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.
Squeeji is the head of “Human Resources” here at No Books, and responsible for pretty much everything related to our contact with the outside world. Advertising, orientation, and just about anything to do with bringing in new blood is in her wheelhouse.
Chrys didn't want to be here, truth be told. It was a dark night, and only a few short days before Halloween, and she had no sane reason to be sneaking around in this darkened theatre, but she had some unfinished business to which she needed to attend. She could be at home and working on her costume for the Faculty party where she hoped to run into a certain someone. She could be working on what she'd say to him. She could even be working on one of the jamming devices or monkey-wrenching tools she had begun to develop for her mission. No, instead she was here creeping around an empty theatre and nagged by this bizarre thing called a conscience. It was a strange, foreign sort of feeling. One she had never been programmed to feel, but the implications of her Fall were still things that she was discovering daily.
This whole foolhardy gesture had started three days previously. She had walked past the theatre on her way home from her afternoon class and had noticed the sign which indicated there would be night of horror movies and ghost stories on All Hallow's Eve. It was a holiday celebrated by the people of this world, Western Civilizations in particular, to either remind themselves of the fear their species retained from their time as apes or to remember loved ones who had passed... Chrys had never been entirely certain which was the more accurate explanation, but that was not relevant. What was were the decorations that made her think of spirits of the dead and the theatre at once. She had the thought and the context, which had accessed repressed memories from her mental archive and reminded her of when she had come to this very same theatre in the 1960s and what she had done to those poor teenagers...
That was when she had felt it, that emotion that humans called 'guilt.' It had taken her some time, and a few awkward conversations with her more trusted colleagues at the Academy, to connect her new feeling with the concept of guilt. She hated it. It gnawed at her, wheedling its way into her thoughts for days and driving her slowly mad. Finally, a few hours ago, she decided she needed to do something to assuage her guilt and that had led her here, to the empty theatre in the night. Except...
It wasn't empty. Unbeknownst to Chrys, the theatre had become home to the local Freehold and was rarely entirely empty. When the theatre was closed, the Changelings came out to hold their Courts and socialize. Even when it was open, the theatre served the Freehold by supporting its denizens financially. Tonight, when the theatre had closed after the final show, Chrys had broken in through a window in the back and found herself backstage. She was already halfway to her target, sneaking around to avoid detection from outside or any lingering employees, she didn't notice immediately that just beyond the curtain there were half a dozen changelings that were relaxing in the seats and it was likely that at least one had heard her by now...
Rarely empty but always quiet, it was that sort of thing that drew Vreni to the theater on nights when she couldn't quite focus at the club, which were of course many nights with all the lights and sound, but she had to play babysitter so often that she didn't dare leave. Though tonight she had to make time for herself, she had very nearly been at her wit's end with her brother. She loved him of course, but she also wanted to strangle him. Funny how those two feelings could exist together but served to remind her to walk away sometimes.
The freehold was however, devoid of most life...just her it seemed, which came to no surprise, the court leaders had their own lives, and most other lost in the valley played little politics, and the introverted darkling couldn't be more thankful for that right about now. She smiled as she melted into an uncomfortable theatre seat like it was the comfiest recliner- pulling her knees up and into her over-sized sweater as she hummed musically to herself...delighted to hear how it carried in the rafters.
She knew better then to sing, it had a way to draw attention- and she had promised not to least her keeper find her, but she couldn't quite help herself, as her half hum grew into an almost hushed whispered version of 'Ich Hab Die Nacht Geträumet' which was cut premature as the sound of foot falls snapped her back to the world of the responsible and cautiously sane, "Who is there?" Her accent was thick but her intentions were to intimidate, though she lacked the sort of vocal force to make good on such things.
Chrys was slowly working her way across the backstage area, making her way to a place she knew all too well in one of the storage areas below the stage itself. The access hatch was unfortunately on the opposite side of the stage and she knew that there was always a chance that the theatre wasn't nearly as empty as she had hoped. Thus she was moving slowly and methodically, taking tremendous care to not make a noise. As anyone who had ever snuck around the house as a child could tell you however, truly silent movement was nearly impossible. Chrys did not have that childhood experience however, nor a childhood at all, and thus had decided the impossible silence her true form could achieve was not worth the eddies it would cause and had chosen to use purely mortal means of movement. It seemed to be working and she allowed herself a triumphant smile as she neared the halfway point, only to have her hopes dashed by the sound of someone shouting from beyond the curtain.
Chrys froze, eyes wide. Someone was there. Someone was there and that someone had heard her movement. How? She had been so quiet. Thinking back, she realized that there was a faint sound of footfalls as she walked, but she had deemed such both unavoidable and negligible. Apparently, her assessment had been wrong. Doubly so because she had expected the theatre to be empty but for a bored employee cleaning or something similar. Instead someone, a someone with a thick accent of some sort... Slavic. Possibly Baltic? She could probably narrow the region down more precisely if the woman spoke again. That was exactly what Chrys didn't want though! Her wide eyes stared at the curtain so intensely she half expected it to catch fire as she dared not move a muscle.
Fear. Now this was a new sensation. It felt wild, primal. She would never admit it, but she kind of liked it. She could feel the adrenaline shooting through her human body and it made her feel strong but also frightened. This sensation, she surmised, was what humans called 'fight or flight,' her body preparing for her to choose one or the other. So she stood, frozen for what seemed like an eternity but her internal clock informed her had only been 138 seconds, trying to determine the best course of action. Finally, she determined that her best option was to try a rapid, but as quiet as possible, acceleration towards her destination. The woman beyond the curtain was likely to come check the source of the noise, with or without a secondary sound, within the following 240 seconds. It would be best for Chrys to be anywhere but here, frozen in place or not.
Like a shot, she took off running. With each footfall she carefully adjusted the way that her foot struck the floor to minimize the noise it would produce. Mental calculations fired at lightning speed as she ran, determining that she would reach the hatch with 183 seconds to open the door, which would take 12 seconds to open silently, 27 seconds to enter quietly, and another 9 seconds to close silently. That would leave her approximately 135 seconds to find a hiding place in the off chance the woman would think to look below. She was so busy calculating all that, Chrys didn't even think that she might find the one squeaky board backstage. She didn't even think to look for one, and so she wasn't prepared for the alarmingly loud sound to erupt from beneath her feet. Thus she recoiled in horror at the obvious sound which would announce her presence to anyone in earshot. Unfortunately, recoiling up and away from a squeaky board while carefully running is not an advisable sort of motion to make and so she ended up stumbling to one side. Before she could correct her trajectory, Chrys slammed headfirst into a leftover prop from a gateway left over from a recent production of a Midsummer's Nights Dream. Dazed and still overcharged with adrenaline, she tried to rush around the arch, but instead ran directly into a pile of boxes full of sequined outfits which crumbled and scattered all around to bury her beneath glittering dresses of bright red and green...
The scrabble of escaping feet did nothing but encourage the young lost to follow suit, while caution probably should have been exercised, Vreni was not nearly as reasonable as she let on, and she didn't fear as she probably should have when it came to the unknown. On the contrary, that question she had shouted had been one of many that began to burn within her. It only got worse with each footfall, but fortunately it was a chase short lived, and her while she was no hunterheart...she caught up with her quarry as a blond woman fell tangled up in wardrobe like some great sitcom reject.
"You know, you could have just answered me."
Vreni smirked as she looked down at the sequined mess that she walked up on, offering a hand to help the woman up, taking note that there was nothing about her that made her feel like she was one of theirs, so in her blunt way, she couldn't help but point out the obvious. "But you do not belong here." There was no malice in her words, more a matter of fact tone that could have just meant that the theater was closed, and it was...but mostly it was because as she tried to poke around with her mystical senses, all she could come up with was that this stranger was human, and with things having gone so badly with the magi during their great diplomatic disaster she didn't want some innocent to get tangled up by the mists.
Since apparently masks were optional these days.
She suppressed a shiver at that, not that she scared of being seen as she was, but because there was a certain thrill to that, and a fear that was fun in a way, like watching scary movies with the lights off. Harmless, but it gave a start. "The show is over, come back next weekend...I think they are doing 'Death of a Salesman...it's....very bad. Not good." She insisted again to turn this one around and back out wherever she came from, giving a bit of a shooing gesture while trying to seem pleasant all the while. Which wasn't exactly something she was good at.
Chrys finally managed to set her thoughts in order, just in time to see a young woman standing over her. No. Not a young woman. Young perhaps, Chrys was never quite sure who was young or not in this Valley. Human lifespans meant little here, and besides she lived on a separate scale which made remembering what was normal difficult to recall. That wasn't what was bothering her about the appearance of this person. She was young (maybe) and female (Chrys was 99.9% certain of this), but woman she was not. There was too much interference in the Aether around the figure for her to be human. What exactly she was beyond that, Chrys couldn't tell. Could be anything from a simple psychic through another Herald beneath a Cover. Best tread lightly. "Um... Sorry?"
Chrys could have responded to the call, but she had been 90% certain that she would make it to her destination without further incident. The RNG gods were apparently against her today however and circumstance had worked against her. "I didn't want anyone to call the police..." A fair and logical reason in Chrys's assessment. Not only was it unlikely to seem suspicious (at least not any more than her simple presence) and it was true besides. "I know I'm not supposed to be back here, but..." She dug around for a reason why she would be back here. A stray employee? No, this woman would probably know that wasn't true. A lingering patron? No, it was too long after the last show of the day. A fan of one of the actors? No, Chrys didn't know any of their names, let alone details a fan would know. She sighed, seeming defeated.
"I'm not here for the show..." She sighed and glanced towards the hatch as she dug herself out of the embarrassing pile of dresses and accepted the offer of a hand up. "Thanks." She sighed again and decided to tell the truth. "I just needed to get down into the storage room. I left something behind a while ago..." She trailed off, hoping the woman would assume that Chrys was a community theatre actor and wouldn't think much more on that point. "I just need down there for a little bit, just long enough to find it and get out..." Sure, it wasn't that simple, and sort of a lie of omission, but she was being mostly sincere...
"You apologize to me? You're the one with the goose egg and the glitter you won't get off."
Vreni's brow quirked, because her statement was meant more as a point of teaching, not an admonishment, but come to think of it, she could see where the woman might have gotten the idea that she meant it worse then intended. "Okay, then don't do anything that would make me call the police." This was all very strange, this woman, this situation, everything. Especially the conversation so jilting that she couldn't help but feel like she wasn't speaking the language again...her expression, in a word was vexed. She was very vexed by this whole ordeal.
But there was something sorry and sad about this woman, who maybe was feeling the same way? Vreni worked her lips around, knowing she had already made a decision on this matter but wondering if she should speak it aloud since it was already feeling like a bad idea. "You're welcome." A short retort, though she was still deep in thought, so much so that her thoughts leaked out as she tried to dust off the sequins left from being dumb enough to do good. "That's creepy, you sound very creepy." Calling it just as she saw it, Vreni smiled, "I will take you to the storage room." To keep an eye on her mostly, but also so something like this didn't happen again, she guessed that any of the court royalty that blustered in and out of here would be nearly as forgiving to such strangeness.
Chrys noticed Vreni's expression and was anything but comforted. The woman looked both stern and annoyed, not a good sort of expression to see on the face of someone who had just spotted a potential burglar. "Heh. I suppose you have a point... Wait... Goose egg?" She trailed off, a hand shooting to her forehead as it traced a small bump that was indeed growing just along her hairline. "Oooh... Ouch... You're right. I guess I hit that arch harder than I thought..." She winced as she tentatively pressed on the bump. Pain was still a strange thing to her. Sure, she had always had a form of wound awareness, but pain as humans understood it was something that she only really felt for the first time a few years ago. Her expression revealed a strange curiosity about the bump, but otherwise seemed like a typical sort of response. "Oops..." She smiled nervously and shrugged.
As the woman's brow quirked and her expression grew more 'vexed' Chrys grew more worried. This woman held Chrys's life in her hands, having the power to call the authorities and report the B&E. When she said she would not report Chrys, so long as she didn't do anything more to deserve calling the police, the woman visibly relaxed. "Thank you. I won't. I just wanted to get down there and see if I could find what I'm looking for..." She trailed off with a nervous smile when it registered that she had been called creepy.
"Um... I'm not trying to be creepy...." She sighed, mentally berating herself. She was acting weird again. She had been trying so hard to not act weird anymore, and she had been doing so well (in her opinion) for months. She supposed the bizarre feelings of guilt and the situation of breaking in and getting caught was causing her to backslide somewhat. "Sorry... I mean..." She leaned forward and plucked a sequin off Vreni with a helpful smile. "I'm really not. I just need to get down there." Then when Vreni agreed to escort her down into the storage room, her face brightened momentarily until she remembered her true purpose for wanting to go down there. "Thank you," she added quietly.
Chrys started towards the hatch which led below, pausing only long enough to turn and add, "Name's Christine by the way..." Maybe not typical for burglars to introduce themselves, but she was quickly adopting the demeanor of an eccentric, but focused, member of the community theatre and it would be strange for someone like that not to introduce herself even if she had been caught sneaking around. The temporary Cover likely wouldn't hold up, especially since when she reached the basement store room and did what had to be done, but it should work for the moment. "Thank you for putting up with all this. I'll be out of your hair in no time." She pulled the hatch open with a new confidence that fit her new Cover and started to climb down the ladder into the dark store room. "Now we have to see if I can remember where the light is down here..."
Vreni simply nodded, knowing she was right, but it was nice to hear it. "Hard enough to knock yourself down." There was a moment of concern there, that maybe that dippy demeanor was a sign of a more serious condition...perhaps a bit concussed? "Will you be alright?" Maybe, maybe not, but whatever the answer she had very little to offer in terms of help. Just what sympathy she had, which by any indication of her expression was: Not much.
"Alright, what is it then?" Because if this girl wasn't trying to be creepy that wasn't helping, and she was doing a bang up job on doing it. That smile made it way, way worse. "Because I have to tell you...you are being creepy." Vreni had no qualms about being blunt, and while it might have made her uncomfortable- well, that could be something they both could be together. Since the lost had a feeling that maybe she was dealing with someone who had a body part in a jar down in the basement.
Which could have been neat, which spurred on Vreni's curiosity on the matter, what could be so important to commit a felony? She simply had to know. "Verena." She introduced herself as well, not caring if she had been given a real name or no, because what did it really matter? It didn't. And if this was the valley serial killer, she didn't want to press her luck. Just in case. They never did find them, whoever it was. She just smiled and reached over to hit the switch.
"Hm?" Chrys looked up at Vreni's concerned question. She blinked once, twice, and finally as she blinked the third it finally registered what the other woman was asking. Crystal had been confused at first. Clearly she was ambulatory and conversing, so why was this woman asking if Chrys was alright? Then she realized that Vreni was referring to and asking after any potential internal damage. Chrys often forgot that humans have a much more fragile internal structure, made up of primarily flesh and fluid filled sacs for structure, and lacking reinforcements. Thus it was a fair question of striking one's head could potentially cause internal injury in those who lacked dampening fields to prevent such. "Oh, yes, right. I'll be fine." Chrys smiled broadly. "It's just a bump. Just have to be more careful when I'm running in a blind panic." It was a joke, but lacked much of the inflection of such so it might prove difficult to tell that she wasn't being serious.
As they proceeded into the store-room, Chrys noticed that Vreni was following closely behind her. This could prove a complicating factor for certain. She had hoped that the woman would leave Chrys to her 'recovery mission' or at least stay close to the door. After hitting the switch, Vreni seemed to be determined to keep Chrys in sight range, which would complicate matter dramatically if Chrys wished to keep things secret. She made motions towards digging around for something small, like a water bottle or similar. "I don't mean to be creepy, honest. I'm just not myself tonight... You know...?" She wasn't exactly lying. She wasn't herself tonight, or any night really. Even Crystal, her "true" human form and most treasured "Cover" wasn't really who she really was...
After a few minutes and realizing that she couldn't keep up the search for much longer without seeming completely ridiculous, Chrys sighed deeply and looked at Vreni with a serious expression on her face. "Look, Verena, I'm going to level with you here. I'm not here because I forgot something." Well not really, not in the sense she had implied. "I'm here about the ghosts." She let that hang in the air for a long moment before continuing. "I am involved in Community Theatre," a lie but a believable one, "but I did that just to check out if the hauntings were real and I think they are. I heard things," another lie but a logical conclusion to reach from what she did know. "I didn't see anything, but I heard things down here. So I did more research and I found that there have been dozens of disappearance amongst actors in this theater since the whole troupe disappeared in 1895..."
"I want to see if I can find the bodies of the first ones to die here. I think they're the root of the haunting." This too was a lie. She didn't think there were bodies down there. She knew there were bodies down there and she knew that they were acting as a battery for ectoplasmic resonance. "My research makes me think that they're scattered across the lower level of this place, probably in some satanic symbol, and making sure than anyone who dies here stays here as a spirit..." She trailed off, adding the detail of amateur ghost-hunter to her temporary Cover's backstory. It seemed to fit, and likely explained the "creepy" enough. Besides, she knew it was true. "If I'm right, this spot," She pointed down at the concrete. "Should have a body underneath it..." She stopped, watching Vreni's face closely for a reaction.
Vreni pointed to it, getting the feeling that perhaps she wasn't wrong about that concussion. Which would have made it all the more difficult for Crystal to lose her if that was her intention, whether the strange, creepy woman said she was fine or no. She smiled however at the joke, making a keen amused sound over a laugh, inflection was always lost on her anyways, so the two were in good, awkward company. "I suppose? " She followed along, and got the gist of what was being said, but understood culturally that duality was a thing, that people came in many layers and lights...so you were you every time, but sometimes you just a lot a bit different.
She watched the other woman carefully, picking apart her movements with interest, since she wasn't finding anything...if you asked Vreni it appeared like she wasn't even looking. Eyes grazing but making no contact with the objects in the room, not unlike her brother looking for his keys when he really just wanted her to get frustrated and find them for her. There was no effort there, because this was all a rouse.
That was her theory and she was sticking to it, and soon enough she was proven correct in thinking so. Though with that fragile trust being broken, Vreni started to doubt more and more of what she was told, picking at the truth more then this 'Christine' had picked at the brickabrack on the basement floor. "Right." A succinct response, but she had heard tell of the hauntings, the Duke was well versed in manners metaphysical in ways she was not and spoke freely about them at court meetings.
"So you're going to dig up the bodies?" She loomed, resting her hands upon her hips as she kept a dubious expression on the woman. "Then what? " Seemed a lot of questions would have to be answered if that were the case, police called, and just...well, it sounded like it would be annoying to say the least. But she wasn't telling her no at any length, because well...what if she was right?
It seemed to Chrys that the other woman, this Verena woman, was amused by her antics. That was good. Amusement was a sign that the authorities, mortal or otherwise, was unlikely to be called in the near future. Unfortunately, it did not seem that the woman was amused enough to trust Chrys either, staying all too close and remaining all too critical as Chrys pantomimed looking for something. Verena didn't trust her and watched Chrys closely and skeptically, waiting for a mistake. That was a large reason why she finally decided to drop the charade and explain why she was really here, or at least something closer to the truth.
The woman wasn't happy at the change of tactic, clearly growing more suspicious than ever before, but it had to be done. The woman's scrutiny was tearing the various gossamer Covers that Chrys was throwing over herself. It was a calculated risk allowing more of the truth to sneak through. It might make her look like a madwoman and those authorities might finally be called. Even worse, she was exposing part of her primary Cover, she was risking Crystal's integrity and she would literally kill to protect that... So she responded to the skepticism with carefully filtered truth. Keeping enough of a barrier of misinformation to keep herself safe, but 'coming clean' enough that Vreni might back off slightly with the scrutiny upon seeing 'Christine's' new honesty.
"Yes. I'm going to dig up the bodies..." Chrys bit down on her lower lip, slightly nervous both as Chrys and 'Christine,' now that she was explaining her plan. "I think that the ghosts are here, at least in part because they were never given a proper burial. I hope that, if we were to dig up and re-bury the bodies of the original victims, the more recent disappearances should cease and the recent ghosts should be less dangerous when they are riled..." Neither Chrys nor Christine had any clue how to best go about exorcising the later additions to the hauntings, nor was she directly responsible for them and thus it was a lesser concern. "I have the means of getting to the bodies..." She subconsciously flexed her arm muscles at the thought. "...and getting them out of the theatre and to the graveyard unseen so long as it stays dark outside..." She sighed and glanced up at Verena. "...the only part I didn't figure out was how to get all of them out of here before daybreak. My hypothesis is there should be ten underneath the ground here..." ...and through concrete, but she was serious that she had a way through that. "...and alone I could probably move 5 before dawn. I had thought I'd have to sneak back in at a later point to finish the job..." She then looked up at Verena with a hopeful look in her eyes. Maybe the woman wouldn't involve the authorities, that much seemed to be something neither of them wanted, but she had no idea if the woman would agree to help or simply turn a blind eye...