Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?
darkkenchild is the Head Admin here at No Books. He enjoys long walks on the beach and debating the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, so any questions about your character , the plot of No Books, and/or how magic works on the site, please do not hesitate to ask him.
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It had been a crazy few months, signing pacts and meeting demons. Multiple demons. Well, not that Elizabeth really thought of Chrys that way. Chrys was nice, a little bit strange, but she didn’t seem to possess the same malevolence as her brother and...whatever it was that Ron actually was. After her encounter with Ron, Lissi had started poking and prying for information. Ultimately she wanted to keep whatever it was from getting loose and doing what Rhodium had done...or worse. Lissi’s stomach still churned uncomfortably when she thought back to that day.
She had spent the better part of the last few weeks buried in books and talking to folks, tirelessly looking for answers. But all the good intentions in the world were useless without the proper tools. There was one person in the Valley Lissi knew who had to have some insight. Ron had, after all, been able to “smell” Chrys on her.
And so it was Elizabeth found herself on Chrys’s front porch early one weekend morning. Was it too early to come calling? Did beings like Chrys sleep? Did any of it matter given that an entity like Ron was looming in the High Umbra, waiting for Darcy to pass out so he could go on a joyride again? Lissi knocked on the front door, not quite frantically but with a sense of urgency and purpose that would not be easily dismissed. “Chrys? Chrys are you home? It’s me, I need your help.”
Chrys always felt somewhat awkward at night. She knew that Crystal would be sleeping, at least part of the night. Which meant that to keep up appearances, Chrys could not be out of the house at night very often without arousing suspicion from the neighbors. She could draw the curtains though and move freely about the house, but that still restricted her options considerably. There was only so many Netflix to watch and only so many books she could read at a time. So that meant she took up many hobbies.
The most recent new hobby? Bonsai. Chrys liked plants. She liked animals more, but she had experienced only heartache in her attempts to own a cat. An entire room, the largest ‘bedroom’ upstairs in fact, had been converted into a greenhouse. It was in that room, under the grow lights and surrounded by ferns, that Chrys sat and carefully trimmed her dozen bonsai when she heard the knock.
Knowing from experience that her neighbors thought it strange to come to the door immediately when knocking at this time of night, Chrys sat back and waited. She slowly counted out exactly 317 seconds before standing up and adjusting her camisole and pajama pants to look properly disheveled. Counting out 23 more seconds, she walked down the stairs with a carefully calculate pace to resemble a half-awake shuffle. Taking a deep breath and taking on bleary-eyed expression and pulling open the door…
...only to see Lissi on the other side. Immediately dropping the act, Chrys’s face brightened. “Lissi! Come in, come in!” She smiled and gently grabbed Lissi’s wrist and pulled her inside. “Strange time to be visiting, but I’m happy to see you!” Quickly, but quietly, she closed the door to avoid suspicion from the neighbors if any were looking. “What brings you by so early? I thought people your age tend to sleep later than this? Is that wrong? Is something wrong?”
The sound of the doorknob turning had Elizabeth inhaling deeply and exhaling a sigh of relief. Chrys was home, good. The being’s bright expression was returned with a smile that faded in mild surprise as she was pulled into the house by her wrist. It would seem Chrys still had a few things to learn about having guests over, but that was a matter for another time and Lissi certainly wasn’t going to hold it against her. “Yes, most people my age tend to sleep in later on the weekends.” She hardly missed a beat, satisfying Chrys’s need for understanding before continuing. ”I’m sorry I had to come so early. I wasn’t sure if you slept or not, but this is important…” A quick once over and Elizabeth could plainly see that she was wearing pajamas...maybe she did sleep after all.
“It’s...it’s going to take a while to explain.” Okay, where to start. The beginning, probably. Her voice was full of concern, and her hands moved as she spoke, enhancing the story with well timed gestures. “So, I met a sleeper from out of town who was here looking for a missing friend. He didn’t seem to know much about magic, totally put off by it actually. We got to talking and I decided to help him look for his friend.” It seemed convenient and reasonable to leave out the details regarding the fact that they had broken into the bookstore in order to find information on the Matt and his wife. “So we were getting ready to look at some old tax documentation for addresses and all the sudden the guy goes from joking around to unconscious on the floor. No complaining about being dizzy or anything, just...felled like a tree.”
“So I went to check on him, kind of lifted up one of his eyelids and his eyes were different. Yellow, like a cat’s eyes and he stood up like...well he was being possessed.” She knew that much at least. The memory had been etched into her mind with near perfect detail. “But that’s not really the important part. The thing is…” This was where Lissi finally darkened. ”The...entity possessing the guy called me barabbi, then a diablorist, and then told me it could SMELL one of its little siblings on me..” The last part was enunciated clearly, each syllable clipped and sharp as Lissi quoted the entity directly.
She paused to let that sink in for a long moment before continuing. “It wouldn’t tell me its real name, unsurprisingly, but it said it has gone by Ron before. Do you know anything about it?”
Chrys nodded as Elizabeth confirmed her understanding. So this was atypical for someone such as Elizabeth to be here at this hour. This confirmed both Chrys’s understanding and Crystal’s memories. The implication being that someone or something had greatly upset Elizabeth and that realization caused Chrys’s eyes to narrow slightly in annoyance. She didn’t like when things upset people she cared for and she decided right then and there that she would do everything she could to comfort Elizabeth and deal with the issue.
Before she could spend long on that train of thought, Chrys was distracted by Elizabeth’s implied question regarding sleep. Noticing the other woman scanning her form up and down Chrys realized that her current dress was misleading. “I do not require sleep no… This? This is the result of confused neighbors seeing me fully dressed at all hours. An attempt to alleviate suspicion and strengthen my Cover if I need to answer the door.” She smiled. “I mean, I can sleep and do enjoy doing so, but I feel that doing so in a time when I could be doing other things is not ideal… Not that I mean to imply that it is wrong to sleep... “ She bit her lip, realizing that her statements could easily be seen as insulting. “...um. Yeah.”
Barely missing a beat, Chrys was back on on topic and trying to ignore the awkward faux pas of moments ago. “There is no rush. It is the weekend and I have no particular plans. I finished my grading shortly after returning home…” She began walking into her slightly-too-clean living room and gestured at the couch. “...but if it will take time, can I offer you some tea?” Memories confirmed that this was a normal thing to offer a friend who came to visit. She punctuated her question with a thumb lightly pointed to the kitchen. As she stepped through the doorway and put a pot on for tea for herself, she made sure to stay in sight and maintain eye contact with Elizabeth while she did so. It created a strange scene, as her hands performed the motions without even a glance at what she was doing.
Instead her attention was still focused on Elizabeth’s story. She nodded occasionally to remind that she was listening (she had quickly learned after donning this Cover that failing to perform such reminders led many to thinking one was not paying attention). “Well that isn’t normal, is it…” Chrys reacted with a curious expression, only moments after remembering to add a touch of concern to it, when she heard about Elizabeth’s friend collapsing. “Was he okay?” She asked before hearing the follow up description. “Oh, that’s strange…”
Chrys came back into the room, two cups with hot water in one hand (not by the handles and holding them as if they were not hot) and a small basket of various tea flavors in the other. She set the basket and one of the cups before Elizabeth before plucking a black mint tea out of the basket for herself and steeped it while she listened to what the creature had told Elizabeth. She still nodded to show her attention, but her expression was darkened with concern. Finally when the story was over, Chrys took a deep breath.
“Well… Where to start?” She steeped her tea a bit as she considered her words. “Well, first of all. Barabbi. A strange word that people use. It isn’t wrong to refer to you as such, but it would be inaccurate.” She shrugged. “It is an archaic term, used by your people…” She paused, clarifying. “...magi that is, used as a synonym for ‘diabolist’ or ‘demon worshiper.’ Again, it isn’t exactly incorrect, but misleading in this context. Some would call me a demon certainly, but not in the sense that most magi would use it. The demons to which such terms refer are terrestrial spirits, natural and endemic to this reality, if not commonly accepted or welcomed as such. Parasitic creatures feeding off mortals. While my kind can perform many of the same actions and roles as these creatures, we are not native to this Realm…”
She sighed. “That said, demons are no more able to sense my kind than you. That is, they need the support of a Herald to sense other Heralds.” She chewed her lip nervously as she removed her teabag and placed it on the saucer carefully. “I fear that this means whatever possessed your friend is a Herald, or a pact-bound of one…” She was now chewing her lip hard enough that a bit of blood welled up under her teeth. “...and unfortunately, I suspect that I do know who this ‘Ron’ may be…” She trailed off without immediately elaborating, but she looked extremely worried.
Lissi hadn’t exactly gotten used to Chrys’s awkwardness, but she now understood why there was a strange, almost uncanny valley feeling to Chrys’s mannerisms. It didn’t seem to trouble her in the slightest. “I understand.” She said with a gentle smile. “Sleeping is nice, but I could get so much more done if I didn’t have to do it.” Had this been solely a social call Elizabeth might have pried a little further, curious to know if Chrys dreamt when she slept, but there were more important things to discuss at the moment.
“Yes, please.” Elizabeth nodded, taking Chrys’s unspoken suggestion and settling on the couch. Herald or no, Lissi couldn’t yet find fault in Chrys’s hostessing skills. Well, aside from being dragged inside by the wrist. It was fascinating to watch really, how Chrys was able to work in the kitchen without even looking at her hands. Wrapping up her initial flood of information, she watched as Chrys returned to the room with tea and water. “Thank you.” Elizabeth picked a bag of tea at random, as she had never found a tea so bad as to be unpalatable, and began to steep it in her cup.
“Yeah, I disagreed with the titles, but it didn’t seem interested in arguing semantics and...well, I didn’t want to piss it off.” Elizabeth might have lamented the fact that she didn’t have any title to call Chrys by besides demon or Herald, but she really had no need of a title. She didn’t talk about Chrys to anyone, and it wasn’t solely due to the pact she had signed. She did genuinely like Chrys and certainly didn’t want to cause her any trouble by outing her.
“Your lip is bleeding.” Elizabeth gently pointed out, not entirely sure Chrys would have noticed otherwise. She pulled her teabag from her cup and set it on her saucer as her hostess had a moment earlier. “I’ve tried to learn as much as I could about it, but information is a bit hard to come by. I spoke to a young Werewolf who told me that it used to be...free I guess? Her pack and some magi trapped it in the High Umbra, but it still managed to kill most of them. I saw it stab the man it possessed with a letter opener like it was no big deal…” She hummed thoughtfully, worriedly.
“I asked it why it chose him to possess, and it said something cryptic about people making deals on their deathbed. I guess the guy has brain cancer, but he doesn’t remember signing any pacts or anything.” Elizabeth shrugged. “I just have a really, terrible feeling about all of this. I don’t want this thing to get out, I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. If you know anything about Ron, anything that could help, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Chrys simply nodded with a smile as Elizabeth accepted the tea. It was good to know that her abilities as a hostess were adequate. She did not press that point further, as doing so would seem arrogant or rude. Also, drawing attention away from the topic of Heralds and demons would bring things back to awkward places. Hearing that Elizabeth was not offended, and even wished she could sleep less, made Chrys feel better about her clumsy statements but no less embarassed.
Instead she focused on the topic at hand, and lightly touched a hand to her lips. “Hm? Oh. So I am.” She smiled and laughed lightly, but there was a hint of something strange in her laughter. “I have to be more careful..” A faint wince as she licked the wound showed that it was tender, but her distraction and worry wasn’t gone, just redirected.
“That was probably wise.” She nodded as she sipped her tea. “Semantics are extremely important, especially when dealing with others of my kind, but expedience and immediate safety are more crucial.” Chrys narrowed her eyes and leaned forward, reaching out to grab something out of the air alongside Elizabeth’s head. She plucked and pulled something imperceptible away from the other woman, much like someone pulling a stray hair off a sweater. Then she smiled. “Just need to make sure we don’t get tangled up by inaccurate terminology.”
“I cannot say I am surprised that this ‘Ron’ was able to inflict wounds to his host without feeling the pain. It is very rare for Heralds to feel inessential sensations from their host…” She trailed off with a shudder. “The Elder Ones typically make sure of tht. To keep empathy and distractions are kept to a minimum. The host does not matter to them…” She shook her head at the thought, clearly upset at the thought.
“But a werewolf you say?” Chrys sat back in her chair a bit at that. “Strange creatures. Very strange. Something wholly of this world, but defying the very laws of nature they defend. Creatures untouched by a Herald’s hand, but showing so much Elder handiwork.” She shook her head slightly in fascination as she thought about them. “And you say this werewolf helped to seal away this ‘Ron?’ You are sure she said that it was free and then they trapped it?” There was deep worry and concern in Chrys’s eyes.
“That isn’t good. That isn’t good at all…” Chrys sipped her tea distractedly, a faint tremble to her hands as she did so making the flow uneven and a little bit of liquid splashing down and onto her chest. “That would mean my hopes were incorrect. I suspect that I do know of this ‘Ron’ but not by that name.”
Chrys let that hang for a long moment before continuing. “I will not share the name I know it by… I am sorry, but I cannot. It is too dangerous.” She did not voice it, but Chrys’s tone implied it wasn’t a matter of trust, but biology that made it dangerous. “But I can say that it is very very bad. You see, a decade and an eon ago, depending on how one reckons time, one of the Elder Ones made it to this Realm. It was the only one which made it through, its servants on this plane succeeding in opening the door but only long enough to ensure it came alone. It meant to devour this realm as its kind is wont to do…”
Chrys trailed off. “...but it didn’t. My former master and the other Elder Ones never knew why. The Elder One that made it through should have found itself unopposed and only another Elder can kill, or even harm, an Elder. It was unchallenged for this Realm, but the Realm still stands.” She sighed. “The Elder Ones hate nothing more than the unknown. The unknowable is their stock and trade, but the truly unknown scares them. So the Living City sent Rhodi and me to investigate. All we found was that, somehow, it had been sealed away by mortals. Where? We could not learn. Who? We only learned that magi and wolves and a few others were involved. How? None could tell.”
Chrys shrugged nervously. “I hoped, not then but after my Fall, that somehow the mortals had found a way to kill an Elder One. I hoped humanity had succeeded where countless species in countless Realities had failed, that they had done the impossible. I was wrong.” She sighed. “Still, sealing one away is a rare and mighty feat. But bonds break. Bars bend. And now it is struggling free…” There was real fer in her eyes, but she pushed it down to address Elizabeth’s concern.
“But if it needs a host. There is still a hope.” She smiled weakly. “It isn’t free yet. Elders have more rules than Heralds when in a Realm that isn’t their own. It had to choose a host that was weak and had some sympathetic connection to the conceptual context of the Elder. A person on their deathbed would meet the first requirement, but it wouldn’t be wise… Unless…” She trailed off and sipped her tea in contemplation.
Lissi nodded, because that was why she had drawn attention to Chrys’s lip. In her company it didn’t make a difference, but out in public a bloody lip was sure to raise an eyebrow. Twisting her head to the side she did a double take, straining to see what it was Chrys had grasped for. There was nothing there, nothing she could see at least. She gave Chrys a slightly perplexed look, but otherwise did not stray from the topic at hand.
Chrys’s explanation for Heralds’ lack of empathy made enough sense, and Elizabeth couldn’t say that the idea agreed with her either. Empathy was important; It was grounding. To regularly acting without it was legitimately horrifying. As Chrys continued, she nodded now and again, occasionally attempting a sip of tea that was a bit too hot to drink just yet. “I’m not sure of the details exactly. She seemed to have trouble remembering what happened.” The reasoning for which she still didn’t quite understand.
It was impossible to miss the worry in Chrys’s features, the shaking of her hand and spilling of her tea. The implication made Elizabeth’s heart sink. Here she had still been holding out hope, hoping that Chrys would have all the answers, that Chrys would be able to handle everything with minimal trouble. But no. Chrys was a being who possessed powers incomprehensible to her, and she was clearly distressed. The implication turned Lissi a few shades paler and suddenly tea didn’t sound so appetizing anymore.
She set the cup and saucer down and tried to steel herself for the inevitably bad news that would follow. “I understand, and I don’t hold it against you.” Her encounter with June had made her second guess the value of her ‘research’ and her quest to discover what it was Ron was actually named. The last thing she needed was to create an even bigger problem, and besides, now that she had a few strong leads uncovering names was irrelevant.
The news was bad, real bad, but it was also confusing. It wasn’t that Elizabeth didn’t understand what Chrys was saying, but she didn’t understand how an Elder One could make it to her plane and fail to destroy everything in its path. “It might not be impossible. If not an impossibility then a probable impossibility. And if it’s a probable impossibility that would also make it an improbable possibility.” She shrugged. It was an optimistic way of looking at things, not that it helped much given what they were up against.
“At the very least, if it was sealed away once it can be done again, buy us a few more years to prepare. The Werewolf I spoke to told me of a ghost who might remember how it was done, I’m hoping that when I call him up he might have some answers.” At least that was what Lissi had assumed this old Mr. Joe was.
“Wouldn’t be wise unless what?” Lissi’s curiosity was piqued, of course.
Lissi was a sharp one. It was part of what Chrys liked about the woman. Most would probably shrug off Chrys’s strange little tug at empty air, but not Lissi. She had certainly noticed what Chrys was doing, but clearly didn’t understand why. That was fine. Chrys didn’t need her to understand, so long as the quantum entanglement was removed…
As to Lissi’s question, well Chrys looked at her with slight confusion. “Hm? Oh! I am sorry if I was unclear!” Her skin darkened slightly in a blush that only an unearthly roboform turned English teacher could about indistinct grammar. “I did not mean it was unwise for this Ron to make a pact on the deathbed. That is often the best time to exploit human weakness and fear if one were so inclined…” Her tone made it clear that Chrys was not so inclined. “...but rather that it would be unwise for the human. See… This ‘Ron,’ if he/it is what I think he/it is… He has no power over Life. He could slow Death, but not reverse it..."
Having just thrown a lot of information at Lissi, Chrys didn’t immediately into further exposition. Instead she observed. Lissi was clearly worried and Chrys felt bad about that… She didn’t like making her friend uncomfortable like this, but in this case it was probably good. This was serious stuff, so she should be worried…
Chrys nodded quietly. “That would make sense. Most mortals…” She trailed off and looked worried. “Most… humans... even those who have become more than a Sleeper to use the preferred Mage term… Have trouble grasping the Elder Ones. Even a glimpse can drive someone mad, let alone the long look that fighting back requires.” She sighed lightly. “To forget, even parts, is likely a mercy. It is likely why she is still sane…”
Chrys shrugged. “I cannot say if it is possible, nor can I say it isn’t…” She sighed sadly. “All I can say is that countless worlds and countless peoples have tried and failed… All Heralds know this for a fact...” She smiled, sadly but with just a hint of mischief. “Of course, I also ‘knew’ that no Herald had ever gone Rogue and Fallen and lived to see the next yer dawn and I have survived for near a decade…” She shrugged. “A lie or a fact finally disproven, either way enough to hope…”
“True. If bound once, it can be bound again. No bond is indefinite, and in beings that count their ages in aeons longer than even I can imagine time is meaningless…” She smiled again, a bit more confidently this time. “Then again, it doesn’t have to last an aeon. The rest of human history would more than suffice!” She set down her (mostly) empty tea cup and put her hands together resolutely. “The first step is learning how it was done the first time and if you say that you know the name of the spirit of one of those who were there… We might glean enough to start preparing…”
She paused. “But there is one slightl problem.” She paused, starting to bite her lip nervously but stopping when she realized it was still sensitive. Instead, she merely looked sheepish. “I hope you can summon the spirit. I… uhm… I can’t interact with the dead. At least, not directly. Not magically.” She tugged at the bottom of her camisole nervously. “I can fuel the magic indefinitely, to lessen the strain on others, like any other purview of magic, but I am blind to the world of Death...”
“Ah.” Elizabeth nodded in understanding. “Yeah, it’s unwise for humans to sign pacts in general. It just doesn’t tend to go well for us, ever.” She paused and caught herself, holding up a hand as she realized that what she said had the potential to worry Chrys. “Not that I regret signing our pact, I don’t. It’s just that most people don’t get to sign pacts with benevolent beings.” At least, that was her opinion of Chrys. Making sure to read the terms of agreement in full and not being the sort to lust after power hadn’t hurt her case either.
“I suppose that’s how it works with us. Limited brain power, not enough space in there for concepts like that.” Lissi tapped an index finger against her temple. “Try to shove it all in and it’ll just shunt the sanity out through your ears so it can fit.” She’d read about such things happening more times than she could count, chronicles of magi who thought they could learn and understand such things without consequence. It was a shame really that the individual human mind was ultimately capable of so little in the grand scheme of things.
“The rest of human history sounds like a good goal to me.” Whatever came after humans...well, they could deal with Ron themselves. Elizabeth didn’t finish her tea, her nerves still had her stomach feeling a little off, but that wasn’t going to stop her from calling up a ghost. She paused as Chrys indicated that there may have been a problem. “Oh yes, yes of course. I can summon him and should be able to make him visible to you.” At least theoretically it would work. “Even if you can’t interact with him magically, you should still be able to ask him questions. Assuming he feels like answering questions. I was told he’s a bit crabby, but that’s par for the course when it comes to the restless dead.”
“I think I have everything I’d need to call him…” Her voice trailed off as she reached down to her side and opened her purse. After shuffling around for a moment she pulled out a small fixed-blade knife and a couple small canvas pouches. “Be prepared, that’s the Girl Scout motto.” She smiled, trying to be cheerful in spite of the circumstances. “This shouldn’t take too long, I’ll set my things up here.”
Setting her purse aside, Lissi leaned forward to the coffee table, moving the basket of assorted teas and her teacup aside for a bit of extra space. She placed the fixed blade knife in the center of the table. From one of the pouches she pulled a piece of chalk and began carefully drawing small sigils in concentric circles around the knife. While it was under most circumstances considered rude to draw on other people’s furniture, Lissi figured that considering the dire straits they were in, it wasn’t a big deal. But at least she had the courtesy to use chalk rather than blood.
Once satisfied with her sigils, Lissi returned her chalk to its pouch, tucked it away, and upended the other pouch onto the table. A handful of small bones clattered onto the table. Over the next several minutes she arranged the bones just so, humming quietly to herself as she did so. Dissatisfied with their placement, Elizabeth drew back and squinted at the placement of a couple bones before adjusting their position in relation to the knife almost imperceptibly.
“Alright, let’s do this.” She cracked her knuckles and stretched briefly before settling to focus on the knife in the center of the table. She began quietly at first, muttering an incantation under her breath that grew slightly louder as she proceeded. Her tone gave the distinct impression that she was demanding an audience rather than meekly requesting one. Though, as a rule she preferred to ask, it just didn’t tend to get the kind of results they needed at the moment. The incantation ended with a name, spoken with the conviction necessary for calling up a petulant ghost, “Joseph Hirsch.”
There was nothing worse then getting a call during your stories. Joe had been relatively comfortable and settled in for the night watching WWII documentaries on the History Channel, and then...well, yeah there it was, someone was ringing him from the other side, which was...like the side he was physically at. But it wasn't as though he could let it go to answering machine, this was some higher power shit that just...
"Ugh, are you kidding me?"
He grumbled and cursed, shambling on to his feet, not because he was a zombie, which he was...by some definition that (though remarkably well preserved), but rather because he was a stiff, sore old man the didn't want to get up, but had to. Since that was exactly what he was. He felt the pull again, "Hold on, hold on...I'm coming..."
Middle of the goddamn night, and he was gonna have to go put on pants, never mind strap his broken neck up to seem somewhat presentable and that was just a hassle. Well if some baby necromancer was playing Bloody Mary, he wasn't going to rush none, i'd either add to the suspense or with luck they'd just give up. He walked across town to a little rental house and sighed, not much to look at , but at least this time around it was n't the dorms. With a rap of his knuckles against the door he waited, expression absolutely deadpan as he leaned up against the door frame, hoping that this wasn't for nothing now that he was there. If it was? He was gonna break that mail box or something...i
"I'm not certain that I would use the term 'unwise' about pacts." Chrys sighed lightly. "Certainly it is a system that can be easily abused, mostly by Heralds yes but also by clever mortals. The problem is that so much of a pact's risk or reward depends on the individuals involved and what they are capable of contributing to the deal." She shrugged. "I could not grant one access to Death or its realms any more than a common murderer. Just as Ron could not grant the gift of life to a dying man, only slow Death's progress. It is less a matter of risk and more one of capability and demeanor." She paused for a moment before adding: "However, in this case Ron is certainly the kind of being that a mortal would be unwise to make a deal with..." A self-proclaimed 'God of Chaos' is not the sort to be kind to its pact-bound.
"And do not sell your species short, Lissi." Chrys smiled with a mixture of admonishment and pride. "It is not a matter of limited brain capacity, more one of requesting a fish to climb a tree. You exist in this world. Your species evolved for this universe and its environment, which includes the evolution of the brain." She smiled professorally explaining a concept to a curious student. "The Elder Ones exist outside this realm. They aren't too 'large a concept to comprehend, but rahter one that defies the concept of human thought. They are beings of unreality and unthought and unlogic. They warp reality simply by existing. It is not that humanity is unable to comprehend them, so much as reality itself is unable to cope with their existence on all levels including that of the human mind..."
"Which is not unlike my inability to comprehend Death beyond the most basic levels. The Realm in which I was created..." She paused and laughed as she leaned back and watched Lissi perform her rites and rituals. "...by which I mean Chrysopoeia and not Crystal of course. That Realm had no conception of Death. There was simply no context for Death to exist, let alone be understood. The Living City saw to that..." She trailed off and lapsed into silence as she concentrated on curiously cataloguing what she saw in her memories.
As the rite came to an end, Chrys leaned forward and visually examined the dagger and the chalk symbols. If she was bothered by the chalk she didn't show it and instead simply examined them. Nothing seemed to have happened. "Did it work? From my reading, I expected a translucent figure or..." She was interrupted by a knock at the door. Eyebrows lifting in surprise and confusion, she muttered softly to Lissi, "I am not expecting anyone. One unexpected guest is unusual. Two is worrisome." She stood slowly and adjusted her pyjamas to look appropriate. Simultaneously, on a a barey perceptible Aetheric level, she was loading her limbs with Aether to defend herself if need be. Peering cautiously through the peephole, she saw an old man and looked at Lissi with confusion. She mouthed the words, "are you sure he was dead and not simpy old?'" Then, with a deep breath, she opened the door and greeted the old man. "Hello sir, can I help you with something...?"
Lissi nodded. “I suppose that makes sense, I wasn’t aware mortals could be the ones doing the outmaneuvering.” Despite having only been exposed to literature and pop culture that suggested deals with demons ended with the demons coming out ahead, she was willing to take Chrys’s word for it. She had a feeling that Chrys’s first hand account was a better source of information than Rosemary’s Baby or The Picture of Dorian Gray. When Chrys tried to explain the Elder Ones, even in a vague sense, Lissi had trouble wrapping her mind around the concept. “Unreality, huh. Well at least now I don’t feel so bad about not being able to understand them.” She began her preparations while still listening to Chrys. “No death? Not even like, entropy? Decay?” Because that just sounded weird, weirder than a lot of the stuff in this weird town.
The rite went smoothly enough and Lissi felt a distant tug on her senses. It certainly felt like it worked, but instead of a ghost like Lissi had expected, there was...nothing. Not immediately answering Chrys’s question, Lissi poured over her work, double checking, triple checking for anything that might have caused a strange result or failure. “It...it definitely should have worked, I don’t understand. Yeah, if June was right and Ron killed him…” It just didn’t make sense...unless June had been wrong, but why then did the ritual make her feel as if she had snagged something.
The knock at the door startled a focused Elizabeth and she flinched. “Well it can’t be him, I mean...ghosts can’t knock. I suppose, a wraith might have the power to knock but...why bother?” Elizabeth stood, confused but assuming that whoever was at the door wasn’t the dead man she had summoned. She nodded in response to Chrys’s unvoiced question and responded with an equally quiet ‘Yeah, she said Ron killed him.’
Chrys opened the door, revealing a very old but remarkably opaque man who absolutely reeked (magically speaking) of death. Lissi approached curiously, eyes wide in wonder at a sight she had only ever read about in books. “Mr. Hirsch?” She hazarded a guess, because really, what other old dead guy was going to show up on Chrys’s doorstep at this hour? She reached out to touch the man’s shoulder to check and see if he was indeed solid. He was. “Oh my god, you have a body!” Forget Ron for a second, this dead guy actually had a body...like a real, tangible body.
Well this was maybe the first time it wasn't a slumber party or a group of drunk coeds doing the summoning, so Joe was just the teeniest bit surprised when an older woman in her jammies opened the door. But it curbed his sour mood some to see a pretty face, "I dunno, you tell me."There was a smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth that only grew in disbelief and exasperation as blondie's hyper friend came barrel-assing through the doorway.
He corrected as she buzzed about and gave him a testing poke, not minding all that much but he nodded slowly to each punctuated syllable pariing it with a 'mmm hmm' or 'uh huh' because well...these were all very obvious things to him. But he didn't want to outright insult by pointing out how all powerfully stupid it was to point out these obvious things. "Sure do, now...again, is there a reason you called me out in the middle of the night or you girls find yourself a Ouiji board and thought to have some fun at my expense?" Another hum and he looked at the cup of tea that was in either womans' hands and lifted his brows.
"Least you could do is invite me in for a cup of tea and let me sit down." It wasn't like he needed an invite or anything, other then well- common human decency to ask first. He just wanted to get out of the cold and park his ass in the first squishy chair he found, and then they could hash out why summoning the dead was usually a really not good idea. "Hmmm?"
Chrys nodded. "Oh certainly. Most Heralds are exceedingly adept at pact-making, bearing an instinctive ability to make pacts that favor themselves, but not all. A particularly clever person could enter a pact where they are the clear beneficiary if they are shrewd and a bit lucky. Think of the ancient tales of Djinn and those who manage to trick them. I cannot say if these tales refer to Heralds, but the idea is the same." She shrugged. "A pact relies on two to make it, and who comes out ahead of the other depends on those who make it."
"But yes, there is no reason for shame. Mortal creatures have trouble grasping the truly infinite, this is not a fault of a weak mind but a total lack of context. It is to be expected." There was no arrogance in her voice, this was simply fact to her. She still looked guilty about it though... "No. Death, decay, ruination... These are foreign concepts in the Living City. Nothing can die there, nothing erodes, and everything is eternal. This is no blessing, as there is no room remaining in the city and the detritus of aeons pile up in the deepest reaches. That is why It hungers for new realities to conquer, as each universe gives it room to grow." She shuddered at the thought before going to open the door.
When Chrys saw the man on the step, to say she was confused was an understatement. Lissi seemed to grasp that the summoning had proven successful in a fashion, which only perplexed her further. "Ummm... Sure?" With that intelligent comment, Chrys stepped back and quietly gestured for Hirsch to enter the house. Even when dumbfounde she realized that standing on her front porch talking to a strange man would pique too much interest. "I am sorry, but you are the spirit that she summoned?" She pointed a finger lightly at Lissi, who she turned to look at with confusion.
"I thought you said he was dead?!" Chrys wasn't voicing it, but her tone was mixture of worry and a demand for answers. Turning to Hirsch, she idly nodded. "I'll put the kettle back on. It'll be just a minute..." She distractedly went back to the kitchen with the kettle and once again went through the motions of preperation without looking down once. "Does this mean you survived? Or is there something else going on?" She paused before adding. "Because Im' fairly sure that most people cannot live without a pulse..." She stopped, realizing only after she said it that such a statement could be seen as deeply insulting. "...sorry." She muttered quietly waited for the water to be ready.
After her initial surprise had waned, Lissi stepped to the side so that Joe could enter the house unimpeded. “No ouiji boards, unfortunately.” Because really, having to summon a ghost for shits and giggles would have been a massive improvement upon their current situation. “I apologize for having to call you up. As it is, we’ve found ourselves in a bit of a pickle and I was told you might be able to help.” While Chrys returned to the kitchen to prepare more water, Lissi closed the door behind Joe and returned to the living room
“Oh, he is dead.” She reassured Chrys. While she wasn’t gawking quite so much anymore, it was still clear from her expression that she was fascinated by Joe’s condition. “The dead, as a rule, aren’t corporeal. Every now and again one figures out how to inhabit a body though...like Persephone. Some scholars think she was real and that after she died she figured out how to inhabit a body and returned.” At least that was best way Elizabeth could think to describe the concept to Chrys given her penchant for classical literature. “I had only ever read about them, until now.”
“Please, have a seat Joe.” Because he sure looked like he needed one. “We...oh hell, where do I even start.” Lissi paused, trying to organize her thoughts into something coherent and concise. “Ron is trying to weasel its way out of the umbra. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen, but in order to do that we need to know how it was trapped there in the first place. June told me she thought you might remember how it was done…”