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Ara

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Helter Close
« on: April 04, 2020, 07:57:33 pm »
In the early morning the fog clung to the yard, heavy and thick. It hid the haphazard garden the old Aunties tended and the downward slope of weeds leading to the road to town. The woods loomed in all directions, thick and green year-round.

Bellamy sat on the porch in one of the rickety old rocking chairs—easily older than his twenty-six years. He leaned back, boots on the railing. He couldn’t get away with that if the Aunties were out. If one saw him, he’d get a hard glare and be apologizing for days. But these days, they took longer and longer to rise from their beds. He was likely to see the end of them in his lifetime, if he didn’t have the good grace to die young like so many other Laurents—or run away like the selfish cowards many of their parents had been. No. He wouldn’t run. And something grim in his blood promised him a long and painful life. Sometimes the Aunties looked at him like they knew too, like they pitied him—but only for a second, and then they were back to their gentle berating and prideful resistance to any help at all.

The screen door creaked when it opened. Everything in their home-made sounds and no one ever thought to fix any of it. The house spoke to them, just like the sounds of the forest did.

“Where are you going?” Bellamy asked his sister without looking away from the oh-so-slowly thinning fog.

Noel was two years his senior, but ever since he grew taller than her in their teens, she’d felt like his little sister. She passed him on the porch, pausing on the first step as though something invisible were trying to keep her from leaving. She teetered, frail and drawn with circles under her eyes. Her yellow coat had a deep hood, flopped back on her shoulders to let those long dark tresses fall in tangled waves. Her long, pale nails clicked together once before sliding her hands into her pockets. “Town,” she mumbled.

She was far away. He could hear it just as well as he could feel it. Noel had been wandering for years now. That was what the Aunties called it. She whispered to the dead. The Aunties said it was a good sign of great gifts, but if she didn’t decide to live soon she might fade. Bellamy wasn’t sure what fade meant. They wouldn’t explain.

“Are you going to eat first?” he asked even though he knew it was futile. He was just making conversation while she stood there.

She huffed, almost a laugh, her breath forming a cloud. “Be nice to the boy,” she said before stepping down the porch in her clunky boots and marching down the narrow path—into the fog.

He frowned after her, wondering which boy she meant. They had a few kids in the family but—and then he felt it, someone walking onto the property and making their way up the path. He waited on the porch. The kid passed Noel in the fog and didn’t even realize it. Bellamy pretended it was because she was quiet and the boy was preoccupied and not because she was fading.

He finished his coffee and put his boots on the porch, leaning forward when the little shape of a person came through the fog.

The boy sniffled, no older than eight, with a box in his hands. He carried it carefully, taking slow steps up to the porch and stopping before the first step. He looked up at Bellamy, round face tear stricken and eyes more pained than fearful.

Bellamy cocked his head to the side, staring back at the child. Human.

The boy dragged a deep breath, shuddering it out and placing the box on the porch, pushing it toward Bellamy’s boots. “Please, Mr. Laurent,” he said.

No one but townsfolk ever called a Laurent “mister” or “miss”. He had heard the Eatons call them “mud witches” more than once.

Bellamy used the toe of his boot to flip the lid on the box before leaning forward to look down his nose at the contents. His dark curls slid forward, into his pale eyes. A dead thing. No one ever brought him gifts.

“What happened to it?” Bellamy asked. The puppy’s lungs were full of water.

The boy tried to hold back his sobs, using his sleeves to scrub his cheeks as the tears fell. “I was going to give him a bath. I turned on the water and put him in and he was happy and then I went to get his snacks and I forgot to turn off the water,” the words mushed together the farther he got until he was sobbing, shame and heartbreak thick in the air around him.

Bellamy frowned. “And what will I get for the trouble?”

Hope glinted in the boys eyes. That was how you knew he was too naïve and too young to be making deals. He opened his mouth, about to offer anything.

Bellamy cut him off. “Turn out your pockets.”

The boy blinked and then hurriedly shoved his hands into the pockets of his raincoat, pulling out fistfuls of wrappers, a few coins, gum, and lint. The air tasted like his despair when they both looked at what little he had to offer.

Bellamy snatched the gum before the boy realized he was on his feet, never touching his skin. He knelt down and reached into the box. He stroked one finger down the puppy’s cold back, still damp. That cold rippled up his arm and curled over his shoulder. He tasted bathwater and shoved the gum in when he stood.

The puppy jerked, spitting up water and whining.

The boy rushed in, pulling his pet from the box. With every pet and coo, the puppy grew more alive—more itself. Some deaths were easier to heal. Mistakes, fresh and with little trauma had the best results. Some things, like this, could be brought back to life. Some were just made undead. The Laurents had made a rule of not giving the townsfolk undead things. It never went well. Had Noel not only known the boy was coming with a dead thing--but that the thing could be saved?

Bellamy nudged the box with his boot when the kid started away. “Take what you brought,” he snapped.

The boy doubled back, grabbing up the box and mumbling a dozen more thank yous. The puppy was jumping in his arms now, licking his face and barking happily, looking around like it had no idea how they had gotten to this strange place, but would have gone anywhere with its boy.

Bellamy chewed his gum, shoving the foil rapper into his own pocket.

“Softy,” an old voice laughed from inside the house.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2020, 12:47:40 pm by Ara »

Verse

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2020, 11:56:27 pm »
The room felt like all his life at once. There were still signs of the ritual that hadn't worked, and toys from when he didn't know he'd need it. Metal things, toys that shouldn't break in a little boy's hand. What toys survives in a wolf's den? He played hard but he wasn't violent, always confused when he hurt himself or his siblings did. How many times on his back on this floor? He knew the taste of the boards and the nails that held the boards in place. He could tell the room in the dark if he fell, if his tongue touched the dust.

He thought about the stupid laughter in the air, and tried to be bitter, but one hand, grown now, flew up like a reflex, like a fucking dying wing, to clasp at it. As though he could catch it, that toddler's glee and carelessness. He put his head back against the door frame as his hand sailed down to his thigh, clutching nothing but perhaps the proof of useless, dangerous nostalgia.

He didn't need experience anymore, to know by flavors and scents and sounds. The Medici gifts were alive in him like he'd trained them. Vester Medici. All the wolf you'd ever need. Wolf made man, and then wolf again. Fucking Tandem Lupus. An old, needy part of him swelled with pride at the truth of that, and then the man he had become now, the man who'd paid the price for belonging, pushed it down with a flex of his chest, packing it in sinew and regret. It felt like the pressure you found in yourself, holding your breath all the way to the bottom of the lake, not too far from the mills of Helter Close.

And then he breathed in. It tasted like ash.

He stood and pulled his jacket along, turning out of the room. The Vester graveyard. His fingers trailed the wall and rode a few trinkets on his way to the door in the Medici home. It was all he could do. Find friction against memories so the spark between him and them could kiss kinetic and amount to any energy to keep him going. Metal toys with dents in them? Only broken, inanimate things become useless. Broken people are immortal.

He had sunken cheeks and long jaws like the other Medici males. Nera, who'd almost married into the family, liked to kiss those bone valleys and blades. Brown hair with white highlights, an Autumn coat of wily relatives, not at all the breed that should live in these woods. Nougat cream, a sister had said, and ran her hand through it. Back then, it had made him love it. He touched it now when the sun hit it as his chunky shoes trampled the fog on the ground. Simple pleasures.

He didn't have a timeslot for guard duty yet. He'd been by the factory a few times since-- this, but the family wasn't about to trust him with regular work. They thought he could be wild for some times, gather his thoughts.

But thoughts was all he didn't want. So he strode into Helter proper, and did what the little boy would have done if he had a starved man's silhouette and allowance. Vera's Confectionery. The day was getting brighter, and the fog was looking significantly less liquid nitrogen and more like soup. He pulled a yellow loli out of his felt pocket, and didn't even grimace around it when the lint and fibers touched his tongue. Oral fixation and it's costs. Admittedly, he went to Vera's a lot, these days, and he liked yellow things.

He had always wondered about the strides of his family. He used to be a skipper, himself, and it was embarrassing to catch in the store windows, when he was flailing along like an untethered puppet, while his kin took their steps lightly, like they'd burst into sprint in a twitch. Now he had heavy soles and long kicks. This place felt different. He'd thought it was small but there was too much here now. Too many versions of him jumping around, first like a red-cheeked idiot, asking his parents when he'd become like the rest of them, and then a love-struck buffoon who'd stopped caring and waiting.

The crunch and death of the candy between his teeth was loud, and a few early customers in the small outdoors market turned to look. He gave nods to them because he was still a little boy in Helter, as far as some were concerned. Fucking actual trees. His tongue mashed the sugar glass against the vault of his mouth. Irritation was better than sorrow. He needed more.

Jill the Ripper

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2020, 09:56:57 pm »
The cards weren't cooperating.

Annoyed, Connie flipped over another one, the aged edges curling a little, at the corners.  The Fool.  A child about to step off a cliff, balloon in hand, a little dog following behind. 

She pulled another, the flame of her candle flickering with the movement.  The Wheel.  A Ferris wheel, turning.  Even as Connie watched, wary, the wheel began to move slowly and irritated she flipped it over so that the back of it - dark blue and golden stars - showed instead. 

She had been pulling the same cards, over and over again, no matter what she asked or thought or tried.  And they would only tell her the same thing: jump, and time will tell.

"Or, alternatively; they're telling you that you need to stop asking."

Connie, unsurprised at the voice or that it knew what she was struggling with, shrugged.  "What's the point in being able to See if it can't help us?"

Next to her, her mother set down a cup of coffee, trying her best to be patient.  "There's a difference between illuminating your choices for you, and telling you what you want to hear, Cornelia."

Connie frowned and very gently her mother took the cards from the table, the soft beat of card-stock as she reshuffled them the only noise between them.   The morning light didn't reach their kitchen, made darker still with an explosion of greenery, plants gathered on every surface.  It didn't help that Helter Close was a dark town, like its secrets -- the fog outside was still thick. 

Laying out four cards, Verity Carver arched an eyebrow, her brown face amused.  "You're not going to have time to mull today.  Go get ready."

The girl looked at the cards before her mother.  Page of Cups, The Devil, The World, The Knight of Swords.  Connie knew who the Page was, always knew, and instinctively she ran her fingers over the tail-end of the silk scarf she wore to bed, protecting her wild curls. Noel was coming. 

Lifting the cup without drinking from it, her mother watched her carefully, dark eyes shinning in the low Helter Close light.  "That girl is teetering; she has no idea if she's coming or going, Cornelia.  She's at the edge of two worlds."  She hesitated.  "The Dead have a grasp that we, blessedly, will never know -- though the Laurents will always live with it.  Give your guidance, but try your best to stay away from the same clutches."

It was a warning Connie had heard dozens of times before.  Verity had never tried to stop the girls' friendship, but her daughter knew that the Eaton rule was a powerful thing -- even they were not immune to the oily charm of their wealth and the sticky, persuasive way it covered everything in its path, like their magic.   The Laurents with their matriarchs and their wilful distance flew in the face of everything the Eatons cared about -- namely, control of Helter.  Still, Connie couldn't imagine how anyone, let alone the self-important Eatons, would give a shit about their friendship. 

"Relax, Momma."  She said, untying her silk scarf.  She shook her curls out, feeling them bounce under her fingers.  "It's just Noel.  She ain't dead yet."

Her mother looked at her with shrewd eyes.  "She's a Laurent.  She might as well be."

« Last Edit: April 08, 2020, 11:23:27 am by Jill the Ripper »

Ara

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2020, 11:54:09 am »
Wyatt’s jaw ticked, the way it did when he was trying not to look angry—not to grind his teeth or wrinkle his nose or narrow his dark eyes.

He was tired beyond belief. Just about everyone over twenty in the Eaton house was. They were weighed by a secret. Most Eaton secrets were benign, ancient things kept for the joy of keeping. Wyatt often thought of his family a legacy of hoarders. No one noticed, because what they horded was valuable and that made it acceptable. They horded wealthy, treasures, antiques, memories, histories, truths and lies. They kept their dead in the mausoleums out back, white structures of marble in the dark green of the woods, sealed away from anything that might reach out from the dark for their bones. They kept every book, every journal, every scrap of paper scribbled on by an Eaton logged away in the library. The halls draped in the portraits of their relatives. Nothing and no one escaped their family.

But this new secret, it was heavy in a way few others still were. It weighed them down every day, leaving circles to be covered up under their eyes and a tense quiet in the manor house.

“Let him go,” Wyatt said quietly, because no one else would. No one else had mentioned the idea since that first night, when they found Caleb in the woods—not the woods of this world, but the woods of another—and brought him home.

His father glared at him from across the breakfast table. The kids had all left to pile into the cars for school, leaving only a handful of them still at the table.

“Wyatt,” his aunt tried to soothe, setting her napkin beside her plate.

He stared at his father, an older version of himself and his brother. The old man had been so pleased to have two mirrors of himself. Even more so when they grew and he could pit them against one another—making them stronger in that endless competition. It was over now. Wyatt had won…and lost. “You know the rules—”

Henry rose to his feet. The table flinched, everyone but Wyatt looking away with chins high as though they could pretend to be elsewhere—too good for this dark conversation. “We make the rules,” he snapped.

Vivian wrinkled her nose but her face was turned away from her brother, so Henry may not have noticed. But Wyatt did. Eatons were prideful and bold, but they were not stupid and words like that were asking for trouble.

“You think we can not save him? We made this town. We protect it in a forest of madness and monsters. We made wolves into men. We push demons back into the dark. We have averted the apocalypse countless times,” Henry ground out each word.

Wyatt stared back at him, waiting until he was done before replying, “But we did not do any of those things alone.”

Henry stared, face as still as stone.

“Perhaps we could ask the mud witches to resurrect his soul?” Claudette suggested, his cousin taking another sip of her coffee before putting it down into the saucer with a final clank. She rose to her feet, buttoning her jacket. “Or kill the monster in him.”

Henry shifted his onyx gaze on the pale haired woman. “Say it again, little girl, and I’ll have your tongue.”

The air in the room thinned and not even Wyatt could guess who had done it. His father? Claudette? Her mother Vivian? Or one of the other cousins? The human relations cringed in their seats, chins down while the magic blooded pushed their chins high.

Claudette stared back at his father, her lacquered black nails clicking against the metal buttons of her jacket, hugging her waist and matching her slacks. “Try,” she urged.

Vivian rolled her eyes and stood. “Well, that’s enough of that. I have a meeting with the town committee to finalize the plans for the Autumn Festival. Which means, Claud has a meeting with me.” Vivian said, Claudette being the chairperson for the committee. His aunt rounded the table as she spoke, pausing beside Henry to place a hand on her brother’s shoulder. “We will recover your son and these times will be but a moment of darkness.”

Henry eased back, sinking into his seat. He was just as tired as the rest of them, but with more heartache.

Wyatt was relieved when his aunt asked him to drive her into town. It wasn’t really a request. Almost nothing an Eaton asked ever was.

Claudette took her own car, the white Ferrari 458. It was a stupid car to own in a small town, with only the road in and out of town other than dirt paths to the lumber yard. But Claud had wanted it and, like a true Eaton, she got what she wanted. Sometimes she drove it down the highway, as though she might leave the woods and her life behind. She drove it as fast as it could go, breaking before the edge of the trees and turning back. Wyatt wouldn’t be surprised if she just didn’t come back one day.

He drove one of the trucks into Helter proper, his aunt sitting beside him. They both watched Claudette’s white car vanish ahead of them.

“He’s not wrong,” Vivian spoke first. “We have done extraordinary things. Why not this?”

“Because we have never been able to do this. Because you taught us not to try,” he continued. Because if it had been me, he would have put me in the mausoleum without a fuss, he thought. “If we don’t bury him, we won’t be able to keep it a secret. The vipers deal in fortune telling. The wolves will know as soon as they see him. And the mud witches… Jesus, if we’re lucky they’re too distracted by their dying girl to notice.”

His aunt laughed shortly. “You’ve been playing Caleb too much. You worry like him now,” she said, the smile dying on her lips as the words escaped. It was easy to pretend he wasn’t dead yet, when they kept playing this game. Wyatt and Caleb were identical twins. So, Wyatt had played his brother for the investor video calls and at the lumber yard a handful of times since he first went missing—all to keep up appearances. “We’ll deal with things as they come up. Have hope, boy. We win often enough to bet on ourselves.”

Wyatt huffed and held his tongue rather than explain odds to her. He parked along the main street.

She leveled him with a serious stare. “You want to end this nightmare?” She was in her late fifties but no one would guess at her being any older than forty-nine. She had his father’s eyes, dark and cold at their depths. “Save your brother.” She held his gaze a second longer before looking away, waiting for him to get out of the truck and walk around it, opening her door.

They both wore different faces as soon as they were out of the car, soft expressions with easy smiles—like the whole world was a gentle place because they had made it so.

“Don’t go far,” Vivian Eaton said before walking up the steps of the townhall building.

“As you wish, madam Mayor,” Wyatt replied under his breath, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets and crossing the street. He spotted a wolf nearby. Vester. He had bloomed late—after his girlfriend skipped town on him. Wyatt tipped his head at the man before ducking into the Carver shop, hoping to catch Connie and not her mother. He didn’t imagine his family would like him playing too close to the fortune readers right now—but maybe that was exactly what they needed? Save his brother. That was all he had to do. What no one had ever done before. And yes, they had done impossible things in Helter Close before—but never alone.

-

Noel never walked hurriedly and the farther she got from her family property, the less attached she became to her surroundings. It was easy to know when someone came onto the property, to reach out in her mind and know who they were, but once she was elsewhere, she was just another person lost in the fog. She wondered if that was why the Aunties had stopped leaving home. It was unnerving to be lost.

Her fingers twisted in her hair, tying a tight, slender braid inside the waves and tangles. Her gray eyes slid over the morning market absently and for the most part no one noticed her. She could blame it on the fog or on their focus setting up, but it had never been common for townsfolk not to take notice of Sentinel Families. No. It wasn’t their fault. Maybe she had finally faded? Was that what it meant? Would she fade away?

She stopped when she inhaled the tangled scent of sugar and blood. She was at the edge of the market and could see the shopfronts on the main street ahead. Her pale nails slid out of her hair, hand dropping to her side when she turned to look at the Medici. Tears stung her eyes and she tried not to look at the shadow of a woman behind him—what was left of her anyway. Death whispered in her ear and it made her head hurt. Why did it whisper at her? She couldn’t understand those backwards words anyway.

“Morning,” she said, not yet sure if it was good or if they were on speaking terms. He hadn’t been to the Laurent house since the night it happened. No one talked about it. But Bellamy hadn’t left the property since. He played it off easily to the others, but Noel knew he was guarding the Aunties. Was the Medici a danger to them now? They had liked him so much before. They would never have done it for him otherwise—and they may not have done it if they had known it would work so well.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2020, 07:52:36 pm »
A wolf has very well brandished senses. It is a conglomerate of alive nerves, fresh and fanned. But boys are nostalgic. There is sorrow to wallow in, in the past. And that's were he was, walking on. He wasn't aware like wolves ought. And blindness was punished. He didn't hear the greeting, but he felt her body. He was awake then, as he spun around, jerking back reflexively at the collision, around the axis of his own knee.

A carousel of smeared-out Helter. Scent of asphalt, wet with fog, and a Laurent. A splotch of yellow. He liked yellow. He could have caught himself. Frozen the fall and fortified his sinew to halt. But that was too dramatic, wasn't it? A forest maneuver in the heart of town. So he let that knee touch the curb. He looked up and there was another part of that family that helped him become what he'd always wanted. His hallelujah in blood. Usually they made him angry, but Noel made him sad. Laurent magic was hurting her, too.

It was shameful, but he found it refreshing. A kindred but in the sense that he could pity her. It made him so happy he almost cried. "Morning Noel." he said with yellow shrapnel still on his front teeth as he stood up. He brushed her coat once, where he'd touched it, as though he was made of dust but somehow his palm was clean. Her eyes were a fitting color. "How's the family?" It was all they were, right? The blood. The letters after their first names.

He thought he saw something in the gray in her face, and he turned around. Nothing. When he whipped his head back there was some living anger there, in the shadows under his cheekbones, some life in the carcass. Noel was quiet compared to her brother, his friend, but she was loud, too. When they were children he had bumped into her a lot. It had made Bellamy furious with the Medici pup, but what could he do, back then? He didn't have the reflexes he ought. He couldn't fight monsters in the woods better than the townsfolk that didn't have ancient names.

And now, when he had all the fangs and the power and sins that come with them, he still couldn't help but crash right into her, and have her scatter all his properties all over the square, with its new cobblestone and old cement. His tongue touched his rightmost upper fang. It was gone. Another thing they used to do was get candy at Vera's. He always bought her hard ones because they had the pretties colors, and girls like that. Like it more than being bumped into the ground of the tall grass, at least. He threw his head toward the store window with the Victorian theme. Pretty, really. Full of yellow, too.

"Going?" he asked. Really, it was an apology.

Bellamy had said once she didn't like the hard candy. But she usually went with them in there, anyway.

Jill the Ripper

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2020, 11:28:00 am »
The Carver shop, Cleanse, was white-washed to make it brighter, with big glass windows to let in what light existed in their twilight-world.

Connie, ready for the day in her blue cotton pantsuit and clean linen apron walked past the candles on display - soy wax, organic with essential oils - lighting them as she passed with an airy wave of her fingers.  Hedgewitch magic, and nothing complicated - a gift from a Carver bride, brought into the family long ago. 

Overhead the warm lights lit the shop up, making it inviting, welcoming.   It was important, always, that they made the townspeople feel welcomed - that they could come in and browse, pick up things, sample them.  Ask questions.  All kinds.

Stacking little pottles of a new lip balm she and her mother had made - thick, creamy moisturiser that smelt of garden roses - Connie didn't notice the shadow at her door until it opened, and she turned to smile as the bell above it jingled.

"Welcome - oh." For a moment, she blinked at the guest in surprise, then smiled more widely.  "Wyatt, it's good to see you.  I thought you'd forgotten about us."

Wyatt Eaton, the hero of sixteen-year old Connie's dreams, was... an impression.  As if the charm of the Eaton's power and money weren't enough, he and his brother were both classically good-looking; sandy hair and winsome smiles. Tall and broad-shouldered.  But Wyatt -- Wyatt had always been the kinder of the pair, and it showed in his face, his eyes.

Today he looked tired.  But the nights were getting longer, and the things that demanded their attention - things that lived in the dark just outside the town, waiting - always grew more restless with the darker months.  As the self-appointed leaders of this town, Cornelia wouldn't have been surprised if that Eaton-created pressure was piling on him. 

Sympathetic, she said, "You look like you could use some decent sleep.  Knowing you, though..." She arched an eyebrow, turning back to the counter.  "Here, have some of this." 

On the wall above the counter was a rack of mugs - white, rounded, simple things.  Connie grabbed one, and opening a nearby jar added a tea bag.  There was a kettle on a warming plate, waiting -- it was a favourite way of her mother's, to greet people with a warm cup of tea.  They made the tea themselves; peppermint and chamomile.  It was one of their most popular items, and the least magical item in the store.  Sometimes even just the small ritual of holding a cup and drinking from it was enough.

"Here," She said at last, turning to him to hand him the cup. "It won't fix your problems, but it always helps to pause for a moment."

Her hands lingered on the white ceramic for a moment, and distracted, she looked out the windows to the street, catching a flash of yellow -- Noel.  The glass and the angle almost distorted the view, but Connie caught a dark shadow beside her friend, until it shifted and showed it was corporeal; Vester Medici.  Not completely one of Noel's corpses, then, but living.  Though, she mused, these days he was a far cry from the whelp of a pup that had followed Noel's brother around. 

Dark eyes flickered to Wyatt, and Connie smiled, "Try one of our new hand creams."  She suggested to him, brightly. "They're made with a rose butter Momma makes, she's trying to create a whole line out of it.  You'll never have softer hands."  She went to grab the sample jar, being playful, though she was thinking of her mother's cards that morning.  The Page of Cups, The Devil, The World, The Knight of Swords.  Who was who, today, she wondered.  Who was who.


Ara

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2020, 12:46:41 pm »
Wyatt smiled at the familiarity Connie offered up so naturally. He leaned against the counter, watching her make the tea. Carvers had such a different energy than Eatons. The scents of chamomile and peppermint rose up in the steam, competing with all the others permeating this shop. He laughed a little. “Are you giving me bedtime tea in the morning? Is it like an herbal roofie? You know you could just go for it, I’d let you take advantage of me.”

He never knew if the jokes were too close to home—too close to an almost their teen selves had reached for. There was a reason Eatons tended to marry nice, sweet, naïve people. They were all trying to find that missing piece, the warmth that didn’t exist in their home. He had realized since then how tragic they all were, because that warmth never survived in their family. They brought in kind people and made them into proud, cold things. Luckily, there was also a reason Sentinel families didn’t have romances—a lot of reasons actually, clear allegiances not the least of them. His father had found out and Wyatt had pushed their almost back to friendship.

“Oh, I’m sure the tea will fix all my problems,” he assured, reaching for the cup she offered. His hand brushed hers still on the cup, her gaze turned out the front window with narrowed scrutiny. She hadn’t been listening.

Wyatt followed her gaze. He had seen Vester on his way in but how had he missed the mud witch in bright yellow? There was something off with that Medici. They chalked it up to his girlfriend skipping out on him and the sudden awakening of his powers. If Wyatt had more room in his skull for other family’s problems, he might have dwelt on it. He would regret that he hadn’t someday. Instead, he assumed her focus was on Noel—the withering Laurent. His father said not all Laurents survived adulthood. Some just faded. Claudette had asked what that meant—fading—but he had just shrugged and smirked to himself.

Connie recovered herself quickly, all smiles and cheer and going on about a hand cream. She came around the counter and he put his tea down, catching her hand and pulling her back before she could get to the wall of samples. He lifted her hand as if inspecting it, sliding his thumb against her palm. “They are soft…” he conceded, flipping her hand over, palm up and scrutinizing it. He hummed as though serious. “You have a very healthy fate line, Con, but you’re head line is looking real shallow… Maybe you should have studied harder?” He stroked a random crease in her palm, no idea what he was talking about.

-

Bell had never told her what happened that night Vester came to the property. They hadn’t come up to the house. But even if she hadn’t heard it in the whispers of the ground and the dead, she would have known by that shadow following the Medici boy.

She blinked up at him when he asked about her family. Her mouth opened to answer but then he was leaning in, looking close and looking back—and the air around him changed. He looked right at it—at the shadow behind him, but he didn’t see her. Noel wished she didn’t see her. If she stopped fading, maybe she would stop seeing. If she finished fading, maybe she’d just be a shadow too. Who would she follow?

He asked if she was going and Noel smiled because whatever she was doing, she was going. Her hand came up, the ends of her sleeves frayed, and the backs of thin fingers pushed at her pale lips to try to control that reaction. She nodded and glanced around the street, toward the window of Cleanse. Wyatt Eaton was in there. She could wait to drop by. Eatons and Laurents didn’t mix well—spring water and mud. “Are you going to buy me something?” she asked curiously, turning toward the sweet shop and remembering walking these exact steps when they were younger, saying those exact words. Everything had been better then—for all of them. But maybe that was how things worked in Helter Close? They retraced their steps over and over until it all soured or until they ran away.

Historically, Laurents had been good at running away from Helter Close. Noel wondered if she tried to run right now—would the wolf chase her? Would she become another one of his ghosts? Her gaze slid over him, not entirely hating the idea of following him forever.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2020, 08:48:24 pm »
Clarence Smith was perhaps the closest thing to a Sentinel Family member that Helter Close had, without the blood ties. His father was rich off of some computer scheme, that used the treeline for cooling in the winter, and the boy himself was strong and hulking. Old, noble features, healthy and full of spring. Of course, around here, rich and handsome and strong and even white as a sheet was worth about jack shit if you didn't belong to the last names that came with a totem. It left the justified, spoiled boy in a constant bad mood.

He was wearing what he ought at his age. Jeans into boots, and the varsity jacket his position on the team earned him. After repeating twice, there was no one who could beat him. His blonde hair was geled back and his blue eyes were dark for his heritage. He of course had this spiraling interest in the magic gathering that supposedly held up the very fabric of their homes, but that in turn burnt into something bitter. It is hard to recognize other's blessings, if you don't know how to count your own other than to stock pile them.

He had just been chatted up by one of the pretties in his class. They'd had a good back and forth until she asked him about one of the wolves on the team. Like he'd be a fucking mediator for her misguided admiration. It took all he had not to backhand Rebecca right then and there, watch her pokadots and lace hem take on the dirt of the cafeteria floor. But instead he'd indulged in some skipping and brooding, until that wasn't enough. A  young ego is a monster, too. And monsters are hungry in Helter Close.

He clomped around, but it didn't help. Percussion wasn't an actual treatment for late-teen scorn. Violence was. The bright square of Cleance halted him in his tracks. Ah. There was something that might help, after all. And there was a gathering of little royal animals in there, too. He smiled, crooked, like he already pitied them. Wyatt could be a problem, they'd probably be friends if he wasn't one of the families, but Connie? She was just a nicely assembled girl, not really worth all the attention her family garnered. And she was also dark. Hah. She had no business on top of the social food chain. It was actually a little sickening how Wyatt looked like he was flirting with her. Good thing Sentinel Families didn't mix. No families should mix. Clearance had an A in biology on merit of his prowess in his sport.

Before he could think, he'd opened the door and made the bell jingle. He didn't like the merry ring when he was feeling grinchy. It was really pissing him off to see clean Wyatt hold that girl. A scowl on his face when her turned off to the side, and lifted a trinket with herbs and a red band incorporated into. "Stupid." he muttered as he turned it around in his hand.

-

Her smile was just as contrary to who she was now as him talking to her. But neither of them truly knew that. Or at least he assumed they didn't. Vester smiled to encourage hers, and they had a bit of quiet together, here, on the streets they'd patted small shoes over a decade ago. She had all her thoughts around her like a cloud, but he couldn't see them very well even when he tried. Maybe his efforts were tired these days.

But he wasn't too tired to see if the girl who'd been with him when he didn't care much about houses and family names could make things better, to makes things breathable. Like kissing the ceiling of an underwater cave. He had all these somber notions running around like static in his aura, and she cleaned them out with her question. He laughed and it hurt like new things hurt. She was grown, but she was still Noel.

"I've got a silver dollar." It was a grown-up joke. One they understood now. Vera's and other quaint, restored stores in the town center had nostalgic theme. The adults in town had taken to using silver dollars to pay as a celebration of times gone. It had become an expression of wealth in Helter Close. You got a silver dollar meant you had money. To the two children playing at being grown it was a throwback to when they were given large, mercury shining coins by their elders. He'd of course spend it on foam rockets for himself and his litter, and hard candy for Noel.

He opened the door for her and sighed with some involuntary relief when he stepped over the threshold, after her. This place had just the right wear on the wood paneling, and just the right sheen to the glass jars that held fresh candy. The counter was always somehow stuffed with confectionery, and the tables had pretty, polished brass details. The town family that owned Vera's knew what it needed to be, and spared no expense. During a torrential rain that saw a lot of this devastated, the town council had paid for the damages because of what a landmark it was.

Something caught his attention and he automatically grabbed her shoulder to turn her to the chocolate gnomes on display. They'd always been excited for the assembly of them when they were little. It changed from week to week. He squatted down at the scene. Gnomes at the mill. All of it was for sale so everything was removable, which meant they had been accosted relentlessly by the children passing through, but he still reached to stroke one over the head.

"This ones my cousin, I think, because he's looking at the Woods." his mouth lifted to the side when he looked up at her, the grin showing off a newly sprouted fang unintentionally. "And this one's you." he explained, tapping another one until it fell. He had deduced it on merit of its yellow hat.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2020, 03:55:29 pm »
With her hand in his, Connie kept her eyes downcast, smiling lazily.  All of Wyatt's teasing, their mutual flirtations -- a fun exercise in something that had almost been, the salve on an old hurt. 

"It's a good effort." She told him solemnly, trying not let her fingers curl with his touch. "You've reversed them, though."  Leaning in closer, she pointed out, "Look - this is the fate line.  And this is the head."

More parlour games, but they made for good supplement material when the townsfolk came to a Carver, wanting to know about their futures, their lives, their options. 

Connie breathed in deep, and let her eyes flicker up to Wyatt's face.  He'd only grown into it more, as an adult a far cry from the pretty-boy teen she had sobbed so bitterly over, when her Momma found out about them. 

The bell rang again, heralding a new visitor and Connie turned to the door, smiling pleasantly like she wasn't standing there, too close to her puppy love; only for her smile to imperceptibly hitch when she saw it who it was. 

The Smith boy had a chip on his shoulder that threatened to crack through his whole soul.  Maybe it was a teenager's passionate misery that made it worse, but on some days it snaked through the golden veneer he had, invisible to most. He would've made a glorious Eaton, careless and beautiful, now holding one of her Momma's creams in hand, turning it over.

Steeling herself, Connie tried to keep her smile bright. The Carvers had seen too many of his little classmates, all love-sick for him, coming to the shop and asking hushed questions about feelings that were never returned.  Cornelia didn't have the patience for them and their idiocy, and she didn't have the patience for him and the entitlement he wore like a cloak, though her shop manners won.  "That's an overnight mask, to brighten up tired skin."  She said brightly.  Amused despite herself, she added, "I don't think you need it, Clarence."

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2020, 06:41:40 pm »
Flirting with Connie was Wyatt’s own personal escapism. For fleeting seconds he could pretend he wasn’t an Eaton and didn’t have to go back to that miserable house of assholes. And that meant today he could pretend his brother wasn’t a walking monster locked in the basement, behind wards that strained to hold with every passing day.

The bell chimed and he stared coldly at the boy that walked in. Weren’t kids supposed to be in school by now? Wyatt stepped back, leaning against the counter and picking up his mug again, sipping the tea and watching Connie explain an overnight mask. He hid his smirk against the lip of the cup. He hated tea, but never said anything. Warm, floral water.

-

Noel played pretend with what was left of Vester. It was a reprieve for them both. She blinked at the sad gnome display. She squatted down beside him and laughed a little when he knocked over the one with the yellow hat.

She reached out to right it but her hand froze before her fingertips even brushed the fallen chocolate denizen of the shop. The shadows whispered and she stood upright, head turning to look out the window just as a dark figure moved down the street, into her line of sight. It was tall, deerlike but too slender, like bones dipped in ink and held together by sinew. It followed a couple of women heading toward the market, the two talking in high spirits and oblivious to the forest spirit. Its maw opened, teeth like a crocodile rather than a deer, snapping shut once and sending a jolt up her spine. “You see it too?” Noel whispered, moving toward the door, toward the reek of decaying trees. She had never seen one in Helter Close before—had only glimpsed them in the depths of the forest, devouring the remains of things in the woods, whether animals or trees. Maybe this was a part of her madness? Maybe it wasn’t real?

She pushed the door open, the bell chiming, and felt the wave of its hunger along with that stink. If had to be real. It was closer to the women now and their cheer had drained to the dawning sense of something not right, noses wrinkling when they too smelled it, tears welling in their eyes when they felt it.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2020, 07:21:39 pm »
He didn't know what he'd hoped for. Reasons for a war? That the little brown girl would reach behind the counter and take out something damning, something sharp? Draydreams of violence are either blunt or full of edges, rarely bullets, when you're physical and young. He put the mask back like her couldn't wait to pull his hand away from it, like her talking about it was enough to make it dirty.

Maybe he'd wanted Wyatt to say something too. Or instead. Clearance liked the idea of beating the living shit out of the twin. Somehow it was more fun if you were breaking up a pair, ruining a collection. The town would get over it, right? They understood that the Smith's couldn't take any and all shit, even if it came out of an Eaton asshole. Drinking tea like he was drowning his fucking anger. Clarence couldn't stand it. Men should be angry when they are. But Eaton's thought they ruled the world, and had to behave like the whole world was looking.

But it wasn't. There was only the three of them here. A supposed king, an actual king, and a throw-away girl, beautiful like all whores are beautiful.

"Maybe you should try it yourself." he told her about the useless object. He willfully ignored the other male and came closer to the clerk, who was still worth more than himself in the eyes of the townsfolk. Incredible. If this place was built by the hands of her ancestors, then this entire country was civilized by the orders of his. "Good for the color of the skin, right?" he asked and raked four fingers down his forehead all the way to his chin.

-

He was rather proud of himself. She had never made it hard to interact, but he was still nervous. Needed to get their friendship going every time. Like pushing and old car. If they'd been old in the beginning, then that said something. That meant something. Something dear. So he always endured, and sometimes he forgot to be uncomfortable with his own awkward nature put up against her silky wisdoms and patience, eons beyond her years.

But when he tried to drink up the notes of chocolate with his nostrils, enjoy the wood used here, and the lingering, gaudy air freshener, he felt something else. Like moss shoved right through his sinuses up into the bottom of his brain. Like earth but the flavor of it, with all the crackling grains, smearing against the vault of his skull. And something else. Like recycled death, all its revelations, grown up and sunken in darkness, not sunlight. It was new to him, as new as Nera's ghost, as new as his formidable tendons and sinew. But it was ancient to his legacy. Medici.

The girl felt it first, and he hung his head as his body charged up on all the uncomfortable, combustive adrenaline. Put it in his marrow, filled up the hollows. Like helium, making him light. And like the vapors at Jame's Station, ready to send him off if there was a living spark. There were peppercorn and chilies and dried blueberries in his hands, because he had murdered the gnomes, and their pretentious gastronomic shrapnel was pouring off his hands as he stood and came to her. He turned and pressed by her. Polite. Protect and serve.

Fading Noel. She probably saw every pore. He could only see if he touched, but he got an image, anyway. Wolf ears and wolf nose. He knew. It smelt like work and sounded like wind all ripped up on evil. He yawned because that's a wolf's quiet threat.

It looked like he was smiling but there were no wrinkles on the spread of his lips toward his ears. Twin wounds without blood. "I smell it." he replied at last and held an arm out to cut off her advance. He could sense the bad thing coming close to his flock. Sentinel paradox - a wolf protecting sheep. He licked his new teeth and took his jacket off. He handed it to her with both sets of fingers, and then then he was off. Not by the mill but still on the clock.

He saw a flash of Eaton handsome and Carver adorable in the Cleanse window. Maybe the Viper knew, too. What's poison going to do against poison? Eaton's didn't pay darling psychics to mumble-sing the demons away. They paid Medici blood to spill until there was enough to drown out the disturbances at the mill.

And all that bitter he pretended to feel was overcome by joy to hunt, to be something else than the boy who'd lost Nera.

He ran hard, with long strides, and jumped before the unwelcome thing understood. He had his arms around its waist so they could tumble on cobblestone. By the mill, they had an arena on every given night. Here he had to be careful, when the monster obviously wasn't, coming this close. The women who'd almost become mulch screamed at the strange acrobatics. Only, the moment he interacted with it, they could see it too. First like black ink in water, and the more he wailed on it with his dense fists, the more solid it became under him.

It was kicking around him but he'd found the valley between its ribs and its stomach, pressing down on a nightmare organ to keep it in place, away from its claws while he minced its chest. A big one, which explained its confidence somewhat. He couldn't wait anymore, and hammered his face against the shell outside of the coal heart, biting as hard as the mountainside felt when you fell on it. He'd seen father have trouble with this category of beast, but he was winning now.

And then a claw caught him through the t-shirt, and his blood pushed out like it was happy to be free. Dire. So he dug his shoes into the ground on one side, and lifted hard. He threw the beast into the small hardware shop that persisted even if they had a bigger, name brand one further down. The store window shattered. The Medici monster followed in.

He was going to put his teeth into that heart like it had robbed him or Nera itself.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2020, 08:15:38 pm »
In adolescent petulance, Clarence set down the jar as though it had grown too-hot in his hands.  She thought maybe that same petulance, the teenage pride, would carry him out the door and away from her and Wyatt both, too old to deal with this, but then the boy stepped closer, a looming threat.  The Carver woman was suddenly made aware of just how tall he was, for a kid. 

"Maybe you should try it yourself.  Good for the colour of the skin, right?"

Her mouth tightened. "You don't come in here and talk shit at me, Clarence.  In fact, you can leave - "

A rolling calamity out front stopped her dead, the noise of something that didn't belong in town and a wolf tearing into each other, Connie looking past the bastard of a boy in front of her just in time to catch Vester chasing after a forest spirit.  "Jesus." She breathed, forgetting about the boy in front of her.  What was it doing here in town?  Now?  "Where's Noel!"

None of them missed the shattering of its wretched body being thrown through the glass windows of the Hardware store, Vester standing out front like a deranged victor before following in.  Connie had no idea what it must look like, to the townsfolk. 

In the store, Henry Carver - thirty-six, ungifted in the way of fortune-telling and generally a quiet man - leapt up when the forest monster was thrown so unceremoniously through the shop windows. 

The was a scream - Beverly, one of their shop girls, as useless as tits on a bull - but she was too far away to be hurt.  Shock, then.  Henry ignored her, instead following the thrashing of his shelves as bolts and tools and metal crashed around with whatever had been thrown in at them.  He saw deer-like antler, briefly, and then like a demon of misfortune a bleeding figure standing before it.  It too a moment before Henry realised it was Medici boy, one of the younger ones. 

Picking up a discarded axe handle, Henry lifted it up and swung it at the creature before them, as it tried to bear down on him.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2020, 10:52:06 am »
Noel stopped on the sidewalk when his arm came out to block her. It was a relief of sorts. What was she supposed to do about a spirit in Helter Close other than watch it? Could she kill it? Could she get close enough without it eating her first?

The women on the street let out shrill cries when the Medici tackled the nightmare at their backs. They swung around, confusion painted across their faces in waves that turned slowly to horror when they too caught glimpses of something otherworldly.


-

Wyatt’s smirk soured when the boy spoke again. He put the mug in his hands down but Connie was already snapping back at him, about to throw him out of her shop, when she swung toward the window instead.

Wyatt turned, catching glimpses of the spirit and the wolf before Connie was rushing past him and out the door. He sprang after her, catching her waist to stop her only a few steps out of the building. Her words caught up to him, her panic over the fading girl. She wasn’t hard to spot, a flare of yellow on a gray morning. The window across the street shattered, Wyatt turning on instinct to shield Connie from debris or attack. He clicked his teeth at the destruction and pointed her toward the Laurent girl standing on the sidewalk. “She’s fine.”

He nudged Connie toward her and took a few steps into the street, crunching glass, torn between whether he should reassure the frightened Helter citizens on the road or follow the fight into the hardware store.

He didn’t have time to decide, or maybe he was just too slow, because when her dark silhouette cut through the gray and stepped around the human ladies, the choices were made.

-

Claudette Eaton handed her recently purchased coffee to one of the two women standing nearest the scene, cupping her hand around the woman’s and giving her a reassuring smile. It was an Eaton smile. It promised that everything was being handled and no one need worry. It was the very face of competence and power. “Hold this for me, Marcy?” she asked. She knew every resident of Helter Closer by name.

She tsked at the broken glass across the street, shaking her blond head once and unbuttoning her jacket. “Wolves,” she said, loud enough for people to hear, to set their nerves at ease that this mess was a casualty of beasts. Beasts they needed, but still beasts. She walked toward the shop, unhurried, and cast a glance at her cousin. She dragged her gaze over him, unimpressed when no one but Carvers and Laurents could see. She kept all that contempt out of her voice when she spoke. “Keep an eye on the crowd, Wyatt?” Her heeled boots crushed glass.

She stepped over the broken window frame and into the shop, her burgundy lips pulling into a severe frown. If they had killed a citizen in this mess of a fight, there would be hell to pay. She had disappeared a few casualties of the families battles before but she wouldn’t do it for a dog. “Henry?” she called. The lights were flickering, even more glass inside than out. A girl screamed and the fight raged on.

She caught sight of the girl and forced a cool smile. “Bev, dear, go on outside,” she said, reaching out to offer the girl one gloved hand. Beverly sobbed, for a moment clinging to her hand before nodding and running from the store, sliding on glass but catching herself on the wall. The bell on the door chimed when she fled.

The sound struggled to compete with the racket of fallen metal and shelves. “Gods, Medici, could you have made more of a mess?” she called, stalking around the shelves in time to see Henry of all people swinging an axe at the forest spirit. She had seen plenty of spirits and monsters come crawling out of the woods to threaten the mill before, and seen Medicis rip them into pieces. But she never thought she’d see a broken limb of the Carver tree hacking at a spirit. Could he see it? Maybe as well as the humans? To her it was a dark shape, something between a deer and a crocodile.

She laughed in amusement, nodding her approval at the Carver. Teach monsters not to come barging into his store, she supposed. If he added another swing, he could teach Medicis not to throw them through his window too.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2020, 07:31:17 pm »
He would never admit to being startled by the pretty girl's foul language. It almost hurt when it jarred him out of his bitter, angry rhythm. His first impulse was not to bite back. He didn't want to think about what it had been. His nose wrinkled - if not the Medici totem, then perhaps at least a golden retriever, given his hair - and he was about to spit something back at her and get ready for Wyatt's involvement when something exploded outside. The shrapnel of drama made his stomach tight.

He went to the window and felt even more disgusted. The Sentinel Families were everywhere, but today they were everywhere else, too. He wanted a natural part in all this, wanted it to be his business, but he wasn't worth much more in these chain of events than the ladies who'd almost been visited by whatever the fuck Vester Medici was now ripping up the strip with. Still angry, he swiped something from under Connie's nose and strode out the store.

Vester was accosted by the animal in his veins. It burnt his eyes an amber bright, and built on the enamel of his teeth. The broken glass rolled around in his head, the spilled polish was in his sinuses - but none of it was bothersome, it was just his senses filing away the surroundings for him. It did bother him, however, to be beaten into the sturdy shelves until they toppled. It was his own fault, partially, for holding on to the throat of the spirit with his newly sprouted fangs. It waved him around like a flag.

He already knew he hadn't caught something vital, but pressed up against its chest like this, latched onto its neck, at least it couldn't get to him with any of its limbs. The CRASH-COURSE in the hardware store layout hurt, though. He reached for the antlers but the angle was unfavorable and the thrashing pace was harsh. Another collision into the the edge of a heavy shelf had him reconsider, and then he saw a flash of iron.

The axe sat between ribs of the spirit and its pained arch gave him time to let go. He rolled to Henry's side and stood up. Henry wasn't bad. He and Vester had been the same, once. Back when he had Nera. "Brave." he said and pulled at one of the Carver's shoulders to get him back. Axe or not, it was hard to resist a Medici wearing his wolf on the outside. He looked to the side when Claudette and her caravan of ego crammed themselves into the store.

"Sit tight, mam." he answered as he shaved the black and blue blood from his teeth with his tongue and swallowed slowly. His teeth shifted when his heart tasted the Spirit's clues. Second round with monsters usually went to the Medici's because of this. That's why they collected the remains of enemies. Helter Close's own defense system.

He ducked under the visitor from the woods and pulled the axe straight down, ripping a highway in the Spirit's torso. He threw the weapon at Henry's feet just as the snout of the giant enemy pushed between its own legs to get at the wolf. Vester caught a fang from each jaw. They were sizable enough to hold on to, and kept the beast somewhat folded, it's antlers touching the floor in an awkward bow.

"Cut them off!" he barked at Henry. "Cut them off and I can kill it!"

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2020, 03:07:57 pm »
Henry did not have to be told twice. Heart hardening at the visible change in Vester Medici - a change that hadn't been possible a few years ago - Henry griped the axe tight as he he lifted it above his head and brought it down. 

The creature was more of an impression than a real beast, to him -- but he could define enough of it, even with his lack of Sight, and his strike dug deeply into the hardwood floors as he severed the antlers from its head, dust rising in a cloud. 

Claudette Eaton was waiting at the edges of the mess, amused.  Nothing went on in this town without an Eaton arriving to notarise it.  With a nod to her the Carver man straightened, not missing how her bright hair made her stand out in the store.  Eatons weren't the self-proclaimed town royalty for nothing.




As the fighting rolled into Henry's store, Connie hurriedly made her way across the street to her friend, her yellow coat a beacon.  "Noel!" She shouted.  "Come on, let's get out of here -- "

Looking back to Cleanse - and Wyatt - Connie hesitated.  The last thing she wanted to do was pull Noel headlong into the Smith brat -- but then he solved the equation for her by striding away from the store, fist clenched. Who knew what his problem was, but as long as he was taking it away, it didn't matter. 

"Come." She said, holding Noel's hand. "Leave it to the fighters, lets get out of here."

Tugging her gently, Connie started back to the store.


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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2020, 01:03:12 pm »
Forest spirits that size never came into Helter Close. Not into the town proper. Not ever. And that meant something when the families that settled the town had stayed all the hundreds of years since, keeping track of the behaviors of the creatures in the woods.

So why today? What had changed?

Noel was deep in thought, trying to find a difference in their small town from one day to the next. Her name snapped her out of it, looking up into a familiar face, Connie’s hands warming one of Noel’s. She nodded when the other woman suggested leaving the street, allowing herself to be pulled toward the Carver home shop.

-

Claudette raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow when the wolf told her to sit tight and called her mam. She couldn’t decide if she liked it or hated it. She frowned all the same, eyes narrowed on the scene. One hand settled on her hip when Henry cleaved the antlers from the beast. What a mess they were making. She wanted her coffee back. She would have carried it in with her but that might have looked too cocky. No, the goal was always competent and capable, not gloating and careless. She had to look like she was taking this seriously, and she was, but the important part was to look like it. How stupid.

She missed the years in highschool when she’d taken up smoking. No one had ever caught her and made her quit. She’d never gotten into trouble. But she’d stopped one day, because she realized she wanted it too much. She was addicted. And Claudette had no room in her life for another force running the show. She already had the legacy of the Eatons to uphold. Everything else had to be her own. But right now, she kind of wished she had a cigarette in her hand.

She’d stand long enough to see that the monster was dead before leaving the shop and assuring the people everything was handled—everyone still safe. Well, as safe as anyone ever could be in Helter Close.

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2020, 07:41:44 pm »
Vester had banked on Claudette's disapproving smile. Wasn't like they were much different when they sent his family off to chase monster in the Woods around the mill. She knew he was worth his salt.  How could he not be? If you buy something for such a price, you better treasured it. He sighed with gratitude when Henry sepeared the horns from its skull. "Much obliged, Viper." he said between clenched teeth. It wasn't a comment of disapointment, but labor, rather.

He clenched the fangs he held and pulled hard. Wolves should not lose agaisnt stags with their antlers cut. He tired to fold it in on itself, to get it on its back. The distress  ofbeing decrowned glavanized the legs of the beast, and it dug cloven hoves into the store floor. Vester's wild thrashing and pulling seemed effective at first, but soon the spirit found footing in one of the tosses. "Fuck." The Medici former runt muttered when the neck whipped up and he flew with it.

He went through a shelving unit completely only to stick in a crater in the wall. He got his wits back in time to see the beast running for him, and he was too deeply planted into the plaster and brick to pry himself out in time. He would have cussed again, but it'd be redundant. The dull thunderclap of spirit skull against Medici sternum tossed dust from the ground in a concentric ball around the two. Before that had left the air it was puncuated by Vester's cough, that led into him puking blood all over the back of the spirits head while it was still attached to his chest.

The boy and the monster were unmoving.

And then the tall legs of the visitor from the abyssal forest kicked again, digging its stumps into Vester Medici. He woke up, harder than most mornings, eyes full of malicous gold and face full of vengful wrinkles. The monster was burrying him deeper into the bricks. His own legs were kicking but unlike that of the spirit, they had no purchase.

Criton Medici was waiting for the pair of girls, holding the door of Cleance open for them. He was a wolf, pride of the pack before Vester's jump in ranks. Criton had suffered for it. A scar that had bleached one eye, the inside of his left eyesocket all the way to a dimple. His hair was leader black and his smiles were-- concerning. "You ladies don't fret now. Super pup's on it." it was hard to know if his voice was always so deep, or if he'd simply bought into his family totem so much he played the role perfectly. Wasn't this true for most of them? He did not seem worried about Vester. "He takes on a pack job, he's gonna take pack-worth of punishment. Super pup can take it." Bitterness, as clear as Helter mornings weren't. "Not that you gals could help, anyway." At least he seemed decided to help guard the shop.

Vester's growl was still alive and well in his throat, bubbling and brsrting and brimming all the way out of his throat with his blood. The spirit was set on running him through even without its horns. He kicked a shoulder to get some distance and managed to wrap his hands around the nubs Henry had made before it came crashing back into him. A sputtering roar was stuck between Vester's esophagus and his tongue as he pulled the keratin trunks in either direction. Nothing happened for a lifetime, but then there was a crunch from the creature's carnium. Vester laughed miserably, and it was soundless. His teeth were long in mute mockery.

His head slammed down on the crack he'd made in the scalp, stabbing his enamel knives through the skin. The spirit jerked a few mores times, dislodging a few more bricks around the Medici body until it fell. Vester found himself on his knees and coughed up something solid and blood-slick. He stood and wiped his lips uselessly as they deflated to a man's size again. Soon his eyes had lost their gossamer quality. They had enough fight left to look at Henry with an approving nod, and at Claudette with a slight lean to the side.

"At your service, Ma'm."

Jill the Ripper

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2020, 07:47:42 pm »
Startled, Connie paused for a moment before the pride of the Medici pack.  Criton looked the part of the rugged stand-in Alpha, hardened and battle-marked -- but something had shifted, in their ranks.  The bitterness in his voice, lingering over the name Super Pup, gave it away. 

She gently pushed Noel through the opened door.  "It's not like the creatures to come in so boldly." Connie remarked to them. "The rot of this town isn't usually so bad as to attract them that...  that desperately."

Meanwhile, standing in the wreckage of what had been an aisle of tape measures and surveyor equipment, Henry watched in grim silence as Vester deflated back to the deceptive, human shape, miserable for a moment.  Still, he met Henry's gaze with approval, and the Carver man felt his throat tighten with both pity and admiration.  Whatever had happened to Vester - whatever had transformed him - had broken him and remade him into the being on the floor, rising to meet Claudette as though he were serving her.


"Bev, shut up."

Beverly was still sobbing, crouched down against the wall, and annoyed, Cassie stretched out her legs, her bad one shaking a little from the stress of running through the bookstore.

Cassie Medici, seventeen and counting the days down til her 18th birthday, could not have picked a worse time to come into town.  She'd hitched a ride with Criton, promising she wouldn't be long - but that meant that in the resulting chaos, she now had no idea where he was.  Whatever it was that had happened, Cassie could smell it, the stink of it enough to make her want to retch, unpleasant enough to awaken the wolf inside her. 

Her classmate's sobs were getting to her, and Cassie could imagine ripping the other girl's throat out.  "Beverly.  Shut. Up."


Ara

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2020, 01:22:05 pm »
“Ma’m” again. Maybe she did like it.

Claudette looked the Medici runt over from head to toe and then back up. He wasn’t much of a runt anymore—not since getting his Medici powers on. She slid her gaze past him, to the mess he’d made of this shop. There was a reason the wolves worked in the woods.

“Yes, well, it leaves a bit to be wanted, doesn’t it?” She tried to sound indifferent, but her pale eyes lingered on the smudge of ash remaining of the spirit, shadows decaying. It didn’t belong in Helter Close but it had come, because something else that didn’t belong was in Helter Close—growing every minute of every day.

She turned on her heel and marched back out of the shop, crushing glass under her heels boots and stepping out onto the open street. All concern was gone from her perfectly tamed face when she returned to the public. Marcy hurried to her, slipping past Wyatt’s efforts to keep the public a safe distance from the store front. Claudette managed not to roll her eyes at her cousin’s incompetence. He could have used a bit of Eaton magic to force them back. But Eatons had made a habit of not showing their cards—not because of the public, but because they liked the idea of the other families underestimating them. The Eatons were the politicians now. Peacekeeper smiles and a patience for bullshit that rivaled priests.

Marcy returned Claudette’s to-go coffee and asking in a hushed voice if everything was all right, straining to look past her and try to peek into the ruined shop. Claudette caught her arm, walking her back to the line. “Oh, it’s handled. We’ll all be sure to help Henry get his shop back in shape in no time. Never worry, we’re always here to guard Helter.” She said it all so easily, like she’d baked them a pie after a death and it was nothing big at all. Marcy nodded, letting out a big sigh of relief and rejoining her friends. They had been on their way to the market. “Go on about your business,” Claudette assured. “No one was harmed.” She thought about Vester and almost laughed—almost.

She didn’t even look at Wyatt, turning away instead and grinning wide at the other Medici. She had gone to school with Criton and saw him regularly out at the Mill. They had an understanding, of sorts. They both played their roles so perfectly. “If only you had been here sooner,” she mused, walking up to join him in front of Cleanse. “Poor Henry might have kept his shop front…” She sipped her coffee and glanced at Cornelia, nodding her head briefly. “Cornelia.”

Her gaze slid briefly past her, into the shop doors to meet the dark gaze of the fading Laurent. She sipped her coffee and looked away. No point talking to dead things.

-

Wyatt sighed when the crowd dissipated back into the market to talk. He crossed the street and leaned into the open cavity of the windows of Henry’s shop, glancing around at the ruin and the two men. He nodded at Henry before his gaze landed and fixed on the Medici. “Holy shit. Are you okay?”

Verse

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2020, 07:01:40 pm »
The Eaton daughter did what they always did. He also looked at the mess, but there was a smirk on his lips among the smoke of the vaporizing spirit. It blurred the outlines of his mouth and smelled like malice. It filled his head with ashy victory. And then she was gone. Which mean work was out. And so was his legs. It took a while for him to fall forward. He caught himself with an arm. It reminded him that spirits were stupid strong. And that he had to be, too.

This had all been bone deep. He looked at Henry with some of that. They both knew how it had been. Vester had left that behind. Paid a price and gone on. It had been that simple. He coughed at that thought. And then Wyatt. One in a set of two. Hadn't smelled Caleb in a while. "Yeah. I'm alright." he said and looked around like Wyatt would comment on the destruction too.

"This is something you guys can fix, right?" he asked. Back at the mill, the wolves didn't bother much with cleanup.

-

Criton hummed along to Connie's comment. "Yeah. There's something in the air, though. Not normal. Spirits sense it." Enough to come into the center. At this pace the perimeter Medici had to patrol would increase. Which meant more risk to the pack. Stretched thin. He tsked with annoyance and ushered the girls the rest of the way over the threshold. Maybe the wolves should to a worse job, teach these people to hurry and worry once in a while. He stayed at the door, though, kept it open if others needed to come in.

A ghost and a ghost talker in the same store with jars of dreams and boxes of dried up leaves.

He waved at the Eaton, who was almost a spirit herself. "Got anything for her, Connie?" he asked, honestly curious. It wouldn't surprise him if the Vipers didn't help the Laurents on principal. The Medici family was involved in the Sentinel feud in a very strange way. His attention was stolen when Claudette talked. He shifted to make sure she could get in if she wanted to. It'd have to be to socialize, because Eaton's didn't usually take shelter.

"Yeah. But he got the job done." he replied to her. Whatever people assumed about his current mood, Medici had to stay together. If you'd been drinking with Criton, you might have Heard one or a few rants on the subject, but he wouldn't be tickled when she offered to bad mouth the former runt in the light of day. "I'll help with the heavy lifting." Out of the Eatons, Claudette was his biggest chance of seeing Eye to eye. She'd been fair to him on occasion, because he did right by his job at the mill.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2020, 06:34:44 am by Verse »

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2020, 05:19:46 pm »
Henry almost laughed at the cleanup remark, huffing instead as he leaned down to help the Wolf up.  "It'll provide work for a few of the other businesses in town, so..." He shrugged, trailing off. 

There was a pause of a moment, a breath, where Henry looked around around and realised that they - he, Vester and the Eaton twin, Wyatt - were the only living things still in the ruins of his store - three Sentinels, though Henry could never, rightfully, claim that title, having never been able to contribute.  It was how he'd ended up in the hardware store -- it'd belonged to old Davey Andrews, for decades, before Henry had come along as a kid, quietly working there, a ghost between the shelves.  Over the years Davey had let him handle more and more responsibility - mundane things, easy things, like stock-take and ordering and deliveries.  And then Henry had just as quietly bought it, old Andrews going into long-awaited retirement. 

The old man had been kind to Henry, in a rough way.  He had never questioned why the Sentinel boy was so interested in something as mundane as spare piping or copper wiring, or helping people find it.  But he had been, because he didn't like the mumbo jumbo of his kin -- the tarot cards, the tea leaves.  The palm reading.  When you couldn't See it in the same way, at best it all sounded like make believe.  At worst, it could keep you up at night in fear, in the Unknowing, the trap that was living life blind.  Either way -- the only way he could escape it was by slipping quietly into an average life.

"I'll call Micah." He said, out of the blue.  "He's back in town, working with Clark's Electrical.  He'll be able to help and keep things under wrap."

Micah Laurent.  Henry had only seen him a couple of times, in the store buying things for the jobs he did now, as an electrician, but he'd been friendly enough.  The Carver man had no idea what had brought the man back, but here he was, on Helter ground again.  This place disposed of - and renewed - Sentinels like rubbish.


It was quickly becoming a Sentinel meeting in the shop, Connie thought wryly, as Claudette sailed up to their their new guard like the small-town politician she was.  All the while keeping a polite - but cool - distance, probably from Noel. The Eatons and the Laurents had boundaries drawn by bad blood that both sides perpetuated.  Still, Connie nodded back to her, gently motioning for her friend to sit.

"I can offer tea." Connie called out wryly, already pouring a cup for her friend.  "Or a really great masque to rehydrate your skin."

Criton and Claudette were having their own aside, though, and amused Connie shared a secret smile with Noel.  Eatons and their guard-dogs, she guessed. 

Still, when they mentioned Henry's shop the smile did drop.  Even if he didn't have the sight, he was still apart of the family.  "Could the pack spare a few more hands?" Connie asked, interrupting Criton and Claudette.  "To help with the cleanup?" It was the least they all owed Henry.  It was the least they owed any of their families who were otherwise pushed aside.


Cassie tried her best not to wince every time she had to put her weight on her leg as she strode down the street to the now ruined hardware store, her hair swaying in it's ponytail.   Bev had finally calmed down just enough to mention seeing her brother - one of them, anyway, and Cassie had sat there, stewing, until the absence of chaotic noise meant it was safe to move.

She hated not being included in pack things, and it seemed like some stupid monster rolling around with her brother through the street was a pretty big pack thing. 

Pulling up just front of the ruined threshold of the shop, Cassie hesitated only for a moment -- and then she saw which brother it was, at the heart of it all, and stopped entirely. 

"Oh." She said, impressed despite herself. "Criton's definitely going to make you deal with this."


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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2020, 04:08:09 pm »
Claudette sniffed when Criton moved as though she would walk into the Carver shop. Eatons had made a habit of respecting boundaries in Helter—well, most of them. She glanced back at Wyatt when he walked into the ruined shop across the street.

Connie called out an offer of tea and Claudette smiled politely but waggled her coffee cup in explanation, as though she’d drink any brew the Carvers handed her unless she was laid out on her deathbed—even then, she might be pigheaded enough to risk it and rely on her own body rather than their magic.

Connie asked about pack availability and Claudette took her opportunity to step away. “Pack business is pack business,” she muttered, took another sip of her coffee and nodded goodbye before heading away. She had a say in a lot of things in Helter Close—but not Medici business. They offered the Medicis contracts and schedules and the wolves either agreed or countered. Nothing was ever commanded, because wolves were not dogs and they sure as fuck would bite. Her mother had told her that and shown her a very ugly scar on her arm from her own youth.

-

Noel sighed relief when a cup of tea was pushed into her hands. She hadn’t realized how cold her fingers were until they pressed against that hot ceramic. She bit the inside of her lip to keep from laughing when Connie tried to antagonize the Eaton heiress with a skin masque.

She sipped and watched the big wolf in the doorway. There was no shadow following him—not like the one that followed Vester. Not all dead things stayed. Some went into the woods to become something else and some just…went. Noel couldn’t decide which she would prefer and wondered maybe if thinking that way was part of her problem. If she stopped thinking about fading—would she stop fading?

Not likely. Luck had never been a Laurent charm. That was Carver and Eaton magic, among other things.

-

Wyatt didn’t seem to notice the mess. Of course, the shop had been wrecked—they’d fought a monster there. He shrugged when asked if they could fix this—assuming the wolf meant Eaton money and willpower. “Sure. Why not?” he smiled. Eatons had built large parts of Helter, along with the mill. They dressed fine and held their chins high now, but they had all been raised to get things done and keep up appearances. They would do much worse things than sweat for Helter Close.

He swung sideways when he heard the shuffle, slide, of the teenage Medici coming for an eyeful of destruction. Wyatt smiled at her sharp words. Were there such things as nice siblings?

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Re: Helter Close
« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2020, 07:18:36 pm »
Vester felt the searing of his own flesh returning. Like a burn bubbles the skin, only the mar here was the body itself, rebuilt. Life is always heat, and wolves were full of it. He had drawn his fingers over ethanol flames as a kid, imagining it the way Criton described it. He had sat in his lap back then. Super Pup. It had made his day, historically. Not any more, because Criton didn't say it in the same way.

He looked at Henry and then back at the rubble. "Yeah." Micha. He bent down and picked up what must have been a part of the ceiling, and put it on what must have been the register counter. It was dumb. It felt wrong not to do anything, when he'd been such a big part in wrecking the hardware store. He snorted darkly to himself and wiped the corner of his mouth with the ball of his wrist. Moving hurt a lot, but at least he could without summoning some kind of end-of-the-line adrenaline. Any fight you can walk away from, all that.

Wyatt didn't think much of the cleanup, and Vester's eyes stuck a few moments on him for that. Just by coming here he supposed the twin was alright, but it went to show how the richer part lived. All that old blood were old scabs in the wolf, whether he knew where it came from all of a sudden or not. He had to remind himself he was above that, and hammer lightly on Wyatt's shoulder when he passed him, presumably to fix something else, uselessly.

He felt her in the top of his sinus before she came in. He had avoided Cassie best he could. They had bonded over their places in the pack when they were younger. His recent rise in ranks would have felt like an insult, if the roles were reversed. He'd not talked to her about it. It was rude, as sudden things usually are. He dragged a lump of coagulated life along the ridges of the vault inside his mouth when he saw her. Weird not to say anything now.

"Yeah." he said and felt silly for the distance now. It was just fucking Cassie, after all. How much of an ass would he have to be when he made her feel the loneliness their shared, but on her own? He had the beginning of a smile on his lips, darkening, drying up, the leaving spirit still becoming soul-vapor on them. But then Cassie shifted and favored her good leg. Something grew like ivy in him, something formidable, something with its own will so it could replace him if he fell. Something Nera had met. He took a step back. The Craft protested his minuscule retreat, but it manifested as a pulse of gold through his irises. Wolfs who can't fight for the pack should be its sustenance. The thought alone made him sick and he spit out the melting ruby ball he'd almost been chewing on. Criton. "Go back to him, wouldya. It's not safe here." Fucked up, since they'd both been sent off for the same reason, and he knew how much it grated the hearts and bones when it happened. Still, he waved his hands dismissively. He was an ass.

-

Criton looked at Connie when she asked. His dark eyes took their time over her. He was usually a seething kind of calm. Not explosive until he had to be. There'd been a few bar fights when he got loud. The threat of ballistics were often enough. Help? "We already lent a pair." he said and jabbed his thumb toward the hardware store. "They bleeding in there." He continued. Claudette was right. The underlying meaning was that the wolves had done enough today. Besides, he'd already offered to help out of the goodness of his heart. He got that Connie was worried for Henry, he understood family loyalty, but seemed a lot to press when Vester had just felled the spirit.

He would have made some excuse to see Cassie, but he noticed that she'd made it to the storefront. Good. Maybe this would lay to rest the strange electricity between the siblings. He knew he wasn't better. Vester had messed a lot of things up when he became what he was.

Clearance had been far away when the ruckus started. He hated that he hesitated. He didn't even hesitate for players twice his size. Eventually his expensive sneakers took him all the way back. The story was torn down. There was a gathering across it. Cleanse again. He walked over to them. Someone had to pay for his own cowardice. Claudette was  closest, but he didn't want to quarrel with someone who both had blood and the Town vote. Connie again, then, or Noel

"Hey, what happened here…" it was the start of a bark, he thought. When he was about to pass the threshold Criton got in his face.

"Get the fuck out, meat. Be useful and jog over there and help out instead." It sent a current through Clearance's body and he coughed in surprise. Looking at Criton's face, uncaring and threatening at the same time, he was reminded of his lack of heritage, and quickly looked at both Noel and Connie, as though they might help pick up his pride shattered over the store floor before he did move over to the quieting mayhem. He had half an impulse to loose on Cassie on his way, but Criton was still looking, and the store was fucking crawling with Sentinel.

Criton crossed his arms and nodded at both Connie and Noel. There could be peace over brats.