What happens when a day-walking vampire, a heavenly-aligned reaper, and a wine-selling wizard meet ont he street? Talk of the dead, of course.
Richmond, San Francisco
Sometimes Ravenna just gets a craving for a certain type of food and the Richmond area has just what she's looking for. Pork Buns. She has several in a bag to be consumed later but one is in her hand that she is munching on as she walks down the street. The cooler weather has her in a light jacket, jeans and knee high boots and she has her favorite satchel over her shoulder. She finds a bench to settle on where she begins to people watch while she finishes her snack, smirking as the melting pot of Richmond passes her by.
For Dumah, this is close enough to home that he's something of an accepted fixture in it. Indeed, on most days people simply pass him by as if he weren't a large, almost hulking mass. Still, he is there, and he's not actively shrouding himself. At the moment that Ravenna sits down, he walks slowly by, eyes intent on something. To the observant, he's tracking... despite being in an urban area. His movements are slow, deliberate, and his gaze specific, scanning. After passing near Ravenna, he stoops, hand going down to the concrete of the nearby sidewalk, pressing, sensing, his head bobbing in a silent affirmative, before he stands again.
It's hard to miss the Viking sized Reaper as he passes in Ravenna's sight. She's just about to sit up and wave him down but he looks to be very intent on something. He must be tracking a ghost or something similar. Knowing how well it went the first time she interrupted his work Ravenna leans back and finishes her bun. To her credit, she does make an attempt to put it out of her mind, before she finds herself on her feet and quietly following the Reaper as she shoves her pork buns into her satchel.
A few more feet, and Dumah kneels again, his bulk again ignored by most of those around him. This time, it's to investigate the base of a tree, his fingers running over bark and what little bit of exposed root shows in its little space in the sidewalk. He stays there a moment, eyes intent on the hand, as he pulls it closer, something black now crawling across his skin, an insect of some sort. “Such noisy creatures you are, little magi...” the words come out in a soft monotone as he continues to look at the small insect, his hand turning as it continues to seek some sort of escape. “And scented. You did not smell of pork the last time we met.”
Ravenna pauses when Dumah addresses her and quietly folds her hands behind her back. "Well, Wizards are not known for their stealth, we tend to just make loud noises and messes where ever we go." She keeps her distance but she does crane her neck to see what it is he's playing with. "You're smelling my lunch, I assure you that I usually smell far more pleasant than pork." Her comments only pause for a moment before she continues. "Can I ask what you're doing, or is it top secret?"
"Naw, mate. Don't. If you come right at her, she'll get her arse in the air. Then we'll never know the truth of it." Mitchell is walking along the street, phone in hand, a lit cigarette burning between his fingertips. He steps to the side to let a group of people pass, eyebrows knitted in thought as he listens to the person on the other end of the line. "Yeah, well. We need the proof first, don't we?"
“A trail. Something moved here recently. Something that was disruptive.” Dumah sets the insect back down on the ground, back near the tree, before standing again. Quietly, he dusts his hands off before he continues, “I don't know what it is, yet. It shouldn't be, though. It is an outlier.” Slowly, his eyes pan back over those around, until he's turned back toward Ravenna, “And you?”
Ravenna furrows her brows and looks around, chewing on her lip just a bit. "I'll help if I can, though it's not a good idea for me to really 'look' in a place like this." It would probably drive her mad with everything around her, and that's just not on her agenda today. "An outlier? That's not a term I am familiar with." However what she is familiar with is that accent and when she follows the sound to it's source she smirks. Raising her hand she'll wave toward Mitchell. She'd step closer, but she figures she should avoid being near his cell phone.
"Look. Seriously. Just leave it be for now. I've got some people looking into it. If it turns out to be true, then we'll be able to come at her with proof. The last thing we need is more divisions." Mitchell takes a long drag from his cigarette, rubs his forehead in irritation, then lets out a smoky breath. "Yeah, yeah. Later." He looks down at his phone, hangs up the call, then tucks it away into the inside of his jacket. He catches a flutter of movement out of the corner of his eye and looks up. "Ah, dancing girl. Hello."
“An outlier. An anomaly. Something which lies outside the norm. The term is quite literal, in this case.” Dumah offers wish a smile, “A mystery, as it were.” The larger man then looks away, following the direction of her distracted movement toward Mitchell. Eyes narrow for a moment, nostrils flare, and the smile dwindles just a bit. For Mitchell's senses, there should be something slightly off about the man talking to Ravenna. Decay. Earth. Rot. Death. The grave. Perhaps more. “Dancing?”
"I could track it, but I need a physical piece of it, so long as it's not an actual Outsider." And the way Ravenna says it, it almost sounds like the word should be capitalized. "But this has my interest none the less." When Mitchell arrives and Doug looks a more grumpy she raises a brow just a touch. "You know, I do have a name, even if neither of you remember it. A girl could get offended." Smirking back to Douglas she nods. "I enjoy dancing, Mitchell however says he doesn't have a talent for it.
The city has a high proportion of supernatural-types, but not so high that the scent of non-humans goes unnoticed. Mitchell looks closely at Dumah, and for a moment there seems to be a mutual sizing-up. "Ravenna, right?" he says without taking his eyes off the other man. "Who's your friend?" His tone isn't exactly impolite, but it is guarded and wary.
“Names are so... pedestrian, though.” Dumah smiles again at Ravenna, “although I suppose they have their uses.” He takes the proffered hand, offering a simple pump-shake, “I am called Doug. And we've only just recently met, actually.” A look goes back to Ravenna as he retracts his hand, then, “There is no need, although the offer is appreciated. Once I have a better handle on what it is, I'll know who to provide the information to. For now, it is merely a curiosity to pass the time.”
Ravenna shakes her head as the two size each other up, but doesn't call either one of them out on it. "Yes that is my name, or at least the one I've given the both of you. Pedestrian or not, names have power." Turning back to Mitchell she nods. "I know you both equally, so it's hard to call either of your friend, at least not yet." She nods back to Doug and shrugs her shoulders. "Suit yourself, I know I may only be a lowly magi, but I do have some skills that I would hate to fall out of practice on."
Mitchell flares his nostrils softly. He can't place Dumah's scent, but he knows that he's no garden-variety human. For one, he doesn't smell like dinner. "What's the topic of conversation?" he asks casually. An easy smile appears, but his eyes remain watchful and guarded.
Dumah offers another little nod at Ravenna, Her use of the term magi in front of Mitchell is enough to let Dumah figure that he, too, is in the know. “Ghoul, I think. Not entirely certain. It doesn't fit the standard rules, although much of the typical signposts are there. Just... nothing eaten. So I'm tracking it. Looking to see what it's patterns are. See if I'm right.” This he delivers point-blank, no dramatics, as if this were a matter or course. “See if something is indeed new under the sun, as it were.” He then looks back at Ravenna, grinning. "And I called you little, not lowly. You are diminutive."
"I'm sure that's just what this town needs, a ghoul infestation. I know things with the Nevernever are not as they were, so I can see how one would be moving around freely, I just wonder who they're working for." Ravenna only knows the sort of Ghouls her family have dealt with, which from what she's read were not pleasant. "Can you sense anything Mitchell?" She slightly rolls her eyes at Doug and shakes her head. "You are the size of several large Vikings, everything to you must be diminutive."
"Ghoul? Zombie, like?" says Mitchell. He stubs his cigarette out under his foot. And because he's not an arse, he picks up the butt and flicks it into a nearby bin. "Are you magic, then?" this to Ravenna. " I figured there was something different about you. You know what I am? You played me, man. I had no idea." His smile is wry. Then he shakes his head. "I can't sense nothing. Sensing things other than smells is not part of my skill-set."
Dumah looks back and forth between the two, “We all know there are things in this world which carry the same name, but are nothing alike, indeed not even the same species, each following their own rules. I speak of scavengers. A part of the ecosystem that feeds on the dead, so no, not a zombie. But this one, it doesn't have a haunt. It doesn't feed. It just is. And it's moving.”
Dumah then looks back at Ravenna, “And I'm surprised. Ghouls live where humans live. They feed off the vessels your dead leave behind, have have prevented far more of them from rising or being used. They are often no more than any other scavenger species unless somehow altered or provoked...”
"I'm starting to realize that the longer I live here. Perhaps I was a little sheltered when I was growing up, neither of you fit in the education I received." Which is vexing, but she is not trying to let it get to her. "I'm a Wizard, for lack of a better word. I know what you are, or something similar, but again you don't fit into the categories I know. Which works in your favor honestly." However as Doug starts talking about his sort of ghouls, she'll take out a small notebook and starts scribbling out some quick notes. This is quite good information after all. "What sort of dead, freshly dead, or the long and buried type?"
"I've heard stories about zombies. If a vampire tries to cross over, it sort of...jams up all the doors for a bit. The people who die get slingshotted back into their bodies and just sort of...rot away. But I've never heard of the kind you're talking about. Sounds like rats." Mitchell grins at Ravenna and lifts his chin. "A man's gotta have a little mystery, ay? Forgive me if I don't tip my full hand." He glances sidelong at Dumah. "The closest I've ever smelled to your like were the dog catchers - the men with sticks and rope. I hope that's not what you are, because I might just shit myself on the spot."
Dumah thinks on it a moment, moving over to lean against a wall. To Ravenna, he offers, “Fresh, decayed, nearly non-existent? It doesn't matter. It only matters that they not get a taste for the living, which is rare enough, but there are those to hunt those down. Otherwise, yes, they are much like rats, and like them, so much a part of the ecosystem that covers this skin of the world.” His lip quirks, “And you, little magi, are studying me. This is amusing. I can't wait to find out what you discover.”
Dumah then turns over his gaze to Mitchell. “That method of creating them is nothing but trouble for my kind, although I assure you, I am not one of the Men with Sticks and Rope.” When he says it, it almost seems to punctuate the capitalization, as Ravenna did with Outsiders. “Those who live beyond the doors are an anathema to me, although yes, our roles are related. I work to encourage those who have passed to do so. You, I assure you, will never have to worry about my kind. Your destination is clear.”
"Well that's going to give me nightmares." Ravenna says dryly as she continues scratching on the small notebook she has. "So let's hope they're not hungry for living humans. You two are probably safe but I'd rather not be chewed on." Finishing her notes she'll slip the book back in her satchel and her eyes narrow as he calls her little magi again. "I study everything Grim, I have many years left in me and I intend to learn as much as I can."
Smirking at Mitchel she shakes her head. "I think that's the nature of our types, holding our cards as close to our chests as possible. However I am sure with time I may find out at least one of your secrets. I just need to supply you with more Grappa." Blinking at his expression she shakes her head. "Please don't shit yourself."
Mitchell tends to project an easygoing, devil-may-care air. But if one looks closely, the cracks are evident. Subtle muscles along the curve of his neck and around his temple at each implied capital letter when Dumah speaks. His jaw muscles contract and a tight smile appears. "I'm well aware. The bargain I made ensures I'll never be able to properly forget it." He clucks his tongue once, then looks the tall man over again. "Do you have any skill at locating ghosts? I'm missing a friend of mine. I know she's not back in Bristol. So she either found her door, or she's here somewhere."
He looks over at Ravenna and seems to be considering something. "I'm no cheap date. I only get drunk on the good stuff." Which sounds like a lie. He's not really hiding it. "I'm guessing you've figured I'm not a threat, given the fact that neither of you are trying to bury a bit of wood in my heart right now."
Dumah shrugs his shoulders once more, a dismissive gesture, responding first to Mitchell, “Mitchell, I believe that every creature deserves to live, or at the very least exist. I am not part of the food chain, and frankly see no point in disrupting it. My job is the souls of those who linger.” He pauses, considering, “As to your friend, finding those who have not yet passed on is a specialty. I would need a description, and perchance a personal effect if you had one available.”
Again a look goes back to Ravenna, “If you're really good at what you do, I've seen your sort survive well into a century or more. Something to aspire to, at the least.”
"Well you're in luck, because that is all we serve is the good stuff, you'll have to come by my shop sometime and try it for yourself." Ravenna says with a smirking having done her plug for her family's business for the day. When Mitchell mentions a stake, she raises a brow. "Is that all it takes? I'll have to remember that." There is a teasing smile on her lips before she shakes her head. "I tend to ask questions first, before throwing out magic and seeing what lives afterwards."
Nodding to Doug, Ravenna crosses her arms. "I have full intentions on living that long, even longer is possible. My family is rather stubborn and I suspect many of us will live well past our prime."
Mitchell tries not to let himself look too hopeful, but the prospect of finding one of his anchors is too good to pass up. He's felt the tug of his darker nature since arriving in San Francisco. He never realized just how much he relied on them.
"Her name is Annie. She's...been dead about a year and a half." Without even realizing it, he's gone for his cigarettes. He lights another with the motions of a man with a hundred year habit. "I don't have anything of hers. The house was hers, but if it's here, I can't find it. She's bound to it. So this...whatever...magic divestment?" he looks to Ravenna, as if he expects she can confirm the terminology. "...must have brought it here as well. Other..." he nearly says too much, but stops himself, "...other buildings have appeared from Bristol."
For a moment, Dumah stands. “It isn't much to go on... but if she's been dead that long, and was anchored near you...” A hand reaches out, settling heavy on Mitchell's shoulder. “You may be close enough.” His eyes close... and for a moment, to those sensitive, there is a moment's change: the light around him fades, coalescing instead behind him in a shape that vaguely, if only for a moment, resembles an angel's wings. The touch cannot be pleasant, for certain. When he speaks, it's as if from the other side of the tunnel. “She is lost. She is not gone... but beyond my ken at this moment. There is hope, nonetheless.”
The effects fade, and as Dumah retracts his hand, things return to normal. “I don't know where she is, but I can begin to look for her, now. And if I find her, I can let you know.”
Ravenna stays silent, watching the exchange between the two of them. Seeing the air shift and the light drain away, she only catches a glance of those angelic like wings, and right there she decides to never look at Doug with her third eye. Still, the exchange is personal, and she gives the gents a bit of space to discuss what may happen, or what might never come to be.
No, no, it's certainly not pleasant. Mitchell has to struggle to not try and pull away from that touch. Although he can easily move around in the daytime, the feel of the sun is unpleasant. This is worse by several degrees.
When Dumah's hand withdraws, the vampire has gone pale. Despite the fact that he looks visibly shaken and uncomfortable, he manages to say, "Thank you. I...she's important to me. I don't want her to think I've abandoned her. She uh, she hasn't crossed over, then?"
He suddenly remembers he has a lit cigarette. He swallows a lungful of smoke like a drowning man. He exhales a dragon's mouthful and slowly starts to calm himself. "I wouldn't think one of your lot would want to one of my lot a favour. Isn't that against regulations?" He laughs, but it's humourless. He swallows and glances sidelong at Ravenna. He would have preferred not to have witnesses to that moment of vulnerability, but it's too late now.
“Your friend is not claimed, and she does not reside in any version of Purgatory I am aware of. Although this doesn't mean she hasn't gone elsewhere, I believe you have a right to hope.” A hand goes to his forehead, and Dumah is visibly tired by what he had just done. Indeed, with a quick scan around him, his eyes latch on to the bench Ravenna had previously vacated, and without so much as a by your leave takes a seat.
“My calling it to help those who want to cross, cross, and to intercede on the behalf of those whose souls are in question.” Dumah continues after a moment, “I serve as an angel and agent of Heaven, which in the end all things, even Hell and its minions serve. I may not be on Hell's side, but all things serve Heaven's plan.” Another smile, this time rueful, crosses his lips. One corner lifts just slightly more than the other as he looks to Ravenna, “You're not taking notes...”
Ravenna is still quietly listening to the conversation, and the information that Doug is so freely presenting. However when he walks back over to the bench she'll follow, reaching into her satchel again and brings out the bag containing the pork buns she had bought earlier. "So it would seem." She says to the note taking. "Pork bun? I'm not sure if either of you actually eat, but neither of you look well." Ravenna never expected for a vampire to become more pale, but it can obviously happen. "Perhaps you should sit down as well Mitchell?"
Mitchell chuckles roughly. "That's the rub of it, yeah? The good guys created all, which means the bad guys, too. Which means creatures like me. But I'm no minion. I haven't had any blood in five years." He says that with a mixture of pride and realization that five years of abstinence doesn't make up for 95 of carnage. He waves Ravenna off. "I'm fine. I'm just...well...angelic touches sort of don't agree with me. No offense. And I don't think I could eat anything right now, but thanks." He takes another drag from his cigarette.
“It's a rubbish system, that much I'll give you. But it's the one we have, and at least it works,” Dumah offers, but then adds, “For the most part.” The offered pork bun is waved off, “Thank you, but no. I do eat, when need be... I just need to take a moment. Searching like that, with such a tenuous link, is difficult.”
A look is given again to Mitchell, and Dumah smiles, sniffing, “So you're one of the ones for whom it is more addiction, less sustenance.” He looks over at Ravenna, “You should take note. I mentioned how there are creatures that share the same name, but not the same origins or nature. Some can walk the day, some only the night. Some need blood to survive, others flesh, and some none of the above. Others feed on emotion. Some are part of courts, others not. Some serve hell, others fight against it. Some are dead, animated vessels without souls. Some keep theirs. Others take the souls of others. And they all have a single name.” He grins, “The rules have changed.”
"Five years, that is impressive." At least Ravenna thinks so, but it's hard to gauge what five years is to a vampire. The whole exchange has her thoughtful and pensive for a moment, but she does take the pork buns and put them back in her satchel appearing not to have much of an appetite either. It actually takes a second for her to realize that Doug is talking to her again, and once he's finished she nods. "I have plenty of notes already in my head, I'll write them down later if need be." For now she remains standing, looking at the two other men. "Isn't that the whole point of rules? Abide by them when it's convenient, break them when you're in a pinch and change them when they're no longer valid?"
"If it's any consolation, it's confusing to us, too. We were always told that there were certain places under the jurisdiction of other vampires. There were places we just never lingered. Seems like we've all mutually decided to give each other space over the centuries. I'd never met any other kinds of vampires before I ended up here." Mitchell motions around, then rubs his knuckles across his chin. "It's probably going to all blow up. There's too many factions stepping on toes. The peace that we've enjoyed might not last when we can't stay out of each others' way and territories are in dispute."
He looks at both Ravenna and Dumah for a moment. "Do you know what this is all about? This...transportation? I feel like I've been drafted, but I don't know for which team."
“I can't speak to it,” Dumah responds back to Mitchell, “I've been stationed here for some time. But things changed. Drastically. And I know little to nothing about the why and how. Only that they have.” A moment of silence then, before he continues, “You're thinking the wrong kind of rules, Ravenna. I'm not speaking of rules like the Accords, or your Laws, or the like. I'm talking about the fundamental laws of reality and nature. They are changing, shifting.” A look back to Mitchell, “And frankly, I think such a worry is almost guaranteed. Delicate balances have been upset by this. Things will attempt to balance out, but more often than not such balancing tips things over in the interim.”
"I am in the same boat as Grim, I've been here for a while, I wasn't transported. Pulled, maybe, but I like to at least pretend I have a hand in my relocation. Not that I was all that far away to being with." Ravenna frowns as she taps her finger on her lips, obviously thinking about her words before she speaks them. "My logic still applies, regardless if they're written laws, or laws written by beings we don't know the names of. Besides, I doubt any of the laws I follow will ever be changed." Too man old men, and old beings liking things the way they are.
"Stationed? That makes you sound military. Do you consider yourself a soldier?" Mitchell's question is an honest one, rather than some form of snark. Mitchell leans up against a lamp post and inhales the last of his cigarette. "I'm doing my best to keep control of a cluster of vampires. I wish I could say I've been highly successful." He rubs one of his eyebrows with a thumb. He sounds tired, suddenly. Then he pushes off the lamp post and tugs up on the collar of his jacket.
He steps up towards Dumah and stands in front of the other "Listen, man. Thanks for trying to find Annie. I appreciate it." He glances to Ravenna. "And you?" he points, "You're trouble. I can tell." The words are softened with a warm smile.
“Stationed, yes. I serve Heaven. They placed me here, to do the work I was Called to do. I am no Seraph. I am a Reaper. That may sound militaristic, but I assure you, it is not.” Dumah smiles. “Think of me more as a combat medic. I take care of people after they're off the battlefield.”
He smiles, then, looking at both Mitchell and Ravenna, “There's mystery here, at least, which can be a blessing, when you think on it. Even if it's precipitated by loss or hardship.” A look to Mitchell, which is why I don't mind helping. If I see or hear anything, I'll let you know. Now that we've met, it shouldn't be difficult to find you again.”
A pause, then, as the man's eyes go wide, “Seriously, right now? It couldn't wait five... Oh, for the lov...” And with that, and a bright flash of light, he's gone. Seems like this may be a habitual exit method for Dumah.
Seeing that Mitchell is readying himself to leave, Ravenna finally takes the other half of the bench and sits down. "I'm sure it's not easy to keep a leash on several vampires, good luck." Turning to Doug she listens to his words and when he finishes what he's about to say when she opens her mouth. Apparently she has a question to ask, one she wasn't sure she was going to ask him. However she recognizes his 'Celestial Paging' from the last time they met and actually turns her face away and closes her eyes to avoid the blinding flash. "Well, I suppose that's my cue to be on my way." With one last look to Mitchell she gives him a half smirk. "Only when asked nicely." Than turns to head off in the opposite direction.