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The Descent



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Mon Apr 05, 2021 11:02 pm
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JamesPeterson says...



The Descent





Years into the future, a cataclysmic event happens. The Descent, as it is called. Earth suddenly merges with Hell. Both demons and humans are killed in the event, death tolls ranging somewhere into the billions.
In this future, Earth had become advanced, gaining technology far beyond what we have today. Hovercars, ion weapons, cyborgs, etc. The Earth had become one massive metropolis of skyscrapers and smog.
Now the Underworld is skyscrapers, lava, demons, and smog.


****

You have the option of being either a human or a demon. Demons have eight variants, listed below.

Spoiler! :
-Amethyst Bonding/Warping
-Ruby: Wings/Flight
-Sapphire: Telepathy/Telekinesis
-Topaz: Super Strength
-Diamond: Precognition
-Emerald: Health and Growth
-Onyx: Invisibility
-Amber: Super Speed


Rarity:
Ruby: 1
Topaz: 2
Emerald: 3
Amber: 4
Amethyst: 5
Sapphire: 6
Onyx: 7
Diamond: 8



Amethyst demons are able to teleport short distances similar to Nightcrawler. They also have the ability to “bond” a weapon, which allows them to teleport to that when they throw it short distances. Their horns are of medium length, varying in curling or not.

Ruby demons are where the standard demon comes from, with wings and horns, Rubies fly over the ashen fields of hell. They are normally in charge, and are the most common variant of Demon. Ruby demons have longer horns that curl into the standard image of a demon.

Sapphire demons have short, straight horns, and they are not the most common. Sapphires have telepathy, meaning they can read your thoughts, and limited telekinesis. Most sapphires stray away from large cities, tending to loathe the sheer amount of thoughts.

Topaz demons have thick, slightly curly horns, like a ram’s. They have the strength of ten men, able to withstand other things as well. Great endurance and strength is their talent. Topaz demons are pretty common, just behind ruby demons.

Diamond demons are incredibly rare. Most who are born are killed, imprisoned, experimented on, or run away from cities. There is a rumored bounty hunter that they say is a diamond demon, and he is incredibly efficient. They have a varying length of horns.

Emerald demons aren’t very rare, and live among everyday Rubies, Topazes and humans. They standardly have horns on the side of their head that extend somewhat, and might curve. Emerald demons can heal from most wounds, they can also make plants grow.

Onyx demons have obsidian-like skin, which matches their reclusiveness. Onyx demons are very rare, and they can turn themselves invisible. Onyxes also have increased senses to go with their invisibility. They have longer horns that usually curve, but don’t curl.

Amber demons are not terribly rare, they have enhanced speed, and higher senses to accompany that. Their horns are shorter, sometimes no more than stubs. Ambers are another common citizen of cities.


Keep rarity in mind when deciding your variant. Humans have variants in the way of standard races of today (i.e - Caucasian, Latino, etc). However, you can have implants. Implants can replace any normal body part, but only up to 45% of your body can be robotic. Implants are of any variety - use your imagination! :D

For the story, you are a demon or a human, and have received a letter from one "Gaufrid Naraden". The return address is TERMINUS.
The contents of the letter can change if you want, but the essentials are this:

Spoiler! :
Dear *NAME*,

You are accepted. Please come to this address two days from receiving this letter. If you come earlier, you will be rejected. If you arrive late, you will be rejected.

333 Scopular Drive
Azeria City, Vitreus Sector
Knock On The Door at 12:30 p.m. - Use the phrase "I'm here about the apartment listing."


No questions.
You can accept, and learn the truth, or deny and forever wonder.

The choice is yours.

Signed, Harpocrates.



What you decide to do about this letter is up to you.
But remember...
Hell awaits.


If you would like to join/have any questions, send a message in the OOC. There will be a character sheet there.

Slots:
1. @winterwolf0100 - Xozinath Tidrogg, Diamond Turner

2. @Terian805 - Lan Saxifrage

3. @Spearmint - Sage Barthacle

4. @JamesPeterson - Risius

Thank you!
P.S-This is the first Storybook I have made, so bear with me... :)
Last edited by JamesPeterson on Tue Jun 29, 2021 5:57 pm, edited 9 times in total.
Zacharias Drake
  





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Thu Apr 15, 2021 3:20 pm
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JamesPeterson says...



RISIUS


Risius wanted to be noticed. He was trying to get attention.
So he flipped to the next page of his newspaper.
Paper was a rarity in of itself, since there were no trees in hell. Newspaper? Well, it left long before humans had even discovered ion cannons and implants. All the news of the previous day, or even that day, on a chopped up tree...intriguing.
Ris was already getting a few confused glances at his direction.
Hm? What’s this? Ah yes, an old article from 2002, nearly 200 years ago. Risius skimmed the lines, not really focusing on them. He was waiting for his prey.
Ris checked the watch on his arm. Quarter past two. The thugs should have come round already.
Continuing to flip through the pages of his newspaper, Risius continued to wait until it was thirty minutes after two. That’s when they arrived.
A black hovercar turned onto the street, and around twenty or so men piled out. Several held various weapons of some kind, walking with a fake relaxed posture. Resistance had happened before.
“LISTEN UP!” the lead person shouted, a slender demon with curly horns and pitch black skin. Risius hadn’t expected that. Onyxes were trouble, and Risius didn’t like trouble.
“I hear that you people think you can push back and stop payin up! Well, hate to break it to you, but the Nightbleeders don’t back down easy!”
There were woots and shouts of agreement from the men behind him.
One old, homeless man stood and limped onto the street, with what seemed to be his wife trying to stop him. “I would...rather die...than...than,” he broke into a coughing fit. That happened to the poor and those that lived in the slums. The ash and smog would easily give you problems.
The Onyx seemed to be waiting as the old man recovered.
“I would rather die than bow to you…” he finished.
Risius continued to “read” his newspaper, when, in reality, his eyes were peering over the top of it. The old man was shaking. He was afraid. Who wouldn’t be, after all. You were already in Hell, so you knew what happened when you died. You became one of the Damned.
The demon stepped forward, sneering down at the cowering, elderly couple.
“Very well. It will be as you wish,” the onyx waved his hand to one of the thugs.
There were two burned corpses crumbling to ash in the street.
Risius gritted his teeth. So many variables. There weren’t supposed to be any casualties. He would make it as few as possible.
The demon ground his boot into the ash, and shouted, “See here!? This is what happens when you disobey.”
Suddenly something clicked into place. That man was going to die anyway. The Nightbleeders had made him do that, so that he could be an example.
Why, those twisted…
Risius tucked his newspaper under one arm, and, whistling, casually walked towards the gang. Their eyebrows raised. He wasn’t one of their “examples''. Risius wasn’t a variable.
He was the solution.
“Ho there boys! Mommy said that we can’t play today, I’m sorry,” Ris lowered his voice, “I don’t think she likes your ugly faces.”
The onyx narrowed his eyes, and clenched his fists, “Alright, jokester, get back to whatever filthy hole you crawled out of.”
“I would, but I think that your ugly face is spreading! Oh dear, yes! I can feel it! My mother won’t accept me back looking like you!” Risius said, patting his hand against his face in a comically frantic way.
One of the men growled, stepping forward, “Why you-”
The leader cut him off, “I’ll handle this. Clown, didn’t you hear me? I said, get back before I blow your head off!”
Risius sighed with relief, “Oh, please do! It would be quite the improvement...”
The onyx pulled out a gun, “Look. I don’t like to kill my money-makers, but if you keep it up...there’s gonna be clown to clean off the streets.”
Acting confused, Risius continued talking, “Don’t like to kill your money-makers? Hah! Are you dumb, or just trigger-happy? No, dumb, ugly and trigger happy! That’s it,” he pointed to the bodies lying in the street, nodding to himself as if he just finished a puzzle.
The gang-leader pulled the trigger.

****

Risius’s original plan hadn’t worked. He thought there would only be a few thugs, and that they would see his newspaper, back him into an alley, and…
Well, he would figure it out from there.
Smiling to himself, Risius walked on a street a few blocks from the Nightbleeder “incident”. He payed for a donut at a small bakery, and chewed it on his way home.
His house was on the other side of Azeria...why did he always walk home? It would be so much faster to take a hovertaxi.
Nah, he knew why.
Trudging through the slums of the city let him see people. See the poor, see the down-trodden. Maybe help a few.
Oh, that and get robbed. Risius always loved getting mugged.
Maybe today’s my lucky day… he thought as two mean-looking men started following him. They saw the newspaper did they? Or maybe it was the hat. The hat always drew attention.
Risius couldn’t help that he was so old-fashioned.
Suddenly, a knife was at his back. “Into the alley. Now.”
Finally!
Risius was half-shoved into the grimy alleyway next to him, where only rats and trash remained. The two muggers stood, cheap knives out, ready to gut him.
“Give us everything, demon,” the tall one spat the last word like an insult or curse.
Risius played the fool, as always, “Oh, please don’t hurt me, I’m just a rich man with like...thirty hovercars, a mansion, and...oh, right, money!”
He fumbled to grab his port and wallet.
“Hurry up!” the squat criminal hissed.
“You hurry up, you grubby little...oh, yes, this is a mugging! I forgot, sorry.” Risius searched through his pockets for...ah yes there it was.

****

Risius dragged the thugs up against the wall of the alleyway, making sure they were comfortable. The squat one took a bit of work. After he was done, Ris dusted off his hands, and tucked a few credits into the tall one’s pocket.
“There you go...maybe stop mugging people? Good, good,” Risius said, mostly to himself. Then something struck him. The thug had known he was a demon. Most people didn’t recognize it, as his skin was a similar color to humans most of the time.
But his horns were gone, so how did the criminal know?
Hm. Good eyes?
He took off the top hat, and gingerly ran his fingers over the bumps where his horns used to be.
He turned to leave again, “Oh well. Sent by someone, maybe?”
“Yes…”
Spinning on his heels, Risius faced Shorty. He was awake? He should have been out for another five or ten minutes...Hm.
“Well...who sent you, then? Chop, chop, I haven’t got all day...Well, I do, but you can’t have it.” The thug seemed paralyzed still, only his eyes were open, and he could move his mouth.
“Letter…we...decided...to rob...you...instead…”
Risius raised an eyebrow. “Someone sent you to deliver a message and you mug them? Not good manners, that. Alright, where’s my letter?”
The man chuckled, as well as he could, “Your...pocket. I put it in...while you...gave Shay credits…”
“Well, nice job! I usually notice a pickpocket…” he was thinking at the time, however, and thinking was a distraction. Patting through his many little pockets, Ris noticed a...paper envelope in his pocket.
Someone out there was rich.
When Shorty had said a letter, he was right...Risius had expected a message inside a chip or something, not actual paper.
His gaze went back to Shorty, “What?! Actual paper? Why did you try mugging me instead of just selling the letter?”
But Shorty didn’t answer.
Risius stepped closer to him. The man’s eyes had gone wide, and white froth was dripping from his mouth.
“Ashes and flowers...how…” Risius’s mouth was open in horror as Shorty gave one, final convulsion and the light faded from his eyes.
“Who…”
His fingers found the paper letter in his pocket. Risius gingerly slid it out of his pocket and flipped it to the other side. A wax seal.
Somebody felt rather aristocratic today.
Risius grabbed one of the shanks the thugs had been using, which had fallen to the ground. He carefully cut open the letter, not wanting to damage the paper.
Risius didn’t have much paper. His newspaper was the largest he had. That and a book.
Within the envelope, a white piece of paper fit snugly. Risius could tell there was writing on it, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to read it.
The writer had just killed the messenger.
But Risius loved mysteries.
The letter began:

Dear Risius,

You are accepted. Please come to this address two days from receiving this letter. If you come earlier, you will be rejected. If you arrive late, you will be rejected.

333 Scopular Drive
Azeria City, Vitreus Sector
Knock On The Door at 12:35 p.m. - Use the phrase "I'm here about the apartment listing."


No questions.
You can accept, and learn the truth, or deny and forever wonder.

The choice is yours.

Signed, Harpocrates.

P.S - I am apologetic for any trouble my...associates gave you.


Reading it over a few more times, Risius drew a sharp breath. Somebody wanted him for a job or something.
He should have known it would only be a matter of time before someone higher up heard of his ‘abilities’.
Well, Risius couldn’t ignore a letter from “Harpocrates”, the Greek god of secrets, could he. A very good alias. Almost as good as Risius’s own pseudonym.
Sometimes he couldn’t even remember his real name. It just wasn’t used. Ris slipped the letter into the envelope and put it into his pocket, and prepared to head home. He had two days to wait, and if there was one thing Risius hated doing...it was waiting.
Before he left, he set up a discovery of the thugs so they could receive a proper burial. Or maybe just one thug. Ris wasn’t sure if the tall one would die, but he certainly wasn’t waking up, and Risius couldn’t stay.

As the demon sauntered down the street, snacking on another donut, he fingered the letter in his pocket one more time.
“Who are you, and why me?” he said, under his breath.

“Who are you.”
Zacharias Drake
  





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Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:41 pm
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winterwolf0100 says...



Xozinath Tidrogg


When I got the letter, I was wearing a light grey button-up and a black cloak, carefully stitched slits of openings for my wings in each of the garments so I could pop them out at will. My shoes weren't the nicest pair I owned, but they were presentable at least, a simple pair of tennis shoes. And who was I trying to impress? The human souls I was giving a tour of Hell to? Don't be ridiculous. They couldn't care less about my shoes, or the pair of grey baggy pants only a few shades darker than my shirt. They were the type that cinches right at the ankle, so they were baggy but fashionable at the same time. Honestly, it was a masterful outfit on my part, especially since I wasn't hoping to impress anyone with it. At least, not anyone worthwhile. So maybe I enjoyed the turning heads of a few of the souls— but it wasn't like it was going to lead anywhere. They were humans, and even if they weren't dead, they'd still never have had a shot with me. I may be a Ruby demon, but I would've never been caught dead with a human. Especially not if the human was already... well, dead.

So... now that you've got that all in your mind, that's what I was wearing when I got the letter. The outfit wasn't actually an important detail or at all related to the letter, but I'm proud of it so it doesn't really matter if it's relevant in the grand scheme of things. Besides, I'm the writer and you're the reader, so really, you're just gonna have to suffer through whatever I write in hopes of reaching the worthwhile information you're here for. You are here for information, right? Not here to hear me blab about my outfit? Personally, I'd think it would be much more worthwhile for you to hear a few of my fashion tips than attempt to get any sort of interesting facts out of me. But to each their own. It's not like I can stop you from reading. Actually... for that matter, if I really wanted you to stop reading, I suppose I could just... stop writing. But now I'm having too much fun with this. It's nice keeping someone else on the edge of their seat for once. Besides, they're expecting me to write a full report of all the events that happened. I'm sure they're doing the same thing with everyone else too, just to make sure our stories line up I guess.

Alright, alright, I'll get back to the story.

So I got a letter. I know you're probably thinking: Xozinath, you already said that. And yes, yes I did. But I'm repeating it in case there are any humans out there who are a bit slower than the average demon reader. (Okay, I'm looking back and editing this, and realizing that may not have been the nicest thing to say. I've been told by some people I've grown close to lately that I'm "prejudiced" and "unnecessarily rude" towards humans. What do they expect? I'm a Ruby demon! We don't exactly grow up hearing shining reviews of humans. Most of the interaction we have with them is the damned souls who did something horrible enough that they're in our division. But they won't let up about this line if I don't take it out, so for the sake of the over-dramatic, let me try this again. You'll probably see other lines that I've crossed out as well along the way, so just ignore them. Again, my friends are overzealous about these types of things.)

So I got a letter. I know you're probably thinking: Xozinath, you already said that. And yes, yes I did. But I'm repeating it in case there are any humans out there who are a bit slower than the average demon reader. But I'm repeating it because "everyone" can have some memory issues, and "all my readers, no matter their species" might've forgotten I got a letter. So, the letter.

I was at work when it happened. In the outfit I already described. I suppose I have to describe myself for you to get the full picture though, don't I?

As I already stated, I'm a demon. A Ruby class one, to be more specific. That means long, slightly curled horns, crimson-colored skin, wings... yeah. You get the picture. I've got black, curly hair that falls just above my ears, and it's ridiculously thick. My eyes are a light grey, I'm around 5'10", I've got sharp cheekbones and a sharp jawline, and I've been told (many, many times) that I'm veryattractive mostly by myself, to the mirror. My wings are a bit smaller than most other Ruby demons (only about four feet long on either side), and my horns are black with notches. I suppose they kind of look like tiers now that I think about it; like each floor of a building was stacked on top of each other, each one slightly smaller than the last. I've got five 'floors' for each of my horns, making them a possible extra foot or so of height. Don't be fooled though. I know some of you (humans, yes, I'm looking at you) have certain... misconceptions regarding a demon's horns. So let me dispel a few of the rumors:

  • Yes, they are sharp. Yes, they would cut your weak skin. I don't suggest you try it.
  • No, I do not use them as weapons. Seriously? And you wonder why I think you're practically animals uncivilized! What do you think I'd do— charge at someone like a bull? Don't be ridiculous. Everything in Hell is red. If I charged at it all the time, I'd never get anything done. Besides, horns are extremely sensitive, and they don't exactly grow back. If you break one, you're just down a horn, and good luck trying to find someone who'll give you a prosthetic for that. (Besides, demons look down on prosthetics. We unlike humans are actually confident in our bodies).
  • Horns are sensitive. I said this in the last one, but I feel the need to point it out again, because it's true, and you can't go around just hitting people's horns. It's one of the most sensitive parts on a demon's body along with wings (if they have them), and breaking one is like being stabbed and breaking a bone at the same time— white-hot pain, then dulled pain, sometimes for years after the incident. I've never experienced it, but that's how it's been described to me, and I am not anxious to test it. They're very difficult to break, much harder to break than a bone, which I suppose is a point for us, but still... we avoid any type of painful horn contact if we can.
  • Horns— they are sensitive. Yes, there is already another point for this. But I'm reiterating it again because I know this is going to go over the heads of some stupid humans. Think of it like this: if I walk into a door and hit my horns on the door-frame accidentally, I might pass out depending on how hard I hit it. So yeah— horn touching and hitting is a definite no if you want to keep your limbs attached to your body. (I strongly suggest you do unless you're planning on getting a prosthetic.)
  • Now, this is the most interesting one. Apparently, humans don't realize horns need... maintenance? Really? How could you not realize that? They're horns. You think they just stay polished and finished on their own? No, it takes seriously long appointments to polish and take care of your horns, and even then, pretty much every demon has some sort of night and morning routine for taking care of them. If you're signing up for a professional horn polishing and touching up, you better go to a certified and well-known place (for the love of hell, not a place run by humans) and you might as well take the day off from work. Horns will be— you guessed it— pretty sensitive after any work like buffing is done to them, and they always recommend you rest afterward.

And while I'm dispelling rumors, I suppose I should just cover the basics on most Ruby demon wings (because why the hell not):

  • Feathers: just no. Come on, we're not descended from the dinosaurs, you idiotic uninformed apes "generic audience that could be any species". And we're not cheesy angel depictions in bad romance novels. We're demons. Our wings aren't going to be "aesthetically pleasing" to everyone because they were created by evolution and not some thirsty teen writing fanfiction.
  • So if they're not feathers— what are they? Short answer? Skin. Long answer, basically skin but with some bones in there somewhere. I don't know how to explain it. The closest comparison would be bat wings— it's like we used to have an extra set of hands that developed into wings we can fly with. Except we didn't. So don't start thinking we did.
  • Where do they go when they're not out? Well, this is a bit... difficult to understand. Humans want everything to fit completely with science, but the thing is, it doesn't. We can keep them folded up and out in the open, but we can also fold them up and basically make them disappear. The spots they come out of have two long, thick scars down my back for me, and I'm pretty certain it's that way for every demon with wings.
  • "Wings are easy to learn how to use". Okay, I really don't know where you puny people got that from, because... no. They're limbs, like an extra set of arms but not. It takes babies and toddlers years to learn how to properly walk, so don't expect to learn to fly in the span of a day. It comes with practice, precision, and patience. It's definitely not like learning to ride a bike. If you don't use them for a while, you're going to be rusty, and it's going to take some time to build up the muscles again. You can't go for months without walking and expect to still be able to run a marathon; the same goes for flying.

  • So endurance. That comes pretty naturally, right? And all demons can fly the same length of time? Again, no. We're not robots being churned out of a factory. In fact, you're closer to robots than we are with your add-on limbs and metal prosthetics. Like I already said, they're like legs. Some people can run for longer distances than others, and you have to build muscle up to be able to go really long distances. Most Ruby demons use their wings daily and most of the day, but for people like me, stuck in an office half the time and walking around more than I fly, it's not as easy going longer distances. Like the usual muscles, they can strain or get injuries, and they'll start to burn if you're going too far. Eventually, they'll just give out, so make sure you land before they do.
  • Are they sensitive? Duh. They're a part of a body. They're not indestructible. Now, if you're wondering if they're as sensitive as horns, then the answer is no. They're more like arms— it'll hurt if you run into something, sure, but it'll take pressure to actually break something in them. They have bones, remember? But yes, they are sensitive. You can't get something heavy dropped on your wing and walk away like it was nothing just because you've got a lot of muscles in there— it'll still hurt like hell, and you'll definitely have something broken.

Alright, I got off track again, but it kind of takes some background knowledge to even understand what it's like to be a demon. And before you start, yes. I know some of the readers of this likely are demons. But I'm trying to dumb down adapt my writing to fit with all types of readers, even humans.

So— now you know what I look like. Charming, demonic, genderfluid Xozinath. Wait, did I mention I'm genderfluid? (Upon review, I realize I did not mention that I am genderfluid... but at this point, I don't have the energy to try to insert it somewhere, so you'll just have to learn about that as this goes along. I've waited long enough to actually start the story. I'm not going to write a five-page paper on my gender now.) I use pretty much all pronouns; I don't usually correct people unless I'm feeling really strongly one way or another because it's fun to watch the straight people panic when they realize they can't tell if they're turning gay by being attracted to me. Where was I going with this? Oh right, the letter.

I was at work when I received the letter— sitting at the front desk, filing boring entrance work from a few new souls who had come in that morning. The waiting room was completely jam-packed with souls waiting to get in, but I didn't have the effort to let any more in right then and lead them to open rooms to fill out their personal paper, so for the last 30 minutes, I'd been taking what I call some "me" time. I locked the front doors and told them all the rooms were filled until I finished the filing I was doing. Really, it wasn't my fault; they usually had at least five people on front desk duty, and I wasn't even supposed to be one of them. Somehow, all five of the demons that usually worked here managed to get sick at the same time, and I'd been called in last minute to stop my job of transporting and leading souls to where they needed to be in order to cover the desk.

Then, I heard a knock on one of the doors from the waiting room. That wasn't what caught me off guard— it was the fact that it was a bullet-proof glass door, and the guy knocking on it cracked it without trying. I could tell right away that he was a Topaz demon of course; the curly ram horns were a dead giveaway. That, and the fact that he had the power to crack a bullet-proof sheet of glass on accident. That tended to hint at supernatural strength.

I shot to my feet at the noise, then blinked a few times before I realized what was happening. The noise from the waiting room was loud, but I could just make out the demon's muffled, "I've got a letter!" through the glass. With a sigh, I walked to the door, unlocking it and ushering him quickly inside before shutting the door again and locking it— just in case any souls got any ideas.

"Yes?" I said, irritation seeping into my voice.

The demon looked at me for a few seconds, then said, "I have a letter for a Miss..." he trailed off, then added hesitantly, "ter? For a Mister Tidrogg?"

There are several things going on here that I feel the need to stop the narrative for:

Number one: this demon's voice was not at all the deep, baritone voice you would expect from someone who could, I don't know... crack bullet-proof glass by knocking on it. The demon had a light voice, and it cracked as he debated between 'miss' and 'mister'. He looked like an adolescent, so I guessed he must be doing the mail job as a side gig.

Number two: The 'miss' and 'mister.' I have no words to describe the exhilarating thrill that rushed through my body when I watched that puberty-ridden boy try to decide if the person in front of him was a male or a female, so I'll leave it at this: it was a beautiful moment.

"That's me," I replied, looking up his short, buff figure. He had a horn piercing in his left horn— who let their kid get a horn piercing? It looked amazing of course, but still... interesting move.

"Uh, alright then," he said, fumbling around with the bag slung across his shoulder. He opened it and pulled out several envelopes, before shuffling through them and replacing all except one. "This is for you then."

I took it, turning it over to see who it was from, but all that's written in place of a return address is "TERMINUS."

"What the hell?" I wonder aloud, then glance up and realize the boy is still in front of me. "Is that all?"

He swallows and nods, glancing up at my face questioningly before looking away again. "That's all. I'll be on my way. More deliveries to make. Oh, and uh, sorry about the door." He looked chagrined as he said it, before his face brightened and he said, "you know, your building really should consider investing in Topaz-proof glass! Much harder to break than bullet-proof."

I nodded absent-mindedly, not really paying attention to him anymore. I flipped the envelope over and pushed one of my fingers under the flap, pulling upwards until it opened with a tear.

"I guess I'll be going then," the boy chuckled nervously, before moving back to the door and unlocking it. I heard him close it on his way out, and walked back over to lock it before sitting back down at the desk. I pulled out the single piece of paper inside to read:

Dear Xozinath Tidrogg,

You are accepted. Please come to this address two days from receiving this letter. If you come earlier, you will be rejected. If you arrive late, you will be rejected.

333 Scopular Drive
Azeria City, Vitreus Sector
Knock On The Door at 3 p.m. - Use the phrase "I'm here for a private horn polishing."


No questions.
You can accept, and learn the truth, or deny and forever wonder.

The choice is yours.

Signed, Harpocrates.


I stared at it for a few seconds, then leaned back in my chair— because what the hell was I supposed to do with that? I was "accepted"? For what? The best-dressed award? Well duh, I was the best-dressed. I didn't need this letter to tell me that. (I have been told it is "cocky" and "arrogant" to write that I am the best-dressed apparently. Who knew?)

After a few seconds of thinking, I glanced back upwards at the souls filling the waiting room. They were becoming increasingly agitated, which wouldn't normally be my problem, but since I was on desk duty, it unfortunately was. I set the letter back down on the desk and stood to go start letting people filter into the rooms. I'd go to the weird address in two days during my lunch break, get an extra hour or so off, and then be back in time to close up for the night. This was definitely not how it ended up going down of course. (Apparently, humans consider something like this a "spoiler," so I deleted it because you are weaklings. "eager people who don't want the story spoiled for you.")

I glanced back at the desk one more time, then unlocked the doors and held them open. "Alright people, come on in and make an orderly line at the desk. It's only me on desk duty today and it's going to take a long time to sort through everyone, so be prepared for a wait."

I heard several grumbles and complaints through the crowd as I made my way back to the desk and sat down, absent-mindedly tucking the letter away in my bag.

It stayed there for two days until, after flying to Azeria City, I took it out to look for the exact address. And at 3 pm, I knocked on the door and said I was there for a horn polishing. Was I worried? Maybe a little. Confused about why I was there? Definitely. Wondering why I had been chosen to do whatever it was I was doing? Certainly. But did I ever seriously consider turning back and going back to work? Absolutely not. I was too intrigued to back out by then. I wanted to know why someone had sent me this letter, why it was in this specific building, why it was me. So I followed the directions the letter gave me. And I was there on time— not early, not late. And I said the magic words.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for suspense.
  





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Spearmint says...



Sage Barthacle


"Oh, oysters and shells! Why won't this darn thing work?" Sage tossed the screwdriver down in frustration, watching it clatter against the piles of stuff in her workshop. She glared at the metallic orb in front of her, twisting a strand of her green-streaked hair as she attempted to figure out the problem. So the rings surrounding the orb should be turning smoothly, but... arghh, they just keep on getting stuck! I thought I greased everything properly... Ugh, do I have to take this thing apart again?

Sage groaned and banged her head against the table. Her forehead would probably get all grime-streaked again, but she didn't really care. There were at least two hours until she had to open shop anywa-- Oh shoot! Sage bolted upright. There was a customer-- wait, what was her name? Uhh... doesn't matter! Ack, I gotta hurry if I'm gonna get that delivery to her on time! Sage tossed a glance at the orb-- she'd be back to deal with it later-- then wiped her face with her slightly-cleaner sleeve and hurried through the connecting door into the shop.

Scanning the shelves, Sage grabbed the teabot (tea-making robot) the customer had asked her to fix, as well as some toothbrush-cleaners. (The little boxes that automatically washed and dried toothbrushes were one of her few (sort of) successful inventions.) Precariously balancing the items in her arms, Sage dashed outside and stomped on her hoverboard to activate it.

A pleasant voice started to say, "Voice authen--"

"No time! Hurry, hurry-- to that customer's house! Uhh Ms. Yabakry? Yibaraky?" Sage frantically tried to remember the person's name.

The hoverboard's AI spoke up again. "Welcome, Sage. Did you mean: Yummy Bakery?"

"No!" Sage yelped. "Autocorrect, you're being super unhelpful right now!"

"Apologies. Would you like to register a com--"

"No! Just take me to-- oh right! Ms. Yobraky's apartment building!"

"Navigating to: Diane Yobraky's apartment building."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Sage adjusted the delivery items into a more comfortable position and settled in for the ride.

~ ~ ~

After dropping off the items with Ms. Yobraky's secretary (only eighteen minutes late, which in Sage's opinion was a definite improvement), the mechanic/inventor hopped back onto her hoverboard, set it to autopilot, and headed back towards the workshop.
Phew, okay. Now, let's see... Do I need to pick up any materials on the way? I might need something special in order to fix that orb... Lost in thought, Sage didn't notice the Ruby demon tailing her until the demon flapped his wings and landed in front of her with a thump. The hoverboard attempted to navigate around him, but the demon just stepped in front of it again. Blinking in surprise, Sage glanced up at him and asked, "Do you sell microfiber cloth?"

The demon frowned. "Huh?" He drew himself up taller and sniffed. "Hmph. I'll have you know I am no mere salesdemon. Don't the clothes give it away?"

Sage looked him up and down and shrugged. "I don't usually notice what people are wearing." She paused a moment while the not-a-salesdemon sighed in annoyance. "Uh, so, if you have nothing useful to offer, I'd appreciate it if you could kindly step aside and let me get back to my work..."

Scowling, the demon quickly scanned their surroundings, then extracted an envelope from his jacket. He lowered his voice and said, "I've been hired to deliver a letter. And it's actual paper too, which means you must be someone special if the person who hired me was willing to spend that much money on you..." He looked at Sage's messy hair and outfit. "Although I really can't imagine why. No offense, of course." The demon cleared his throat and continued, "Anyways, here you go, this letter is for you." He thrust the envelope out to Sage.

Sage mumbled under her breath and counted on her fingers.

The demon narrowed his eyes. "Excuse me?" He waved the letter in front of her. "Did you hear what I just said?"

"Hmm... seven nuts and bolts should work. Highly polished."

The demon raised an eyebrow. "Is your attention span really that short?"

Sage focused on him again and said, "Oh, you're still here?"

The demon sighed. "Whatever, just take this." He shoved the letter at Sage and took off.

Unconsciously clutching the letter, Sage returned to her thoughts as her hoverboard started moving again.

~ ~ ~

The inventor was just about to get back to work when she realized she was holding something in her right hand. Hmm. An envelope? When did that get there? Shrugging, Sage opened it in order to check if it was for her. (It'd be rather unfortunate if she had to go searching through the city to return someone else's belongings again. To this day, Sage had no idea how she ended up holding a tattered pink umbrella on the side of a highway.) But thankfully, this time it seemed that Sage's possession of the letter was not a mistake. It read:

Dear Sage Barthacle,

You are accepted. Please come to this address two days from receiving this letter. If you come earlier, you will be rejected. If you arrive late, you will be rejected.

333 Scopular Drive
Azeria City, Vitreus Sector
Knock On The Door at 4:15 p.m. - Use the phrase "I'm here about the tool sale."


No questions.
You can accept, and learn the truth, or deny and forever wonder.

The choice is yours.

Signed, Harpocrates.


Sage tapped her fingers on the worktable. Vitreus Sector... that's not too far from where I live. But why is the sender-- Harpocrates-- so picky about the timing? Knowing me, I'll probably arrive late... Eh, I guess it doesn't really matter if I'm "accepted" or not. We'll see if I remember in time. She put the letter aside, careful not to smear any grime on it, then reconsidered. Paper is pretty valuable... maybe I should put it in a safer place.

Sage slid her forearm prosthetics open and surveyed the contents of the hollow containers. In the right, there were various small tools and materials, and in the left there were some plastic-wrapped candies. The human shrugged, rolled up the letter and tucked it into her left forearm prosthetic, then resumed her work.

~ ~ ~

Two days later, Sage was on her way back from another delivery when she slid open her left prosthetic in search of some sweets. Noticing the rolled-up piece of paper, the mechanic/inventor unfurled and read (re-read) it. Oh, I completely forgot about this! But hmm. The address isn't too far from here, and the time is... 4:07. Well, I suppose I am rather curious who this Harpocrates person is, and what they want to meet me for...

At promptly 4:15, Sage knocked on the door of 333 Scopular Drive and asked, "What is the meaning of truth?"
Last edited by Spearmint on Tue Jun 01, 2021 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
mint, she/her =D
  





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winterwolf0100 says...



Diamond Turner


April 29th:

The world sucks. That should be it, shouldn't it? That should be the end of this stupid story I'm supposed to be telling you. They want me to write an account of everything that happened, I guess to make sure stories line up correctly... but I don't want to. Why should I? I don't know you, do I? And I've already spent all morning looking over another person's account of our story. I don't have the energy to write this.

April 30th:

So I'm back. They won't let me leave my room unless I write this. But where do I even start? I want a shower, but it's down the hall, and like I said... I'm not allowed to leave until I finish this. But it's such a long story. Where am I supposed to start? Forget this, I don't want to sit here reliving everything just so they can get a legal document over it. I'm done with this.

May 2nd:

My right metal leg has been acting up for days, and they won't let me have access to any tools to try to fix it. One of my more recently acquainted... friends is a mechanic of sorts, but they won't even let me see her. They cut off my pain medication until I started to write this report, and I'm currently gritting my teeth and trying not to pass out from the waves of pain and nausea, the former from the old injury, the latter from the sudden cleansing of my body of my medications. It pisses me off, I'll admit, that they'd go to such lengths just for a stupid report. They threatened to cut off my food supply for Mouse, my monkey, if I don't get my act together. I don't know how I'll concentrate without my medication though. There are cameras in here; can't they see that I'm not the only thing that's crippled? The pain is crippling too.

I spent all of yesterday going in-between waves of pained sleep and unbearable waking hours, though I'm not sure entirely if it was from the drawback or just the heightened pains of my leg without the medication to dull it. I think I'm crying-- pain reflex. I can't do--


May 3rd:

Well that was a cliffhanger, wasn't it? The first few days of withdrawal are the worst, or so I've been told. I couldn't keep writing, so I just walked away from the keyboard and laid down for a while, trying to lull my body to sleep so I could temporarily get out of it. But I can't put it off any longer. I've had Mouse since I was a teenager. There's no way I'm letting him starve because I don't want to write about my experiences. So: where to start?

~~~


The hovertaxi in front of me cuts me off, and I have to slam on the brakes to avoid smashing into them. "Jackass!" I shout out my open window, and Mouse chitters in agreement from his spot on my lap. I could never get away with cursing like that with a passenger in the back, of course-- it was a demon driver, and they didn't take too kindly to humans in the first place-- but with an empty hovertaxi, the word slipped out of my mouth before I thought about it. I wonder what it means: jackass. It was one of those old curses I'd heard my mom and dad mutter under their breaths, and they'd learned it from their parents. It was a phrase from before the Descent, before everything went to Hell-- literally.

I mutter a few more choice words under my breath as Mouse scampers up my arm to sit on my shoulder. He likes to look out the windows while we're driving, and in my lap, he's usually too small to see out the windshield. I move a finger absently, hearing the click-click-click that reassures that the blinker is, in fact working, which is a relief, seeing as it wasn't last week.

I turn the corner, heading for the more human side of town-- the only people who will actually pay for a ride from a person who looks like me. Demons are snooty around humans in general, but a black woman with a metal prosthetic leg? They'd just love for me to drive into a pit. Mouse makes a few noises on my shoulder and I reach into my passenger seat, passing him a slice of the orange. He takes it and turns it over in his paws before he squeezes it, splattering the juices all over my shoulder and face. He chatters excitedly and reaches for another, and I grab him by his arm and pull him onto the other side of my lap. "Nuh-uh. You think I like this in my face?"

I glance at him when it's safe to, narrowing my eyes. "Ugh, and you just took a bath!" I complain, realizing the orange juice and insides are also coating the fur on his belly. He just gives me a small smile, and I mutter, "Note to self: no oranges." He'd never had problems with them before, but now that he'd discovered how much fun they could produce, he'd never get his paws on an orange slice without exploding it.

I wipe my face with the back of my hand as I turn onto another street, driving aimlessly. On a street corner a few blocks in front of me, a demon sticks out their hand and waves to signal for a ride, but I don't slow down. They must not see the driver is a human. Once they do, they'll put their hand down-- but they don't. Instead, when I drive past them, they begin running after me. I frown and slow down before pulling over. How embarrassed will they be when they see I'm human? Will they mutter an apology and walk away, or will it be an awkward situation, where they're too stuck-up to turn away from me, and commit themselves to a tense ride in silence?

To my surprise, they walk to the passenger side and begin opening the door. I roll the window down and say, "Hey bud, backseat only in this baby."

The demon, who I can now see has short, stubby horns and red skin tinged brown, smiles. "Alright then, apologies." It's a light voice, and as she turns to open the back door, I see no wings on her back-- though that means nothing. Ruby demons can hide their wings easily, and most types of demons aren't automatically distinguishable by appearance unless they're trying to be.

She climbs in, and Mouse chitters to me. I haven't quite forgiven him for the orange in the face and all on my shirt, but I sigh and hold my hand out, which he places his paw in. I lift him to rest on my left shoulder and roll up my window so he can't fly out, before I begin to pull out. "Where to, ma'am?" I ask, looking in the rear-view mirror.

"333 Scopular Drive. It's in the Vitreus Sector?" She says, and I nod. I think I've been by there a few times. I start driving in the general direction.

"So you got any wings under that shirt, demon?" I ask, my tone a mixture of boredom and annoyance. I'm glad for any paying customer, but demons aren't usually the ones in my hovertaxi, and it's a little rattling, seeing as most of my experiences with them have involved slurs, the ocassional thrown punch, and let's not forget: the death of my parents and loss of my right leg.

"You got any implants under that shirt, human?" She shoots back, and I shrug.

"Only under these pants, ma'am," I reply. "Prosthetic, not implant."

"I don't see a difference," she murmurs, looking out the window.

"Well it's there," I reply curtly, turning into the Vitreus Sector. "An implant enhances your abilities and is by choice. A prosthetic is what happens when your leg is blown off."

She meets my eyes in the rearview mirror and says, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean--"

"It's fine," I say flatly. I don't want to talk about this, especially not with her. "You recognizing any of these streets?" While my GPS is still able to track how long I've driven to calculate how much to charge, the actual GPS part of it stopped working long ago. Between saving up for a new blinker to avoid getting arrested and getting a new GPS, I'd opted for the one that would save my hide.

"Uh, yes," she says. "Turn right on this next street, and then it's just a few blocks down."

I turn, muttering, "Come on Amber, baby," under my breath as my hovertaxi gives a slight shudder with the turn.

"Amber?" The demon asks from the back seat. "Is that the name of the monkey?"

"No. His name is Mouse," I reply, reaching my left arm up to scratch him behind his head slightly. "Amber is the car."

"Amber..." she repeats. "Inspired by anything in particular?"

"Fastest deliverer of propinquity on the streets of Azeria City," I chime. Not an exact rhyme, but I'd actually spent quite a bit of time trying to find something that would work. "Amber demons. That's what you fast ones call yourselves, right?"

She looks slightly amused. "Yes, Amber demons."

"Little speed demon. That's my taxi," I say, pulling to a stop in front of the address. I turn and lean my elbow on my headrest to look at her. "That what you are? One of those Amber demons?"

She raises an eyebrow. "I hope you realize how incredibly insulting that is to ask."

"What, being divided into a category? Humans do it too. Only difference is it shows on our skin," I counter. "Not fair you demons can try to hide it up. Heritage is something to be proud of. At least, human heritage is. Don't know how you demons handle things like that."

"I'm an Amber demon," she acknowledges, before she opens her door. "And heritage is complicated for every being. The rare are sought. The common are crushed."

"Is that supposed to be new knowledge to me?" I say dryly, and she laughs.

"Certainly not. It does seem to be much more shown in human culture, these discrepancies and discriminations. I suppose you're right. When demons can hide who they are, it's harder for the discrimination to come into light, isn't it?" She seems to think on it for a moment, before shaking her head. After several moments of silence, I have to break it.

"Alright well, enjoy whatever you're doing in that building," I say, turning back to the front, but she doesn't get out like I expect her to. After a few seconds, I frown and glance back at her. "You gonna get out?"

She watches me expectantly, then gives me the ghost of a smile. She draws something from a bag and holds it towards me, and after a few seconds, I'm shocked to register it as... "Paper?" I exclaim, snatching it from her and ripping the envelope open. Paper is so rare, so valuable... why is she giving it to me? What does it say?

"This address isn't for me," she says softly as I begin to read through the letter. "It's for you."

I pause for a minute after reading it, then look back up at her. "What?"

"Several days ago, a teenage Topaz boy was sent out to deliver an undisclosed amount of letters to certain individuals. A day ago, he was found in an alley, dead. It was unknown how many of his letters he managed to deliver before he was found out and killed, whether for possession of paper or the contents within them, we have no idea."

I frown. "That's... awful. A teenager?" She nods and glances downward.

"Of course, he was warned of the risks of what he was delivering and how others might wish to get their hands on the precious paper. Still... a true tragedy, the loss of someone so young." She pauses, then says, "After investigating all of this morning, I turned up your letter. I'm not sure how many letters are still lost, if any, but it's time-sensitive information and would be void of any meaning if I hadn't delivered it on time today."

I glance back down at the letter and reread it.

Dear Diamond Turner,

You are accepted. Please come to this address two days from receiving this letter. If you come earlier, you will be rejected. If you arrive late, you will be rejected.

333 Scopular Drive
Azeria City, Vitreus Sector
Knock On The Door at 5 p.m. - Use the phrase "I'm here with your hovertaxi ride."


No questions.
You can accept, and learn the truth, or deny and forever wonder.

The choice is yours.

Signed, Harpocrates.

P.S. No mice allowed.


I look back up at the demon. What could possibly be so important that a teenage boy had been killed over it-- that she'd risked her own safety to deliver the letter to me on time?

"The choice is still yours," she reassures me, looking between the letter and me. "But you're already here. And you don't have much time to decide."

I glance at the clock on my dashboard, and sure enough: 4:55 p.m. She really had gotten me here right in the nick of time. She gives a sad smile, before she begins to exit the car.

"Wait! You're just going to leave me with this?" I say, feeling almost incredulous.

"The choice is up to you," she repeats. "I'm sure I'll see you again at some point, Diamond," she says, and my name feels like a punch to the gut as she begins to walk away because I never told her it.

"Hey, whoa, whoa, whoa," I say, rushing to get out of my car, Mouse clutching to my neck and the letter still held tightly in my hand as I slam the door shut and run to the sidewalk. She's already halfway down the block from me. "I never caught your name!"

She turns, with a hint of a smile on her lips. "You seem to enjoy irony," she shouts back at me, "with a monkey named Mouse and a hovertaxi named Amber. Call me..." She pauses, and even from the distance, I can see her smile widen as she tilts her head, "Dawdle."

Dawdle," I repeat. "Like slow? You're an Amber demon who wants to be called slow?" She's already around the corner and out of sight, and I sigh. I look back at my car, then the building. If it was really this important, if I was needed for something... there couldn't be any harm in at least checking it out, could there?

I lock my car and walk up the steps to the door, knocking before I say, "I'm here with your hovertaxi ride."

There's several seconds of silence, and I glance back down at the letter. Why would they specify no mice? Why would they think I would bring a mouse? Then, it hits me. Mouse... Mouse. They thought Mouse was an actual... well, mouse. I glance at him, currently resting on my shoulder with his tail wrapped under and around my arm. Well, they'll have to deal with it. I'm not leaving him out here. And just as I fold up the letter and tuck it in my pocket, the door begins to open.

~~~


May 4th:

I can't stop crying. I'm panting and sweat is rolling down my body. I'm laying down as I'm typing this. Liars and thieves, the lot of them, swearing they'd return my medicine if I began to write. The pain radiates from my leg, unbearable, excruciatingly hot and burning. The jackasses, I'd kill them all, explaining in calm voices that I was addicted, that they were weaning me off. Weaning me off, my ass. This wasn't weaning off, this was starving. This was intolerable pain and a fever and vomiting up any food I managed to force down. And they were letting it happen. I won't write any more for them, not when I'm like this. Not when all I want is to spend an eternity knocked out if it means avoiding this pain. Liars and thieves... I wish I'd never gone to that blasted building. I wish I'd never trusted the lot, not any of them at all except the other subjects like me. But most important, I wish I'd never met Dawdle-- I wish Dawdle was dead. No... I wish she was alive for the sole purpose of experiencing this horrendous pain.

And maybe then, they'd give me the blasted meds.
  





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JamesPeterson says...



Risius
Part Two:
Dionysus


Risius yawned and checked his watch again, impatiently tapping the arm of his chair.
A quarter past twelve. Damnation. Why did time move so slowly?
The demon glanced out the window, across the street, at 333 Scopular Drive. Whose house was this again? Bah, who cared. They weren’t here and they wouldn’t ever know.
The room Risius sat in was a grimy little mudhole. Just like most of the Vitreus Sector, which was an ironic name, as Vitreus meant glass in Latin.
This place certainly isn’t glassy or clear, he thought, running a finger through the grease on the window. It wasn’t the residents fault, they couldn’t afford cleaning very much, and all the ash outside probably didn’t help. Risius checked his watch yet again, even though it still read as twelve-fifteen. He grit his teeth and continued tapping the arm of his chair. This Harpocrates was just evil. He wanted Risius to wait, of all things.
Trying to keep his mind off the passage of time, Risius focused on watching the house. It was a quaint but tall, gray home. It probably had multiple rooms that were rented out, just like this one. The door was a dark, stained crimson. The windows tinted. Was this a front, or was it just a location? Risius had to find out, but that meant waiting.
Thirty minutes to go…

****

Someone entered the house at approximately 12:40. Five minutes before Risius had to be at that red door. It startled him from his bored stance. He stopped trying to do a handstand and promptly crashed into the wall.
Dazed, but much more energetic, Risius stumbled to the window. There they were. Someone in a black trench coat, akin to Risius’s own, and large hat had ducked into 333 Scopular Drive. They began closing the door as Risius looked as hard as he could to catch a glimpse of their face.
The door stopped for a moment right before it closed and Risius jumped back from the window in surprise
“Did they...just...wink at me?!” he exclaimed, to no one but himself.
That had definitely been a man.
Don’t be too quick to judge...Remember that gender fluid demon back in ‘45? Ooh boy, that had been a wild adventure. Risius smiled as he reminisced, but was drawn back to reality when his watch started beeping. 12:44.
“By all Damnation!” Risius yelled, quickly grabbing his bowler hat and slipping back into his trench coat. He was on the third floor, taking the stairs would be too slow.
Risius looked at the window, then back at the door.
“No, we can’t do that, Risius. That’s dangerous and too cliche...but its cool…”
He took a step back and ran towards the window at full speed, yelling. His scream was not just one of fear but of utter horror at what he was doing.
As he broke through the window, his brain did not think fast like it did in all the movies and books. Instead, as expected, everything else slowed down...

*****

Risius wiped the blood from his cheek where one shard had managed to cut him, and knocked on the red door.
There was no answer.
Risius checked his watch again. 12:45, just on time, as always.
Did he do something wrong? Did staying in the room across the street break the “rules”?
Then the door cracked.
“Eh? Who are you and whaddya want!?” It was an older man, apparently.
Risius’s mind blanked for a second, trying to analyze everything but what he was supposed to say. “Uh, er, uh. OH! Yeah, I’m here about the apartment listing.”
A pause.
“Hrmph. It’s a fixer upper but I think you’ll like it.” The door opened and a squat old man with thin and gray hair ushered Risius, nearly double the man's height, inside.
He closed the door and slid three, no four, locks across the door.
“Don’ make this take long, I have a horn polishing appointment at three.” he started to walk up a set of stairs just inside the door.
Risius looked around for any mysterious people in trench coats, but saw none. “Uh, but you’re human…”
The old man stopped, “No, you dolt, I do the polishing.” The man frowned, adding another crease to his wrinkled face. This man didn’t seem like one “Harpocrates”. He seemed like an old guy that wanted to sell Risius an apartment. Why the pretense? Was it a test?
“Oi! You coming devil boy? Do ya want the apartment or not?”
Despite the hurtful “devil boy” slang, Risius stepped up the stairs. He was thoroughly baffled. Why make Risius come at a specific time, at a specific address, just to have him buy an apartment.
They reached the top of the rickety stairs and the man stepped up to a door that had a small six painted near the top. “Here it is. Take a look. Oh, and, put in a good word for me, ey?”
What?
Risius softly turned the handle to room six and let the door creak open. It revealed a strikingly pristine room, with two large, red, comfy-looking armchairs, and a large fireplace against the wall. The window was covered with dark blackout curtains.
The fireplace was what really struck Risius, as there were actual wood logs burning within it.
He didn’t really care about the thin looking man with a chiseled face and black hair sitting in one of the chairs, holding a glass of whiskey.
“You...you must be very very rich, beanpole,” Risius said, eyeing the fire as he closed the door behind him and walked to the chairs.
The stranger wasn’t looking at him either, and also at the fire. But his eyes glanced at Risius when he used the word ‘beanpole’.
He finally spoke, in a voice clearly made for an act. “Yes, though its not really mine. I suppose my higher ups wanted to give you a good impression. It came from one of the best bio labs in-”
Blah blah, what does he actually want?
“Yeah ok beanpole, but why would they get a holo projector to make a good impression?” Risius said, stopping at the chair across from the man.
Finally, he looked away from the fire and at Risius. “Excuse me?”
“What? Oh, sorry, I call all tall, skinny people beanpoles. Dont worry about it,” Risius replied with a hand wave, his eyes still on the fire. He stepped closer to it. There was warmth.
“No, I meant that it isn’t a holo projector.”
“Oh, so there's a radiator, and a holoprojector? Wow. Why would you need anything to heat you up anyway, this is literally hell you idiot.”
“Risius, I assure you, that is a real fire.”
Really? Cool. Or I suppose hot...
And so Risius shoved his hand into the flames.
The man stood, dropping his glass. “What are you doing!?”
Risius pulled his burned hand from the flames, but he dragged a piece of wood with it. “Sorry, I've just wanted one of these for a very long time.”
“Wha-”
Risius sat in the chair, holding his charred piece of wood that was still ablaze.
“Whats your name again? I was distracted…”
The man had a look of shock on his face, but he finally blinked it off and sat down, ignoring the glass shards and whiskey on the ground.
“I hadn’t gotten to that...You can call me Dionysus,” he said with a smirk.
Risius rolled his eyes, “You people really love your greek gods don't you?” He set down the log, whose flames had turned to embers.
Dionysus seemed confused, “What?”
Risius didn’t respond as his attention was drawn to something else. A small table at Dionysus’s side, with a glass and a bottle of whiskey.
In a flash, he was pouring the whiskey into his cup as Dionysus blinked, surprised again. But there was a smirk that flitted across his looks.
Uh oh.
They clearly didn’t tell him that much about Risius. They always expected him to be like most people. Drawn in, convinced, distracted, poured a glass of drugged whiskey, dragged off to wherever.
But Risius was, if anything, unexpected.
So he downed the glass and poured another, then carried both the glass and bottle to his chair.
“So, uh, Dionysus, I assume you like alcohol? This looks like a nice vintage. Shame its drugged…”
Dionysus was dumbfounded.
Risius had completely defied all of his plans it seemed.
Good.
“Its not...drugged…” he said, after regaining his composure, which had been broken a few times already.
Risius scoffed, “I'd rather you didn't insult my intelligence. I've completely insulted yours, but that doesnt matter. Now tell me, where is Harpocrates? I have a few choice words for him…”
Dionysus stuttered for a moment, “How...howd you know it was drugged?”
“Doesnt matter, answer the question.”
Dionysus finally just smiled and sat back. “I don’t need to.”
Risius drank his second glass of drugged whiskey as Dionysus’s mouth hung for a moment.
“So what? You’re gonna wait till I fall asleep? We have a little bit, don’t worry, beanpole.”
Risius ignored the pain in his burned hand as he poured another glass of whiskey.
“I...don’t work for Hapocrates, Risius,” Dionysus said with a small smile.
For once, Risius was surprised.
“Huh?”
“You will know all soon enough, just know that you won’t be joining Harpocrates' little ragtag squad today.”
What?
“Beanpole, just shut your facehole, you like to talk too much.”
Dionysus blinked again.
A third shot of whiskey went down his throat, but he was already pouring another. It finally started getting to him, as shadows were already at the edge of his vision.
“Excuse me?”
“Oh sorry, I was talking to myself.”
Risius knew something was wrong. Clearly something had changed. Maybe the owner had been paid off and sent him to the wrong room...oh dear.
Risius raised his fourth glass to Dionysus as his head started to sway a little.
“Cheers.”
And he drank his fourth shot.
Everything went black.

*****

Risius awoke with a start. His eyes gazed around frantically, since he couldn’t move the rest of his body.
That was some powerful crap!
He couldn’t talk either. That really upset him.
What could Risius do without words? Make guttural noises?
Maybe…
The room he was in had bright lights hurting his eyes, and there was a large screen straight ahead. The chair he sat in was not the most comfortable.
After a few moments, which seemed like an eternity, Risius finally got some movement in his mouth.
At the same moment, the screen ahead of him switched on.
It was a livestream of a camera. It showed a room with a fireplace as well.
Everybody has one but me! Risius whined internally.
He ignored the group of people sitting around a table. The woman standing near the fireplace and speaking, her voice coming through a speaker.
Is this...Harpocrates?
That hope was dashed as soon as she said, “I'm not Harpocrates, no.”
Is this the ‘ragtag squad’ Beanpole had mentioned?
They certainly seemed ragtag. There was a ruby demon, who Risius was giving himself an aneurism over deciding whether they were a girl or a boy. Next to them sat a man with a strange mechanical eye. Not the strangest implant Risius had seen…
Next to him there was a ponytailed girl that was playing with something in her hands that Risius couldn’t make out. After that, an empty chair, and finally a defensive looking dark skinned woman.
“Who are you then?” said the one with the eye implant.
The woman smiled, “A mouthpiece to higher powers.”
Ugh, not this crap.
Someone chuckled behind him, startling Risius from his thoughts. So somebody was in the room.
They stepped forward, next to Risius’s chair.
It was Dionysus.
“Well Risius, it seems they saved a chair for you,” he said, his face holding an almost evil smile.
The empty chair sat there, around the table, seeming more vacant than the Ashen Fields.
Risius was certainly in a pickle.
Zacharias Drake
  





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Terian805 says...



Lan

24 hours ago…

Lan stood on the wall, that encircled a mountain outpost. He surveyed the valley below; where the rivers of quartz and lava looked like the arteries of a colossal beast. He knew that it would be no more than a day till the freight train would arrive at the city, yet it seemed so far off. The urban silhouettes of Azeria City on the horizon were almost totally obscured by fog, yet Lan’s robotic eye could pick up details from any sort of landscape. He focused it, and thought he could pick out the tiny silhouettes of flying cars, and hover-taxis drifting across the skyline.

‘Lan! Stop screwing about. Get back over here, I’m hungry as a damned soul!’

The voice came from the train, it was a sapphire demon called Aruk. After three weeks aboard this train, Lan knew that Aruk liked his food, and he’d suggested that Lan walk to the shop in the outpost, to buy bread, meat, wine and fruit for their carriage. Lan wondered if Aruk had done that because he felt sorry for Lan; as Lan’s brother had been particularly cruel to him over the past three days. Perhaps he'd wanted to give lan something to do. But Lan could never figure out what anyone aboard the train thought of him.

He hoisted the satchel of food on his back, hopped over the rails, and leapt into the carriage as the train ground into motion. Aruk had been leaning out the window:

‘What kept you? You going to make a drawing of that valley?’ He asked.

‘Nah I don’t think so.’

‘Right. Well, your brothers in the next carriage. He wanted to talk to you about something.’

‘I’ll talk to him later. How long till we get to Azeria City?’

‘Twenty-six hours I’ve heard. Your brother went to collect our mail. Apparently, you’ve received a letter?’

‘A letter?’ Lan said with incredulity. Why in hell would anyone send him a letter? He searched his mind for a reason, and could only think of the taxi he’d used a month ago. Perhaps the driver had realised he’d given her a counterfeit note as payment.

I hope not, she was one of scariest taxi drivers I’ve met.

***
‘Come on then. Tell me who this is from.’ Frey, Lan’s twenty-six-year-old brother, was sitting above on his bunk, and accusingly waving the letter at him.

‘I have no idea.’ Lan replied.

‘Hm.’ Frey stared at the paper in his hand, through his floppy blonde hair, as if reading a secret code on it. ‘Could it be that pretty Amethyst Demon you met last month? She was lovely, I’m surprised you haven’t kept up contact with her.’

‘I don’t know. Maybe.’

‘I’d be surprised if it was. I don’t think she was into you anyway.

Frey thrust the letter into his bag, and hopped down from the bunk.

‘I’m keeping this. For a while at least, or until you use your brain to figure out who sent it.’ He swung himself down to the floor. I can’t have you corresponding with anyone behind my back.’

‘Whys that?’

‘We need to stick together Lan. If we start deceiving each other, we’ll both be screwed.’

Lan looked at his brother and said nothing. Frey was a foot taller than him, so Lan always looked him in the eyes, so that he didn’t feel small.

‘Don’t you agree with me? Otherwise, we’d be screwed.’

‘Yeah, I agree.’

‘Remember if you try to take the letter, you’ll wish that you hadn’t.’

Before Lan could answer, Aruk burst into the carriage.

‘Hey boys, come join us! We’ve all worked hard today, and the evening is young!’

***
As the hovertrain rocketed across the mountains towards Azeria City, Lan and his carriage-mates drank wine and ate together. None of them knew each other well, due to their different backgrounds and their daily eleven hour working shifts. Therefore, it was all the more amusing for Lan when, during their regular drunken evening meals, they would tell many stories from their lives

‘Let me tell you lads.’ Said Laedan, a loud Topaz demon. ‘’People like us lead a difficult life. We’re not like the rich folk who preside over Azeria.’

‘Sure, we all have it difficult.’ Another human said. ‘But you demons will never know what it’s like to be a human. For years and years, we’ve been under your boots.’

‘Lan. Frey. You lads used to live amongst the rich folk.’ Aruk said.

‘Yeah. Our parents owned a luxury hovertrain.’ Frey replied.

‘What was it like?’

‘Well Lan was probably too young to remember. A lot of the time, we were being educated by private tutors. Our parents were always very busy.’

‘I guess that, even then, Lan was daydreaming and drawing pictures?’ Laedan said jovially.

‘Of-course he was. Lan would never realise you were talking to him unless you addressed him five times, at least.’

There was a ripple of laughter amongst the workers, while Lan sat in silence.

‘Did you ever finish that drawing of your demon girl Lan? The one from last month, who asked you to draw her?’ Someone asked.

‘Yeah.’ Lan replied, taking a sip from the wine bottle in his hand. ‘I just about finished it.’

‘She didn’t pay you for that she? I know that she was rich.’

‘No. She didn’t pay me. Excuse me lads, I’ve got to get some sleep.’

‘Ah come on, don’t be boring.’ Frey called, but Lan had already taken off towards the bunkbed carriage. He waved at everyone and closed the door behind him.

***
It was almost midnight; five hours before the train would pass into Azeria city. Lan was awake in his bunkbed, looking at his drawing of the Amethyst Demon he’d met last month. Her name was Alia, and he’d spent two weeks in Azeria City with her. She was sitting on the edge of a fountain, in the centre of a busy plaza. Lan had drawn her looking into the distance. Her sharply curling black hair, hard features and accentuated chin, made her look severe, but in a sense, she also looked reflective; she looked like she accepted the hard reality of living in Azeria City, and was considering how people’s lives could be made better. Although Lan had only met her last month, this drawing seemed to represent a reality he could seldom, if at all, return to.

He sighed, and wondered what Alia would think about his sentimentality. He liked to think that his mechanical eye could pick up subliminal emotions. Yet, most of the time, his eye felt useless. Sure he had a good perception of detail, and a good eye for the distances between objects. But most of the time, his eye felt like a burden; something to made him look like a freakish outcast; it made him look different. As he touched his eye, which glowed violet in the darkness; a wave of fatigue suddenly surged through him. Lan placed his sketchbook under his bed, next to his hoverboard. He lay back and fell asleep within minutes.

Lan dreamed that he was walking down an empty train carriage. He was surrounded by fog, and could not see further than ten feet in front of him. As he walked onwards, the carriage seemed long, longer than any carriage had a right to be. He began to hear screams, that were far off, as if they came from on top of a mountain. They became clearer, the further onwards he moved, until he realised that they were the screams of his mother and father, still far off, yet recognisable all the same. Almost at the same moment that he recognised the screams, a dark figure emerged from the fog, and stood in front of him. They were holding a piece of paper and wearing a wide brimmed hat. Lan walked closer towards the figure, and realised that it was a green skinned demon, holding a letter in his hands. The demon smiled at Lan. It was a terrifying smile, the kind of smile someone gives you, when they understand deep and personal things about you, and know the power they have over you,as a result. The demon lifted the letter, and tore it in half. Then, the train seemed to disintegrate into thousands of pieces of torn up paper, and Lan was falling through the storm of paper and surrounding fog.

Lan’s eyes snapped open, and he sat up breathing heavily. He sighed, and swung his legs over the side of the bed, sitting in the darkness, having slept fully clothed as usual. Whenever he thought that his nightmares were leaving him, they returned once again, and made him feel like he was stuck in an infinite cycle of terror.

I shouldn’t be dreaming about that demon anymore. He’s got to be long dead by now.

Whenever he had a nightmare, he always woke up with his mind as clear as day, so he knew that he wouldn’t be getting to sleep any time soon.

He looked around and saw Frey sleeping above him, facing the wall. Lan thought for a moment, He tried to guess how deep his brother would be sleeping tonight. Then he made a decision, and walked over to Frey’s bunk. He hopped up onto the ladder, and saw Frey’s bag at the foot of the bed, just within Lan’s reach. Lan waited a moment, then grabbed the bag smoothly and delved within it; his fingers closed on some paper. He replaced the bag, then hurried to the next carriage, where the lights were on. He sat down and examined the envelope. He knew how the sparsity of paper in Azeria City, so the sender must have been wealthy. On the front of the envelope, was written,


Brakeman, Lan Saxifrage,
Hover-Freight Train No. 2209,
w/ Dusk-Cloud Company
Outpost 7, Wolfhelm Mountain

He’d never seen such a specific address before. Nobody ever bothered to send letters to intercept a freight train. Once again, Lan searched his brain for a memory of who the sender could be, but came up with no results.

The only sound in the carriage was the low rumble of the train engine. It was interrupted by the crackle of paper, as Lan opened the envelope and read the letter.

To Lan Saxifrage

You are accepted. Please come to this address one day from receiving this letter.

333 Scopular Drive
Azeria City, Vitreus Sector
Knock On The Door at 12:30 p.m. - Use the phrase "I'm here about the apartment listing."

No questions.
You can accept, and learn the truth, or deny and forever wonder.

The choice is yours.

Signed, Harpocrates.


Harpocrates? One of the Greek Gods that Mum taught me about? That’s a pretty pretentious.

Lan read the letter again. And again. And then for a third time. He had the strange feeling of butterflies in his stomach. He still could not imagine who had sent this letter to him. Yet, as he read the words on the page, he felt as if somebody was shaking him awake from a long and terrifying dream. He felt compelled to act on this letter, no matter who had sent it.

He heard the door to the carriage creak open. He heard Frey’s voice; ‘Lan what are you doing?’

He looked up. His brother was standing five feet away.

‘I’m reading my letter.’

‘Really? Well, you’ve read it now. So you can give it back to me.’

Before Lan had thought about it, he said. ‘No. I don’t think I’ll do that.’

‘Right.’ Frey was unperturbed. ‘You’re not understanding me. It wasn’t a request. You’re going to give me back the letter.’

‘No I’m not going to.’ Lan stood up and faced his brother.

‘Lan! You stubborn little prick. Give it back to me.’

‘Take it from me if you want.’ Lan took a few steps towards his brother. Frey back-handed him across the face.

Lan stumbled, and fell, still clutching the letter. Frey approached him.

‘Do you want to make me your enemy? I don’t enjoy doing this Lan. I know that we’re family. But you always deceive me…’

Frey lunged for the letter, but Lan jumped to his feet and shoved him backwards. Frey looked shocked for a moment, before lunging forwards again and hitting Lan in the chin. As Lan reeled back into the wall, Frey right hooked him, and he collapsed into a mop and a bucket, with a crash of metal. Frey knelt down and hit him again. Lan groaned and tasted blood in his mouth.

‘I’ve done so much for you.’ Frey growled, kneeling down, preparing for another blow. ‘I saved you. I restored your sight, with that implant. You never do anything for me.’

Lan’s fingers closed around the cold handle of the bucket, and he smashed it round Frey’s head. Frey yelled in pain and reeled back into the wall. While his brother lay down, groaning, attempting to stand, Lan ran back into the sleeping carriage.
He stuffed the letter into his pocket, and pulled out his clothes satchel from below the bed. Slinging it over his shoulder he then pulled out his hoverboard. It was a lower quality vehicle, with no artificial intelligence to control it. As a result, he had to spend two minutes strapping his feet to it. He pressed a switch, pushed a pedal with his heel, and the board began to hum, crackle and glow with a magenta light.

Several of his carriage mates woke up from their sleep, and Lan heard a chorus of ‘What’s going on?’ Already, Lan’s robotic eye was searching for the best way out of the carriage. He glanced out a nearby window, and saw they were approaching a bridge, that expanded across the Azeria Cityscape. He calculated it was thirty feet to the carriage exit; he could make that in six seconds. Lan kicked his board to life, rose off of the ground, and propelled himself towards the opposite end of the carriage, before something stopped him.

He glanced behind him, and saw Frey, who had grabbed the end of his hoverboard, and was red with the exertion of holding on. With a growl, his brother wrenched him backwards, and Lan flew through the other exit, back into the carriage he and Frey had been in. The straps of his board came loose, and he rolled across the carriage floor, at least ten feet from his vehicle. He groaned and struggled to his feet.

Need to get those straps tightened. God, so tired. So much pain.

Then Frey followed after him. Before Lan could stop him, his brother had picked up the board and thrown it through an open window.

‘No!’ Lan rushed over and watched the board spin through the air, buffeted by the train’s passage.

‘Sorry.’ Frey said. ‘It had to be done.’

But Lan was not listening. His eye was already analysing the board. The wind of the train had propelled it further into the night sky, high above the Azeria cityscape. It then returned to its descent, and plunged down through the air. Lan calculated his own strength, and hopped up onto the open windowsill, the cold air blowing his hair into his face.

‘Lan?’ Frey called. ‘What are you doing?’

Lan jumped from the train, into the open night, and caught his hoverboard mid descent. He then plummeted into freefall, away from the high train tracks, and towards the twisting streets, that lay hundreds of feet below him. The lights from skyscraper windows, and the smog drifting into the sky became a blur of white and grey as he fell through the open air. He then screamed into the void, slammed a pedal, and his board hummed and sprung to life. It slowed his fall, gradually carrying him into an angular descent, as Lan continued to scream.

Then the street below rushed up to meet him, Lan hit a streetlight, and crashed into a collection of bins. He lay there, groaning in agony and grasping his hoverboard and clothes-bag close to him. He stood, and met the gaze of two topaz demons, staring at him in shock with their glassy, crystalline eyes. He smiled, nodded, and grimaced with the pain. He looked up, and hundreds of feet above him, the hovertrain was spiralling away, and was soon swallowed up by the darkness and the city.

***
‘What can I get for you m’dear?’ asked the middle-aged lady, at the bakery counter.

‘Uh, two dusted pastries and a black coffee. Thanks.’ Lan replied

‘Comin right up.’ She passed him two pastries in a paper bag, and went to the coffee machine at the back of the room. ‘How’s your mornin’ been then m’dear? You look like you’ve been in a bit of a scrap.’

‘Um, yeah. You could say that.’ Lan wiped blood from the corner of his mouth. ‘Sorry for my…unconventional appearance.’

‘Tis no bother. We’re in a rough part of the city m’dear. You should see some of the characters I get coming in here.’

‘Who comes in here?’

‘Oh, all sorts. Two days ago, I had a funny looking demon buy a doughnut. He had no horns, let me tell you. No horns! And grey skin too. Have you ever seen anyone like that? I haven’t.’

‘No. No I can’t say that I have.’

He received his coffee, and then said to the lady; ‘So…could I just ask you something ma’am. Is Scopular drive anywhere nearby?’

‘Certainly is!’ She responded with unusual enthusiasm, and gave him the exact directions.

***
Lan stood by a tall, imposing black door. The number 333, was emblazoned in small white letters.

Am I early? Am I late?

He guessed that it had been about a day since Frey had picked up that letter, so it must be 12:30pm; but he couldn’t be sure. The last time Lan had owned a watch, Frey had smashed it when Lan screwed up a job.

Lan downed his coffee cup, gulped with nervousness, and knocked on the door loudly. After a few moments, he heard the echo of footsteps from inside, before the door creaked open, and a small, spidery looking old man opened the door;

‘Yes? Can I help you?’

‘Hi…I’m…um…I’m here about the apartment listing.’

‘Hmm.’ The old man looked him up and down with narrowed eyes. ‘You’re a little late. But I can make provisions for a young man in your position. Come and follow me. You can meet the others.’
"You can't live over your shoulder, overbehind."
  





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Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:20 pm
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winterwolf0100 says...



Xozinath Tidrogg


Hold onto your horns, because this next part is a doozy.

I knocked on the door, hands stuffed in my pockets. My wings fluttered slightly against the fabric of my fashionable sweater. They do that sometimes; it's rather like a nervous tic, though I certainly wasn't nervous. (Ignore what anyone else might say. I most definitely was not nervous!)

"I'm here for a private horn polishing," I said coolly as the door opened, then froze. Oh no. Oh hell no! Do you remember the number one rule about demon horns? (I've been informed that I did not write any "rules" about demon horns so there technically isn't a "number one rule"-- but you know what I mean.) So if you can't remember, I'll repeat it for you. Humans do not touch the horns. If you're getting a horn polishing, you don't go within 50 feet of a human wanting to do the job. For the love of fire, they don't even have horns! How would they know what would hurt, what to do for maintenance? Ridiculous.

The stout, aged, human man narrowed his eyes at me, thin wisps of greyed hair sprouting from his nearly bald head. "And what are ye, demon?" He said in a strong, decidedly human accent. I've never heard a demon sound so uncivilized "British". (I don't know what that even is, but someone is insisting that's what it was.)

"Excuse me?" I said, stiffening. My wings fluttered slightly and I retracted them, feeling them disappear into my back. He squinted, then said, "Ruby, that's clear, ye tosser. But boy or girl..." He studied me with a slight annoyance, and my annoyance reared its head in return.

"I received a letter," I began, wanting to redirect the conversation, though the joy at confusing the rude man was certainly curling inside me. "It said--"

"Alright you dolt," he snapped suddenly, his old eyes swiveling to survey the empty street behind me. "Get in, get in, you demon, 'fore you get yer guts spilled."

I bristled but went inside quickly, narrowly missing banging my horns against the doorframe. I breathed out slightly. Human doors. Of course. Short and unaccomadating. "Are you threatening me?" I asked, turning to watch the man slightly as he shut the door suddenly. Despite my better instinct, I was still too intrigued to think of leaving.

"What do you think?" He snapped, placing a hand against the wall to balance himself as he made his way into the next room. He returned with a partially-open box, inside of which I could recognize several tools for horn polishing.

"Oh no," I said. "You're not getting near my horns. They're my most prized posessions! Why do you think I'd trust your pudgy hands near them?"

He shook his head slightly, opening the box and removing a hidden top to reveal an inner compartment. Inside, a pile of already open letters lay, and he held his hands out. "What makes you think you could afford my services?" He frowned, as if it were a genuine question, and my eyes narrowed.

"No respectable demon goes to a human for a horn polishing. It's unseemly." I snifffed. I handed him my letter without a word, and he tucked it inside the box.

"Just a precaution," he muttered as he put the lid back on to hide the compartment. "Can't have these falling into the wrong hands, you know. People're after it, you know."

"Why?" I asked.

"'Cause it's paper, 'course!" He exclaimed, stashing the small box back where he'd retrieved it from. He moved slowly towards the stairs and I found I was surpressing an annoying urge to reach forward and help him move forward. "'Course, that's not the only reason. It's why most people're coming, but not all. Letter's already fallen into the wrong hands, 'm afraid. Not much to do for it, though. Now hurry up."

I scowled. He was the one moving slowly, not me! He placed a hand on the railing of a staircase I hadn't noticed before, then pushed himself upward. "Out of my way, old man," I scowled, moving past him.

"You can't go anywhere without me, you demon!" The man called after me, and I found with a new bout of annoyance that he was, in fact, right. There wasn't much I could do without him up here. This is why all humans are bothersome! (So a special friend of mine has informed reminded me that she is, in fact, human and that she finds this "offensive".)

"Ha!" He said triumphantly as he reached the top step, though I noticed his breathing was slightly unsteady. The older humans always had a hard time with the air in Hell. It was too ashy for their taste, I imagine, and caused some lung problems sometimes. The man rested his hand on the wall briefly, catching his breath, before he finally leaned away and slowly made his way down the hall at the top of the staircase. "Number nine," he said, stopping in front of a door with an iron six on it.

"That's not a nine," I said, looking between him and the door to him again.

"Blasted repairmen," he muttered, reaching forward and pushing the six until it rotated into a nine. It had clearly fallen down. "Told them to fix that weeks ago! Confusion, I said, it'll cause confusion, but they wouldn't listen to me! More important things, they said, and I reckon they're right, but still..."

I tilted my head slightly as I studied the door, then blinked as the man began talking-- again.

"It's your time, demon," the man said, already making his way back to the stairs. "S'ppose I'll be seeing ye at some point again."

"Hopefully not any time soon!" I called out cheerfully, turning back to the door. I paused, then opened the door and walked in. The first thing I noticed was the wood. There was so. Much. Wood. Seriously, who has access to that much wood nowadays? A large wooden table sat in the middle of the room, six empty chairs circling the table. Blackout curtains hung on the walls, covering what I assumed were windows, and there was a fire-- a fire, like with actual wood-- burning in a fireplace at the opposite end of the room.

I walked towards it, crouching and tilting my head to study the fire. Another chair I hadn't noticed was stashed in the corner, partially hidden by the blackout curtains, but I ignored it as I reached out, feeling the heat lick against my hands, and raised my eyebrows. The humans had been hiding wood away from us! (Okay, so maybe this line was a tad bit dramatic, but that's kind of in my nature.)

I stood abruptly as the door to the room opened, straightening my spine and resuming my haughty air. A human woman, light skin and dark hair pinned up in an immaculate bun, entered the room. I had to admire her fashion sense. It was certainly old-fashioned, but of the vintage sort, not the "I dug through a dumpster and this is what I found" kind of way. The grey suit pants and white button-up shirt tied nicely together even if she was a human. "Xozinath," she said smoothly, and I watched her carefully.

"Are you Harpocrates?" I asked, attacking the elephant in the room directly.

She laughed slightly, tilting her head. "I am Persephone," she corrected. I studied her, and couldn't help but admire that even if she was a human, she was beautiful.

"Persephone," I repeated. The name sounded familiar, and I tried to wrack my brain for where I knew it from, but couldn't come up with anything.

"Indeed," she admitted, moving to the table and sitting in the seat at the head of the table. "Take a seat. The others will be joining us shortly."

"The others?" I said, and her gaze turned suddenly sharp. It unsettled me slightly.

"The others," she said, her voice cold and clear. She raised her chin, and said, "Now sit, Xozinath."

"And why should I?" I said, beginning to edge my way towards the door around the table. This woman was beautiful, but it was beginning to feel like she was more than she was letting on. She definitely was. (I have been informed that this counts as another "spoiler".)

"You've come this far," she said. "Amuse me for a moment more."

I narrowed my eyes at her, backing towards the door when I felt my horns slam into the frame-- human doors! Agh!-- and I cried out in pain. My vision flickered in and out momentarily and my hands flew automatically to clutch at my head, my wings forcing their way out of my back out of sheer instinct.

A rustle of noise came from the room, though I was too busy on the pain to really look. I guessed that Persephone had stood. "Are you alright?"

"Your stupid human doors," I gritted out. "They're short."

Someone took this exact moment as an opportunity to enter the room. She was a black woman with boxer braids, and her dark brown eyes completely overlooked me-- ME-- in favor of looking at Persephone. "I've got a hovertaxi ride for someone," she said, never once even sparing a glance my way.

Persephone stood. "Diamond," she said shortly, "the letter specified no mice," she said.

"He's not a mouse, he's a monkey," the woman, Diamond, corrected, leaning slightly into the frame of the door. "And it's my taxi, my rules. Now what rich jerk am I transporting secretly across the city? That was the point of the paper, right? Be here at this time, no later, that stuff? You want a run-down human taxi driving some fancy rich demon somewhere, no questions asked."

She finally spared a glance at me, a look of faint distain on her face, then looked back at Persephone. "As long as you don't leave any blood in the back seat, what you do in the taxi's your business, not mine."

Persephone seemed slightly at a loss for words, before she said, "No, that was not the purpose of the letter. I don't want to explain this multiple times; why don't you two sit down?"

I tentatively touched my right horn, feeling up it gently to make sure it was fine where it had taken the brunt of the hit. I let out a soft breath when my fingers ran over the surface. No cracks. "I'm a taxi driver," Diamond said flatly, and I watched as she absent-mindedly held a hand out and swung the monkey onto her other shoulder. "That's all. And if that's not what you're in need of, I'll be taking my leave."

"I'm afraid that isn't possible," Persephone said, finally gaining her bearings again and moving forward. "There's no turning back now."

"Turning back from what?" I asked, staring at her as I crossed my arms lightly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Diamond finally take the time to look at me.

"You'll see," Persephone said coolly. "Now sit, both of you. The others will be here soon."

Diamond spoke up again. "What others?"

~~~


There were five of us, including Persephone, when the weird-looking demon stumbled into the room. His clothes were rumbled, he didn't have any visible horns, and his eyes held a dazed look, like he was zoned out or possibly had just woken up. Apparently he'd picked up the human version of entrances, because his was terrible. He said, "I'm here, I'm here, don't worry!"

Diamond eyed him with an air of distrust, and said, "I wasn't."

That seemed to take him out of it, and he sank into a chair, slightly deflated.

"Risius, so nice of you to join us. Now as I was saying, a mouthpiece--" Persephone continued, "for the cause you have all been gathered here for."

"And what is that?" Another human woman put in, one with metal arms and a strong but friendly appearance.

"Yes... why are we here?" The boy a few seats over asked softly.

"You all have unique... talents," Persephone started with a sharp smile. "You have been chosen by the Pantheon--"

"You do seem to enjoy your Greek gods, don't you?" Risius said, a slightly amused tone to his voice.

Persephone's eyes flashed to him and she said, "I suppose we do, but not as much as you enjoy breathing, I'd presume?"

He opened his mouth, then closed it again.

"As I was saying, the Pantheon," she said smoothly as if the interaction hadn't happened. "We have gathered you because for whatever reason, you are needed greatly. A force has begun to taint Hell, a water trickling over the coals of our fire. It's choking us out."

"What is it?" Diamond asked, leaning forward in her seat. Her eyes watched Persephone intently, and the monkey on her shoulder chattered lightly.

After a moment's pause, Persephone leaned back in her seat, looking at everyone individually before she spoke. "They call themselves the Cinis Corporation. Their missions is to 'cleanse' humans from Hell-- by any means necessary. They've been killing off humans for decades slowly and methodically, but only recently have they begun to smoke out the demons who help humans."

Diamond's posture stiffened. "And that's the only reason this 'Pantheon' is interested-- isn't it?" Her sharp tone cut through the air like butter, quick and precise and easy. "Because it's not just the humans getting killed anymore. You're only interested in saving the demons."

She stood, and Persephone stood in response. "I'll remind you that I am human, Diamond. I understand that your background may make this news upsetting--"

"You don't know anything about me," Diamond said, tilting her head up slightly.

"Perhaps I don't," Persephone agreed. "But then again, maybe I do. Maybe I know more than you do." Diamond's entire posture stiffened.

"What do you-- what does that mean?"

"You all know Harpocrates," she said, ignoring Diamond. "Harpocrates recently received information that the Cinis Corp is more than a near infallable business, working from the shadows. The true leader is not the C.E.O., but an ancient order of demons-- the Legion-- bent on ridding Hell of humans.."

"A cult," I interrupted, smiling lazily as everyone looked towards me. "The Legion is a cult," I clarified.

Persephone shot an annoyed look my way, then amended, "Yes, one might call it a cult. It has only just begun to reemerge into the world around us, and it can only bring trouble."

"The Legion is still around?" The human woman with the mechanical arms put in. "I thought they were eradicated centuries ago."

"They'd have you believe that," Persephone said, "but they are far from eradicated. They are hunting down an artifact that will, in theory, purify Hell, and return it to the days before humans."

"What'll happen to the humans?" The young human boy asked quietly. "If they separate Hell from what used to be Earth--"

"That is not the intention," Persephone cut in. "The goal is not to create a new Earth, but to remove humans from the picture entirely."

The boy fell silent, looking down at the table with a worried expression. "That is why you are here. The Pantheon's goal is to find that artifact first, and stop the Legion from getting it."

"You keep mentioning this artifact," I finally spoke up again. "You haven't said what it is though."

Persephone tilted her head in acknowledgement, and started again. "This artifact is called the Purity. It is located somewhere--"

The door burst open, and a demon entered unlike anyone I've ever seen before. Try as I might, I couldn't pin a variant to him. His wrinkled skin shown burned and cut in the light of the room, and I couldn't see if the chalky tone of his skin was from the burns or his actual skin. A trench coat hid the rest of his body, and a hat was pulled down low over his face. Somehow, the air in the room changed, and I stood on instinct.

"There's a camera!" Risius shouted. "More soldiers coming, we've gotta book it!"

"Soldiers?" The human boy interjected, and the human woman with the mechanical arms began to mess with them, opening a hidden compartment and pulling out a wrench as a... weapon? Tool? Was she planning to fix the plumbing? I wasn't sure.

"Chop, chop!" Risius said, breathing heavily. Somewhere outside the room, yelling erupted, along with several sharp bangs. I was pretty sure I heard a cry of pain that sounded like the old man. Even more terrifying was the sudden silence that followed, the only noise the sound of boots stomping up the stairs.

Persephone's panicked voice shouted over the commotion, "The chair in the corner! Lean it to the wall!"

"This is no time for riddles!" Diamond shouted, and the boy turned to it with confusion.

"What if it's not?" He said quietly, then moved quickly towards it."

"What?" I asked.

"What if it's not a riddle?" He said. He looked at the chair, then pushed it towards the wall. It tilted backwards, and when the back of it touched the curtains behind it, a sound of metal grating against metal sounded. The chair slid to the side along with the section of floor beneath it, revealing a hole with a ladder leading downward.

"I will hold them off as long as possible," Persephone said, looking at us. "Now go!"

The boy went down first, followed by the strong human woman, then Risius. I followed afterwards, Diamond finally climbing in behind me. As soon as we were in, Persephone slid the chair back into place, plunging us into darkness. The only thing I could hear was the faint sound of water and the chittering of the monkey as we sank lower and lower into the ground.
  





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Spearmint says...



Sage Barthacle


Sage clutched her wrench tightly. As the motley group made their way down the tunnel, Sage glanced around, straining to make out any detail in the faint violet light of the human boy's mechanical eye. Adjusting her grip on the tool, Sage hoped they wouldn't run into any creatures that might be down there. She shuddered, remembering the horror stories about sewer bats that her grandmother had used to tell her.

"They're humongous, and red-eyed, and they won't hesitate to grab a bite of you!" her grandmother had said, using her husky storytelling voice. "And the worst part is... they won't just stop at eating you. They'll force you to listen to their terrible singing, their off-key screeches and warbling howls, until you wish they'd simply gobbled you up."

Young Sage had gasped. "Noo!"

"Oh, yes." Her grandmother's eyes glinted like the metal parts around her shop. "But don't be afraid, child, because I know the one surefire way to make them stop."

"What?"

"A good crack on the head with a wrench!" Sage's grandmother had cackled and patted Sage on the cheek, leaving behind smudges of grease.


Despite her worries about sewer creatures-- or whether something was wrong with the pipes around them (she kept hearing dripping noises)-- the side of Sage's mouth quirked up in a half-smile at the memory of her grandmother. The half-smile was startled off her face, though, when she realized someone was talking.

"I'm sorry, what'd you say?"

A shadowy figure to her left huffed once. "I asked whether anyone had a light, or something we could use to actually see in this darn sewer."

"Oh! Wait, I think I do. Hold on a sec." Sage fumbled in one of her jacket pockets for the little penlight she carried around. She'd almost forgotten she had it.

A couple seconds later, Sage flicked the light on and pointed it ahead of the group. It didn't illuminate much, but at least they could see the cement walkway in front of them. The demons and humans shuffled along for another short while, and then the silence was broken again.

"So..." the Ruby demon with thick hair started. "How'd you all get here?" They (she? he? Sage couldn't tell) kept their eyes on the ground, stepping around any puddles of suspicious-smelling substances.

The demon in a trench coat laughed shortly. "Well, I got a letter-- it must be related somehow to that beanpole Dionysus. Anyways, I drank some drugged whisky, and ended up in a room with you guys." He frowned. "It's a shame about the log, though. I wanted to keep it."

After a pause, the human boy spoke up. "I, uh, I got a letter too. I had to jump off a hovertrain to get here, so I really hope this'll all be worth it... Oh, um, and my name's Lan." He twisted his fingers together nervously.

"I'm Sage. Mechanic and inventor. And yeah, I'm wondering whether that letter was more trouble than it's worth... I was just curious, you know?" She offered the others a tentative smile.

"I'm Diamond," the human with the prosthetic leg said brusquely. She gestured at her monkey--"This is Mouse."-- then settled into a cold stare that seemed aimed at the world in general.

The trench-coat demon was called Risius and the well-dressed person was Xozinath. Sage thought she'd probably get mixed up with everyone's names-- it was a struggle to remember her own last name sometimes-- but she figured introductions couldn't hurt. And if they compared all they knew, maybe they stood a chance of figuring all this out... If the Legion truly was involved, whatever Sage had gotten herself involved in was probably dangerous and fairly likely to get her mortally wounded. Sage gripped her wrench tighter in response and tried to keep the penlight beam steady.

Over the next ten minutes or so, the group continued down the sewer. There was the occasional attempted conversation, but no one knew much about the Cinis Corporation (or if they did, they didn't reveal their knowledge), and none of them were particularly eager to trade backstories. Eventually they lapsed into silence again.

Sage swung the small light around the walls, which almost seemed alive, and not just with mold and insects. Sometimes, she could swear they were moving. Once, the group approached what seemed to be a split in the tunnel. But by the time they reached the point of the split, the left path was gone, forcing them down the right path.

A trick of the dark? Sage wondered. Or is this sewer intentionally herding us somewhere... It doesn't seem malevolent, though. I don't know why, but it just... it seems kind of disinterested, like a teabot following orders to make green tea. Like this underground system belongs to some master... Sage shivered.

Soon enough (though not a moment too soon for Sage), the group came to a wall with a ladder leading up to a trapdoor. It looked similar to the one they'd entered the sewers through. With a shared glance, the group clambered up and through, into a warm room.

-- -- --

Sage didn't know what she'd been expecting, but it certainly wasn't... this. She turned slowly, soaking in the sight of a richly laid feast, and above it, a chandelier with a thousand glimmering pieces. The room itself was clean and not that large, though there did seem to be a fireplace near the far end, as well as a few archways leading off to hallways or other rooms.

Sage's attention returned to the food and she felt her mouth watering, just looking at the succulent meats and shiny bunches of grapes and stacks of little pastries on platters. It was probably the most food she'd ever seen in one place. The sheer delicious-lookingness of it all was absolutely mesmerizing, and so Sage nearly jumped when she finally noticed the woman by the fireplace.

The lady was wearing a white dress and a simple cloak, and looked like she'd been tending the fire. When the group turned to look at her, she looked straight at them and gave them a gentle smile, seemingly unsurprised at their sudden appearance.

"Who are you?" Diamond demanded.

The woman tilted her head and kept smiling. "You may call me Hestia."

Risius raised an eyebrow. "The Greek goddess of the hearth and home. You people are seriously obsessed, huh?"

Hestia didn't answer. Instead, she looked towards the feast table. "Help yourselves, chosen ones. You are safe here, at least for an hour or so. The Underground should hold them off that long." She turned back to the group, who hadn't shifted from their position by the trapdoor.

Lan frowned. "Is this some kind of trick?"

"And who exactly are the 'Underground' holding off?" Xozinath asked, arching an eyebrow.

The woman's eyes looked tired. "I cannot say. Just eat and rest for now, and then I will take you to someone who will explain more."

"Okay... so are you trying to bribe us with food?" Sage felt her stomach rumble. "I mean, I'll admit that it's kinda working."

Risius started towards the table. "All right. Well, I'm not gonna let this all go to waste. You fellas can join me, if you want."

Xozinath rolled their/her/his eyes. "Aren't you the one who drank the drugged whisky?"

Risius shrugged and took a bite out of a fluffy bread-like thing. When he didn't immediately drop dead, Sage and the others hesitantly stepped forward. Sage inspected one of the wooden chairs and deemed it safe to sit on, unless there was poison woven into the seat cushion or something. She cautiously pulled her chair closer to the table and started piling her plate with food.

Two steaks, a heap of mashed potatoes, and a countless number of mint-chocolate-chip brownies later, Sage was stuffed and rather sleepy (though she didn't think it was because the food was drugged (hopefully)). "Even if I die now, at least I'll die happy," she mumbled.

When it looked like everyone had eaten as much as they were going to, Hestia rose from her seat next to the fireplace and gazed solemnly at them. "You'll need to keep your strength up. Pack any leftovers you can, and be ready to move as soon as possible. The soldiers are approaching."

Part of Sage just wanted to doze off right there, but the more rational part of her took control, and she started wrapping some bread in napkins and storing them in her pockets. She glanced wistfully at the brownies, then decided to pack some of them as well, no matter how sticky they might make her jacket.

Once the group had finished up, Hestia traced a symbol on a wall next to the fireplace. With a slow grinding noise, another archway appeared, and Hestia looked back at the humans and demons.

"Follow me," she commanded, "I will take you to meet Ares." Hestia wrinkled her nose a little, then added, "I would advise you not to criticize his presentation. The whiteboard and drawings may seem primitive, but Ares is proud of it, and his pride is backed by flames."

Beyond the archway, Sage could see a white hallway, and a door leading to what looked like... a 21st century, pre-Descent classroom. Oh, great. Time for school.
mint, she/her =D
  








Powerful men have a way of avoiding consequences.
— Dr. Harrison Wells, The Flash