, actually; there was no way this girl was from that much money, but then the point remained the same. Of course, now she was requesting food, and perhaps Hilde should have said ‘you want to eat, you make it yourself,’ but she didn’t because she loved to cook and it prevented her from having to look at the increasingly-large population of the room. This was good, because when she looked at people, she observed them, and that could grow almost as tiresome as the music she heard simultaneously.

So instead, she shrugged. “Eggs, pancakes, or waffles?” She considered poking at Damages until he volunteered to help, because his social anxiety was showing and he could probably do with a distraction, but frankly she had no idea if he even knew which end of a spatula was which, so she decided against it. Ten minutes later, Ginger’s breakfast of choice was in front of her and Boss-Lady was walking in through the doorway.

“Why not?” Hilde replied to the question. “It’s a big happy family bonding moment.” The fact that one of them had tear-smudged makeup, one was clearly uncomfortable, and one was by his own admission simply a ‘contractor’ and not a member of this messed-up little organization was not lost on her, and her deadpan conveyed that perhaps as well as any intonation would have. Still, she put the kettle back on the burner and set it to heat. Not much point in doing anything else. She’d actually been working with Ingrid long enough to know how the woman took her tea, and also long enough that they’d both understand that Hilde would make it because she wanted to, and not because she was happy being cast as some kind of domestic servant. It was almost… friendly, that way.

She’d long ago resigned herself to the fact that almost was the best she was ever going to manage. Almost a friend, almost a concert pianist, almost as good as a Slayer.

Almost someone her father would have been proud of. Almost someone she was proud to be.

Almost.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilde Bernhardt Character Portrait: Ingrid Bowman Character Portrait: Vageryn Character Portrait: Nicholas McGraw Character Portrait: Nathanial "Nate" Winters Character Portrait: Raven Aleister Character Portrait: Ginger (Gin) Parker
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#, as written by Dalmar
Ingrid sipped her tea while observing her charges. It was nice to see them together like this, even if it was just by chance. The more they hung out together, the stronger they would become. The bond between warriors could be a powerful friendship and if her intuition was correct, they were going to need each other more than ever, in the near future. There was something in air, a shift in the wind was about to take place and it sent a chill down her spine. Vageryn had always been a keen observer of the world around him, but lately he'd been spending every waking moment following underground world events. His drive to acquire more Slayers and Hunters was worrying. When it was just the two of them, they were more than enough to handle what the city could throw at them. The Slayers did their part and they did theirs. Hell, she wondered if Vageryn even needed her? Never in her life had she met anyone with his skill and ability. Though now that she thought about it, she couldn't recall the last time he went on a hunt.

As she stared at her cup, lost in her thoughts, another thought occurred to her. Vageryn referred to them as a family, but weren't they just people with the same goals living under one roof? She knew Vageryn intimately, but really knew nothing about the people who followed her orders. Was a leader supposed to know their troops in a personal way, or was her job just to trust in their ability? What did they think of her? Vageryn would scold her if he knew she was having thoughts like this, but despite her actions out in the field, she was very much concerned with the weight of her position. What did he see in her exactly?

>><><<
The sound of a gong rang through the lavishly decorated brothel. One by one women that were a true feast for the eyes lined up before the potential client, each adorned in an identical outfit, each wearing their best smile, but neither of them betraying their desire. Their eyes glistened when they saw the man standing in the foyer. A high roller they called him, a man of wealth and apparently very fine tastes. Men like him often came during the early hours to be discrete. They were often people of high position, lawyers, doctors and politicians, even a few religious types. This man was familiar to some of the girls, but they never fit his exotic tastes. Oddly enough, he preferred the company of the Madam, but on occasion he would choose one of the more exotic girls. The girls waited patiently as the client looked them over, a few of them blushing when he got close. The man was certainly easy on the eyes, his features were almost other worldly, masculine yet angelic.

The Madam walked into the foyer wearing an exquisite burgundy Victorian Gown. A string of pearls ringed her neck and an imitation ruby ring adorned her right, third finger. A woman of regal manner and beauty, she believed in taking care of herself and expected the same of her girls. Believing in a healthy diet and an equal appetite for life, she had aged well. Only the most critical of eyes could spot the fact that she was a woman of fifty. With the grace of a duchess she approached her long time friend. “Mr Arn, a pleasure to have you once again, in this fine establishment.”

“The pleasure is all mine Madam,” he said with a bow. “You look lovely as always Olivia.”

“Girls, this man is not a client, he is a friend. Treat him well.”

“Yes Madam,” they said in unison.

“Do any of my girls strike your fancy?”

Vageryn walked over to one of the girls and greeted her with a smile. “Who is this ravishing beauty before me?”

“My name is Tatyana, but most of my clients call me Ebony Honey.”

Without taking his eyes off Tatyana, he said, “I'll take her.”

Olivia clapped her hands signaling the other girls to leave. “What's your pleasure this morning?” she asked him.

“Bondage.”

A sequel of glee escaped the lips of his pick along with the words “Baby, you really know how to pick em'. I am going to rock your world.”

“Wonderful. I'll leave you two to it then,” Olivia said as Ebony, led Vageryn to the 'dungeon'. “That girl has no idea what she's in for.”

:/=
Ebony laid on the silk canopy bed, her wrists and ankles bound to the bed posts with satin rope. Vageryn was tightening the last rope, much to her pleasure; he'd be a fun one. “Are you secure? You can't escape?”

Tatyana feigned pulling on the ropes. “I can't escape," she said in mock defeat.

“Don't play games, really try. If you can escape, I'll reward you.”

Ebony raised an eyebrow. “I see.” This time she pulled hard against her bonds, but they didn't budge. Damn, this guy ties really good knots. Time to surprise him. With increased effort she pulled against the ropes, jerking the bed in the process, but still they held. What the hell? Why can't a I break them?

“Come on! Break free!”

“I... I cant! You tied them too well.”

“I see. So even your vampiric strength can't help you?”

Alarm bells started going off in her head, she needed to flee, but she was bound completely. Realizing she was going nowhere, she stopped struggling and stared at the ceiling. “Fuck. Let a Slayer get the drop on me. I knew there was something off about you. Damn my libido. So what are you planning to do to me... Slayer?” The last word was said with bitter distaste. “

“It's simple.” Vageryn grabbed a chair and sat in it casually before continuing. “I'm going to ask you two questions and you are going to be very fourth coming with the answers. If you refuse to cooperate, you'll experience a world of terror like you've never known.”

Ebony struggled futilely against the ropes again. “I can't tell you anything, he'll kill me.”

“Who? I assure you, he will know nothing of this encounter. The seal I used will prevent your master from knowing anything. I'll tell you what. I'll sweeten the deal. If you cooperate, I'll let you go, unmolested.”

Seal? ...Those little caresses! Clever bastard, but also intriguing. “Everything inside me is telling me to flee, but there is this feeling that you are a man of your word. I like the letting go part, but not so sure about...”

“It's not going to happen.”

“Damn. Fine, ask your questions.”

“Excellent. Now, who is your Master and what are your coven's plans?”

“My Master is Gavin, he's an Elite. I think he's 1800yrs old. We have no real plans. We're being kept in check by a powerful Elite rumored to be the oldest. He has some plan for the world, but we don't know what it is. We don't really want any part of it either. We have a good system in place. Why screw it up?”

“I see.”

“You look disappointed. I'm not as important as you thought?”

“No. When I saw that you maintained much of your human appearance without the need for a strong illusion, I knew your master was an Elite, but Gavin is no threat.” Pausing for a moment, “It was every thing you know...right?”

“Yes. I'm not about to fuck with you. My Master's memories flow through the blood in my veins and he fears you like the Dalaks fear The Doctor.”

“I'm sorry?”

“Don't you watch television?”

“Er, not usually.”

“Google it. Now, are you going to let me go?”

Vageryn stood up from the seat and walked over to the bed then removed the seals from the bonds around her wrists. With both hands free, she quickly embraced him, pulling him into a kiss; it was a short but forceful one and she knew better than to let it linger. Please don't kill me. “Sorry. I just had to have a taste.” Vageryn removed the rest of her bonds without a word, then headed for the door.

When he reached the door he turned back to face her. “Tell Gavin to watch his back.”

“The Slayer is concerned for my Master? Or was that a threat?”

“If I were a Slayer, it could be taken as such; if I were a Slayer.” Vageryn left the room leaving Ebony with a puzzled expression. Olivia met him in the hall with cell phone in hand, ready to dial the clean up crew. “That won't be necessary. Ebony will continue her services here. She won't be a problem.”

Thank you Vageryn. I'm glad it went well. I honestly didn't believe she was a danger. It's nice to know they aren't all monsters.”

“They are monsters Olivia, but they're not all evil. True evil exists, but the modern world has yet to experience it. They throw around the word easily enough, but they have no idea what it means.”

Setting

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Character Portrait: Raven Aleister
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Aleister nodded to Hilde with a quick grin of his own. It was nice to see a sense of humour in an organisation purposed to hunt and kill monsters.

Feeling his usual chipper self--at least, usual insofar as his habit was concerned--Aleister grew more delighted as the Harbingers slowly trickled into the room. There was no formal ceremony to greet him as a new recruit, just a brief, business-like tour courtesy of the Red Menace, so it was nice to get to see those with whom he would be working for the next... well, he would probably continue working under Vageryn's watchful eye until the day he died. At any rate, based on the dispositions and demeanours of the other inhabitants of Arn Manor, Aleister gathered situations like this one were few and far between, and he considered himself lucky to be a part of one so quickly in his new career. Personal introductions would come at their own pace, but for now he could attain some measure of understanding of the group dynamics at play with this lot.

One thing he didn't need this little breakfast club to understand was the air of mild trepidation the underlings seemed to have around Ingrid. It wasn't terribly obvious, like she was exuding some inexorable stench from which the others were actively trying to hide; rather, it was this sense that everyone in the room was pointedly aware of her every movement. It took a little while longer, perhaps because of Aleister's previous interactions with Ingrid, but eventually he noticed the same treatment towards Nathaniel. If he were looking just at Hilde, he'd write it off as her apparent knack for studying people--it would take a right plonker to miss the almost cybernetic examination she made of him upon first seeing him--but others were doing it as well. Inwardly Aleister shrugged; one of the unfortunate perks of being a Slayer, he guessed: everyone paid attention to you. In a way, it was nice. Fewer people paying attention to him.

At the very least, Ingrid seemed to be too engrossed in her own thoughts to accord him any more admonishing glares.


Wesley Pratchett sat silently and stone-still in the back seat of the cab. The only words he had spoken since departing from the manor were instructions for where to take him. The cabbie was respectfully acknowledging Wesley's privacy and keeping his eyes and ears focused on the world outside the vehicle. In the dim silence of the back, Wesley merely stared down at the book in his lap. It was open to the same page as when Vageryn had handed it to him.

Raziel's Tablets... the Tree of Knowledge... The vampires are already moving. What do they know? What have they found? The implications... As his first movement in twenty minutes, Wesley wiped a hand over his forehead and back along to the base of his skull, where it lingered a moment before languidly dropped back to his side. At the same time, he let out a brief, worried huff.

"We're here," the cabbie said in a strange European accent, breaking both the silence and Wesley's trance.

"Hmm?" Wesley looked out the window and saw the small private airport where a small private jet was waiting for him. The sky had darkened, and a light drizzle had started; Wesley hadn't even noticed. It was certainly an ominous atmosphere for his business. "Oh, right. What do I owe you?" His gazed remained fixed on the white jet in the background.

"One thousand roubles," the cabbie said matter-of-factly.

Wesley snapped back around, confusion besetting his pale features. "What?"

The cabbie barked a quick and hearty laugh, then threw a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the digital metre in the back. "Lighten up, my friend! This weather will get the best of you."

Wesley forced a cheap smile as he examined the metre. He pulled a couple notes from his wallet and handed them over. "All yours, mate." The cabbie nodded his gratitude as Wesley stepped out, then pulled away.

The Watcher tucked the book into his jacket and clutched it protectively. It was a gesture to protect the tome from the rain, but it represented so much more than that. A pilot in a black uniform came out of the nearby control house to greet him.

"Ready for take-off, sir?"

Wesley nodded. "Right. Back to London."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilde Bernhardt Character Portrait: Ingrid Bowman Character Portrait: Vageryn Character Portrait: Nathanial "Nate" Winters Character Portrait: Raven Aleister
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#, as written by Dalmar
Now that was odd. Vageryn wasn't normally the worrying kind; he cared about the team of course, but they were well trained and then capable of taking care of themselves. Saying he had a bad feeling was cause for concern. Ingrid wasn't sure what to think at the moment. Their enemy could only be one of two things right? After tightening her boots and zipping up her suit, she confronted him on the matter.

“You have a bad feeling?” she said poking her head into the study.

Turning away from the computer, Vageryn leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “Did you see the news this morning?”

“No, why?”

“This morning there was a mass shooting at a college campus, multiple victims were taken to the hospital; the same hospital you'll be investigating. The gunman was found dead in an alley with his throat ripped out; there was very little blood at the scene.”

“Vampires.”

“It certainly looks that way, but what use would they have for mercenaries or hit-men? Why have them shoot up a college campus? Something isn't right, there is nothing to gain from it...yet, it's no coincidence that the same hospital the victims were taken to has gone dark. I don't like it. I feel like I'm sending you in blind.”

Ingrid walked over to him, placed her hands on his then leaned in and kissed him. “We'll be okay. We're trained to handle just about anything so don't worry.” Standing up straight, she adjusted her holsters then turned to leave. Stopping at the door she said, “You know, you could always come along.”

“My place is here Ingrid, we've talked about this.”

“It was just a suggestion. You have to stop running eventually you know... or is it hiding?”

“Aren't you supposed to be leading your team?” With that said, Vageryn turned back to his computer screen.

Ingrid met up with the others in the garage though she didn't see Ginger with them. Remembering how exhausted the poor girl looked earlier, she figured she must be sleeping. Perhaps it was for the best. The young woman had only just arrived and was hit with this morning's bombshell; she needed time to acclimate and the rest would do her good. “Right then, our destination is Pandora General. We're pretty much going in blind, so we'll assess the situation when we get there. For now, we stick together... and no heroics.”

:/=
Tatyana rushed into Gavin's office. “You are not going to believe what happened to me this morning.” When no response came from the back facing chair, she started over. “Look I'm sorry I missed you birthday celebration, but I had other clients. I can still dance for you though.”

The chair slowly turned around, but it was not Gavin in the seat. “Does this dance involve you in various stages of undress throughout?” Lindsey said with a wry smile.

“Lindsey?”

“In the flesh. Now I believe you were about to dance?”

“Don't flatter yourself.”

“Wouldn't dream of it. Now what has you rushing in here the way you did?”

Tatyana thought for a moment and was visibly shaken by the lack of details. No matter how many clients she had, she remembered them all; their faces, their sent what they liked and disliked, even their taste. Yet now that she tried to recall the meeting her mind was blank. “I...I'm sorry I can't.”

“Stop.” Lindsey left his seat with the expedience of a cat pouncing on its prey. Within the blink of an eye he was circling the confused woman, his right elbow resting in his left hand, right index finger and thumb upon his chin. Then he stopped and gripped her chin, turning her head side to side, his piercing blue eyes probing her mocha ones. “Remarkable, there isn't even a trace of the meeting. What was the message he gave you?”

“Message? ...Yes, the message. Gavin should watch his back.” Shaking her head free from his grip, she put her hand to her forehead. “What happened to me?”

“Hypnosis, if I had to guess; a powerful one at that. It seems your visitor was well versed in the ways of the mind, most notably vampire minds...very curious.” Before he could dwell on it further, his phone rang. “Hold on,” covering the receiver he turned looked at Tatyana, “You should get some rest my dear. When she left, he returned to the call. “Excellent, if they survive, follow them. ...No don't engage them, only tell me where they go.”

<<>>
All Nightmare Long

Pandora General, one of the top hospitals in the country was home to the brightest doctors and state of the art medical facilities. Day in and day out patients would come and go each having been treated for whatever ails them. From mild to severe every emergency was handled with the utmost care. Be it the burn clinic or the OBGYN, patients felt they were in the best hands available. The lobby itself was a place of relaxation with a soothing fountain and comfortable leather sofas, there were magazines on end tables as up to date as donations would allow and even some bookshelves filled with classic literature. Pandora General was a place people could be comfortable in; for the Harbingers, it was anything but.

Death lingered in the air, invading their senses. As they looked around the room, however there were no signs of foul play. The lobby was pristine, indeed it appeared to have been recently cleaned, yet there were no signs of life anywhere around them; like they had all vanished. They began to search the area, but found little. “What the hell is going here?” Ingrid's inquiry wasn't directed at anyone, but the others were no doubt thinking the same thing. As they moved into the main hallway an audible thud was heard behind them. They turned to see what it was and saw a woman lying on the floor, she appeared to have hit her head and she was barely conscious.

“Help us.” The woman's words were barely a whisper. Ingrid motioned for the others to stay back as she cautiously approached the young woman. Upon closer inspection, the woman appeared to be in her early twenties, she had dirty blond hair and was garbed in a common green gown often given to patients. Ingrid drew one of her pistols. Before she could pull the trigger the creature was upon her, lifting her up by the throat and baring her fangs with a loud hiss. Within the blink of an eye Ingrid found herself in a tangled heap of arms, legs and various weapons. The Harbingers picked themselves up only to see their prey had vanished.

Ingrid looked at the others, “the eyes had a violet glow to them. Spread out and shoot on sight. I have a feeling we're in for a long night.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilde Bernhardt Character Portrait: Ingrid Bowman Character Portrait: Nathanial "Nate" Winters Character Portrait: Raven Aleister Character Portrait: Ginger (Gin) Parker
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“Drawbacks? Was that supposed to be a pun, or are you just ridiculous unintentionally?” For all that the words themselves were a bit on the rude side, Hilde was smiling, and she nodded amicably enough to the suggestion that she make her way down to the workshop at some later date.

Damages came by then, and, unable to say what she properly wanted to, she just offered a lopsided grin. “’Course you won’t,” she said easily, shrugging as if it were the least important thing in the world. “You’re a damn good Slayer. Nothing changes that.”

As things turned out, they were all headed to Pandora General together, rather than taking separate rides, which didn’t bother her at all. The new girl was conspicuously missing, but the Scandanavian woman offered up no comment on this fact. It wasn’t really any of her business, and frankly she was kind of surprised that Damages was here, not that she could stand to look at him for too long. There was something so very raw about his pain, as though it were pouring out of his eyes and his skin from somewhere deep in his soul, intent on choking her with its familiarity. Or she would have thought so, if she believed in things like souls anymore.

The trip itself passed in silence, more or less, save the occasional muttered invective on Hilde’s part when someone cut her off in traffic or failed to accelerate with adequate celerity when a light turned green. That said, she had them there in good time, pulling illegally into a handicapped spot to save them time getting to the door. It wasn’t like anyone was going to care.

Checking that the magazine on her pistol was full (it was, obviously), she clicked it back into place and disengaged the safety. She may well prefer bows and arrows, or getting up close and personal, but she was no fool, and it may very well be the case that this one turned out to be more slaughter than hunt.

The lobby of the hospital bespoke both moderate wealth and an abundance of good taste, and the thought distantly that it was a shame it and much of the rest of the place might be a shambles by the time they got through with it. She’d never been fond of hospitals or doctors much, but even so… her treads were soft on the linoleum, and her only reply to Boss-Lady’s rhetorical question was to shake her head, her ponytail swishing back and forth with the motion. They likely wouldn’t know any more about this situation until they were in the very thick of it, up to their elbows in blood and gore.

When they came upon the woman in the hallway, her suspicions were immediately raised. “I wouldn’t-“ she started, but Boss-Lady had waved at them to stay back, and Hilde figured she’d reached much the same conclusion. When the girl attacked, she wasn’t even surprised enough to flinch, though what Ingrid said next did alarm her somewhat.

“Violet?” She shot a glance at Tinker. He and she would know the most about that, after all. “You mean someone’s been dosing these poor bastards with Nocturne?” That couldn’t bode well. You had to be in pretty good shape to make effective use of the stuff. It was a highly-dangerous, volatile compound, and just introducing it into someone’s system without care for preparation or dosage wasn’t done. It was becoming obvious why, and the huntress gritted her teeth together.

She jerked her head towards the left corridor, indicating that she’d take it, and this time, she really did engage the safety on her firearm and withdraw the bow. It was quieter, and she didn’t need every nasty in the proximity being alerted to her presence immediately. The axe at her waist and the machete with it were comforting weights, as well, and she’d always have options.

As always, the question was whether those would be enough to keep her alive.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Ingrid Bowman Character Portrait: Raven Aleister
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#, as written by Dalmar
Ingrid nodded when Nathaniel decided to follow Hilde. It would've been her own suggestion as well. Going solo in this place didn't seem like a very good idea, despite their skill alone, they'd be stronger in teams. The vampire they encountered a moment ago was a testament to that. Vampires were fast, but it moved on the same level as an elite; this didn't bode well for them. “Aleister, you're with me, we'll take the east wing. And remember,” she said before the team parted, “stay in contact.” The two moved down the hallway with a cautious pace, every so often seeing movement out the corner of their eyes. More then a few times she trained her guns on an empty space, she could have sworn was only moments ago occupied. “They're toying with us, what fun,” she said with a smirk. You check the left room. I'll take the right” Leaning up against the wall, Ingrid readied her guns then spun into the room. With quick reflexes she marked each location within, even checking the ceiling. Vampires weren't the best climbers, but their jump was remarkable. Again she saw the quick movements out the corner of her eye and again nothing upon dead-on sight. Leaving the room, she met Raven in the hallway. “Anything?” The hunter shook his head and they moved further down the hall.

Before they could enter the next set of rooms they felt a rush of air, as if something had run past them at great speed. When she turned to confer with Aleister he wasn't there, instead he had moved a good five feet down the hall. A vampire had seized him from behind and was using him as a human shield. “I wouldn't do anything rash if I were you.” The creature spoke with eloquence and clarity, a common trait for vampires, but nearly unheard of for fledglings. In fact most newly turned vampires couldn't speak at all.

“To whom am I speaking?”

“The master of the vessels.”

Vampire masters, were said to have a powerful influence over their sires, but this was the first she heard of, (or seen for that matter) this level of control. The fact that he used a plural form the word made her think that the others were experiencing a similar encounter. “So you have my Hunters do ya? Now what?”

“A feisty one I see. I would expect nothing less from the daughter of Minerva. You are a striking image of her, but I didn't come to admire The Goddess of Death. No, I'm merely an observer. This is a test you see...for a new breed of Vampire. If you survive the night, the rising of the sun will grant you freedom. If not, then you simply were not worthy of being my adversary. Will the Harbingers live up to the legend, or will your moment of glory be a fleeting spark? Now before we begin, have you any questions?”

Ingrid stared at the puppet vessel holding Aleister, giving the hunter a wink she trained a single gun on her target. “Just one. How many vampires hold my team hostage?”

“Three.”

“And you control all of them?”

“That's two, but yes.”

“Then a word of wisdom. A Spark can become a raging inferno.” With her last word she pulled the trigger. The super heated round entered the vampire's cranium and immediately went to work. Within moments the eyes began to melt in their sockets as an inner fire consumed the creature's brain. Melting flesh continued to travel down the body igniting it further. Ingrid pulled Aleister out the way lest he be caught in the blaze as well; his face looked ashen in the light of the blaze. Ingrid might have felt the same had she not been used to it. The others were experiencing a similar feat, as the influence of the Master was so great that (if only for a moment ) he felt he was indeed in an inferno. The sensation was so real the very thought of it caused the others under his control to spontaneously combust.

Placing her hand to her ear she contacted the others. “Is everyone okay?” When she received confirmation she moved on. As she stepped over the pile of ashes formerly known as a vampire her attention turned to her partner. “This is not the time to dawdle. All hell is about to break loose.” A new message came over the com, it was from Nickolas; he'd arrived late, but at least he was here. “Good of you to join us Nickolas, feel free to back up either Hilde and Nathaniel or Aleister and I. You'll find Hilde in the west wing and I'm in the east wing. Do not venture alone.”