Portly Human, Tatooed Human, Centaur
Alexander locates a Fae relic to add to his collection, but getting it isn't going to be easy.
Residential Neighborhood, Richmond District, San Francisco
Wednesday, October 21, 2015, Early Evening
The Nevernever has been stirring.
This is nothing new. To those 'in the know' it is nothing surprising.
But in this case, the 'veil' between two realms - Faerie and Mortal - has been... rippling, and some folk have noticed. In the middle of Richmond, San Francisco, a lone crow alights upon a street lamp that illuminates a portion of the street outside a collection of restaurants and shops. Cars pass by, pedestrians too, and for the most part all appears normal. The wind picks up some of the rubbish in the gutter and sends it skittering down the street - little things. Nothing odd there.
Yet where rubbish blows down an alley beside one of the larger residences here... it vanishes. Electronics of vehicles passing the alley or the house go on the fritz, and stall. The crow, observing all this, flutters down to the street and - taking advantage of the shadows briefly, morphs into a dark-haired, dark-eyed young man.
There are noises coming from the house - objects smashing, people yelling.
Only days after making an escape from the Chapeau amidst the bedlam caused by a certain vampire, Alexander returns to the Richmond district for a different purpose. Some people scry for evil. Some people scry the future. Alexander? Alexander scries for noteworthy objects of a particular supernatural nature. That is what has led him here today. The portal opens on the side of a different residence from the one with the disturbance within. A few houses down, Alexander steps out of it. Today he is dressed in an emerald shirt and his customary black outfit. The portal vanishes behind him and he looks around to make sure no one spotted him.
"Shut it off!" Someone from inside the residence in question is yelling. Loudly. To most, it would go unheard - there is a street full of traffic outside - but for others standing nearby... Kiliaen turns around completely, and tilts his head to the side. His eyes stare without blinking at the house, and he begins a slow walk along the street - wearing a dark suit over an open-necked white shirt - in the direction of the far side of the house.
"How'm I 'sposed to do that?!" someone else replies just as frantically, from within the residence. A loud *CRASH* splits the air a moment later - the cause of which becomes clear when a centaur of all things bursts through the windows of the ground floor of the building, and makes a break for the street. The beast clears the fence surrounding the house with ease, and sets off at a gallop down the street... in the direction of a certain cursed immortal. Kiliaen tucks in his chin and blinks once... twice... on purpose. "Out of hand. Yes." He remarks, and breaks into a jog, heading to the fence.
Alexander, having come around the side of the building, looks over at the sound of hooves coming in his direction. His eyes open wide as saucers at the sight before him. "Hell!" he exclaims suddenly as the centaur heads towards him. He looks in all directions to see if anyone is nearby and, damn it, someone is. Not the best time to use magic then. Standing up to his full height, he taps his cane on the ground twice and yells out "That is quite far enough! You had best change direction, lest you regret it." A bluff? Possibly. Hard to say, from Alexander's demeanor he certainly doesn't sound like he's scared. Alarmed, perhaps, scared, no.
Sparks. Hooves scraping against the sidewalk. Horns. Motorists planting their feet upon the brakes, honking in protest. Screams. Pedestrians blinking at the sight of a creature that seems straight out of a Greek play... or a Xena episode. And then there's the man with the cane, standing resolutely in front of a charging centaur - the mythocreat clearly disoriented and confused. It stops - barely - in front of Hawthorne, and rears up on its hind legs, forelegs thrashing dangerously close to the man. But it does not attack. Not yet anyway. Over by the house, more noises - louder, now that a wall is missing - can be heard. More yells and screams of anger. The fabric of space appears to shift and ripple around the house.
Kiliaen comes up behind the man and the centaur, watching them curiously, then turns again to the metal and stone fence and starts to climb it. He gives Hawthorne a look, noting the man's bravery, and drops into the yard.
Alexander narrows his eyes at the centaur. Holding his cane up in a threatening gesture, he says in a stern tone "Yes, you had better rein yourself in, beast from beyond." He continues to stand his ground, but out of the corner of his eye he notices a man come up and jump the fence. Was that the house where he had scried something? Oh no, no one was getting to that artifact before him. Especially not after he has to stand toe to hoof with a horseman. "Enough of you," he mutters under his breath at the centaur. Raising his left hand, he gestures quickly and recites a word of power. With a tap of his cane against the centaur's closest hoof, he inverts the kinetic barrier surrounding his person and pushes outward. The resulting force knocks the creature off balance and onto its side. "And stay down, you oddity." Turning swiftly, he makes for the fence.
With a cry of protest and pain that sounds not unlike a horse's whinny from a human's mouth, the centaur lands heavily on its side, its hooves scraping against the concrete - sending up sparks - as it tries to get upright again. After the yell pain, it unleashes a barrage of insults and curses at Hawthorne in its native language, none of them particularly kind.
None of them suitable for print.
From the house, more things are smashed. Actually, at this point it sounds like 'things being thrown at other things'. Mac Craith pauses briefly to look over his shoulder at the other person who seems so interested in what's going on, and breaks into a nimble run at the opening in the wall left by the centaur. He never makes it through.
Instead, from within the house one can hear cries of fear and pain now, followed by the sound of barking - like dogs barking. In moments, a group of hounds - Summer Hounds to be precise - bound through the broken wall and into the yard, yapping fiercely. Each hound is the size of a small pony - with massive jaws and paws, and empty eye sockets in which burns a baleful fire. And there are four of them. Two make instantly for Kiliaen. The other two head for the fence, and Hawthorne.
Alexander paid the half-horse half-man no attention once he turned. As the notices the stranger sprint for the opening, his eyes narrow. "If you think I'm going to let you make off with my prize, you have another thing coming," he mumbles under his breath. However, it is at that precise moment that four giant dogs burst out into the yard. "What in the Hells is going on in that house?" Alexander asks himself. Stopping dead in his tracks, he watches the dogs approaching him carefully. Raising his left hand, his incantation mirrors the one from before but lasts longer this time. As soon as the casting is finished, he raises his cane in front of him. "That will be quite ENOUGH." On the last word he strikes the cane into the ground, causing a crackle of energy where it meets the firmament. A sudden wave of force erupts from the cane's impact point, wrapping around the wizard and sweeping outward.
The effect of the cursed mortal's magic is greater than perhaps anticipated - certainly by Kiliaen Mac Craith. As the wave for pure force sweeps out from the magus and across the yard, the two nearest Summer Hounds take the brunt of it... and go flying. With loud yelps that sound a little too human for comfort, both dogs slam into the side of the building. The further two Hounds - those attacking Mac Craith - also tumble end over end just as they leap for the Changeling. And just as the Changeling... changes.
The instant before the force-wave connects (not to mention the Hounds), Kiliaen leaps into the air. Curling into a ball, he sprouts dark feathers all over his body. His face elongates into a beak, and his feet turn into talons. In the form of an iridescent black crow, the Changeling takes to the sky - only to find himself knocked away, over the rooftop, with a squawk. As the Hounds gather themselves for another attack - this time circling around Hawthorne with more caution (some limping), a human appears inside the house, holding something in his hands...
A hand-held mirror in a frame that lets it spin. Behind the human, reality looks like it has a tear in it.
Alexander, now with the full attention of the hounds on him, doesn't actually notice Kiliaen's transformation and subsequent 'flight' over the roof. One minute the stranger is there, the next he's gone. Alexander's brain barely registers it because he's now focused entirely on the four hounds. He peers past the person with the mirror and spots the strange distortion. "So that's it, eh?" he chuckles to himself. Some would say Alexander was in over his head, but he had been around two centuries and knew a trick or two. While he couldn't immediately identify the hounds as Fae magic, he knew they were magic - not of this plane, judging from what he could tell thus far - and as he had no way of banishing them, he would just have to be more creative about it. His left hand comes up, another incantation, and the fence nearby begins to come loose. With his force magic does Alexander rip it up from the ground, bringing a whole big chunk of it closer. The spell changes then, just as the torn section of fence falls to the ground with the sound of metal and stone colliding. Tapping the chunk with his cane, the new incantation completes and the fence suddenly changes form, warping into a large metal net. Another spell again, back to the force magic. The way Alexander changes between incantations, like a fluid chant, is almost hypnotic. The net stretches and bends, eventually ripping into four pieces. And it is these four pieces which suddenly drop on the mastiffs from above, attempting to pin them to the ground. "Dog. Catcher." Kiliaen caws as he zips back across the roof and down in to the yard. Four metal nets of iron fall upon the Summer Hounds, pinning them to the ground - but at the same time also causing their fur and skin to sizzle and burn. Instantly they start howling.
The sound is bad. The smell is worse.
The crow hovers briefly in the air, staring at the outcome in horror, before he is interrupted by two humans - one portly, balding, and the other tattooed and holding the mirror. Kiliaen speeds away, only to circle back and attempt to snatch the mirror from the human's grasp. "Not. For you." The crow tells the human, with a quick glance at Hawthorne. "Too dangerous."
By now, the public outside the yard have noticed. 911 has been dialed and most people are doing their best to get away from the house...
Alexander stares as the dogs begin to burn. "Fae magic," he spits out, then curses as he spots the crow snatching the mirror. It's making squawking noises, they almost sound like words. His imagination is running away from him, clearly. Must be the stress of the encounter, he hadn't had to defend himself magically in some time. "Where do you think you're going with my trinket, you buzzard!" he calls out. More Fae magic, now it was a bird in his way. The dogs left to their fate, the rip in the fabric of reality, everything is ignored as Alexander's single-minded purpose shifts its focus to getting that mirror. Bringing both hands together, his cane in his right and his left gesturing wildly, he begins an intense incantation. The entire time he's moving away from the house, dogs, and the two humans still inside with that distortion. The rest would be someone else's mess to fix, he certainly didn't start it. As his incantation comes to its conclusion, he stretches his cane out and points it at the bird. Extending the barrier, he stretches it to its thinnest possible. The barrier snaps forward, the wall of force spinning outwards and creating a tunnel - the bird has only one way left to go now, and that's right back towards Alexander.
"Hey! Gimme that!"
"What?! Get the - stupid mirror!"
"Argh! It scratched me!"
"Man, yer a wuss!"
While the two humans argue, and the Summer Hounds burn away to nothing, the crow snags the mirror and makes off with it... only to find one direction available to it. No amount of trying to fly elsewhere - despite being stronger than the average bird - avails anything for him, and so Kiliaen does the only thing he can: He flies straight for the magus.
Instead of attempting to ram the man with his beak - which would be messy and unpleasant for both of them - Mac Craith releases the mirror at the last second, sending it flying through the air straight at the immortal human. "Winter. Upon you!" the crow caws just as it lets the artefact go. In that same moment, shadows gather around the crow - a precursor to concealing it from view - just as a rather angry centaur charges over the ruined fence and into the yard, arms swinging in an effort to clobber Hawthorne from behind...
"Shit, are you seein' this?!?!" one of the humans - the portly one - exclaims, tripping on rubble and tumbling into the yard. The tattooed one, nursing a lacerated arm, runs back inside with a purpose... possibly to retrieve something.
Alexander's single focus is the mirror. He doesn't realize there's a centaur barreling up behind him, nor does he pay any mind to the humans - they're the last thing on his mind. No, the mirror is coming to him. And suddenly it's flying through the air at him, so sparkling, so... quick. Straight at him. That wouldn't do. Not at all. His left hand flies up and with a word of power the barrier withdraws, the tunnel vanishing and the force snapping back to its rightful place hugging Alexander's body. Reaching out with his cane, he utters another word and stops the mirror straight in its tracks, the force bubble wrapping around the mirror like a cushion and protecting it.
Stepping forward, Alexander takes the mirror into his hands and... just like that, the spell upon him is broken. He has his talisman, and the world once again begins to move. There's a sound behind him now. A familiar sound. A sound that did not bode well for him. He doesn't have time to portal out. He can't. But the mirror. He must protect the mirror. Without any time left to cast a complex invocation, he tries something that may or may not work. Gesturing with his left hand a single sign, uttering a single word, he disappears from sight. The glamour masks his image, making him appear non-existent. If only to buy him some precious seconds.
The centaur attempts to skid to a halt - now that his quarry is no long in view - but is only partially successful. The clobbering-arm swings wide, but the creature's foreleg heavily clips the invisible Hawthorne in the thigh. As the creature turns around, the tattooed human appears in the ruined wall toting a shotgun.
He fires once. Twice. In the second shot, the human clips the centaur, sending it into a rage but doing little damage. Meanwhile, the enshrouded crow angles away and soars straight for the human. In an unfurling of shadow the bird morphs into something that is neither crow nor man, but in between, and reaches for the human's arm, pulling back on it viciously - his eyes on the tear in reality just inside the house.
The werecrow seems less concerned about the mirror, and more about the rift. As the human goes flying across the yard - toward the centaur and the magus - Kiliaen ducks inside the house and approaches the paranormal 'tear'.
Getting kicked by a horse hurts. Even with the barrier protecting him, Alexander feels the force of that hoof colliding with his thigh. Much like a bulletproof vest will protect a torso from being pierced and leave bruises, so too does the barrier keep Alexander's skin from breaking open and bleeding. He definitely feels the hit, the momentary shock of pain breaking his concentration and shattering the glamour. Reappearing once again, he takes a step back as he clutches the mirror, his 'injured' leg wobbling slightly. And now, to top it off, there's a UFO (Unidentified Flung Oaf) hurtling straight at him. Deciding that one hit was enough and this one would hurt a lot more than the last one, Alexander wisely begins moving away from the centaur. However, he doesn't move away from the house. He moves towards it. Why? For one very good reason - Fae magic. Suspicious of it, intrigued by it, Alexander wants to find out what is going on with that rift. With a bit more time afforded to him, Alexander raises his left hand and traces a rune in the air, chanting along with it. The motion completed, his barrier thickens considerably. Always use protection.
With a yelp that some would think too shrill for a grown man to make, the tattooed man collides with the centaur's chest, knocking the Fae creature off its feet with more cursing. The portly man remains where he is - wise enough to stay down. Inside the house, Kiliaen stands in were-form in front of the rift to the Nevernever, his taloned hand extended toward the 'tear' while he chants in the language of the Fae. The effect upon the actual rift is small, as though something were keeping it open, and the werecrow turns his head about - much further than a human could - to look pointedly at Hawthorne. And the mirror.
"Close the rift." He tells Hawthorne, in tones less like a command and more like a statement of fact. "Close the rift. Keep the key. Close the rift. Keep the key." He watches the magus for a moment to see if the message is understood, then turns back to the anomaly in space, and continues chanting. At least, for now, nothing else comes flying through - and the centaur is too busy peeling a human off it to interfere.
Alexander is a sharp cookie but when confronted by a half-man half-bird telling him what to do, even he isn't certain what action to take at first. Close the rift, keep the key. The cogs turn in his head and he calculates that the rift must have been caused by misuse of the key, which would be the mirror he now holds in his hands. "Never used Fae magic before," he mutters to himself as he holds the mirror out in his left hand. Staring into the mirror, he visualizes the rift before him closing. His eyes stare into the reflective depths of the glass, the once-strange face granted him by his curse now familiar. "Seal, rip between worlds," he whispers to the trinket, his eyes flicking up to the rift to see if his focus is achieving any effect.
The Key knows what it needs to do. Or at least it has the help of a World-Walker to guide it. It responds as though it has a life of its own - a friend answering a request, perhaps. The werecrow appears to approve of the magus' efforts in that he nods his head a few times, peering at Hawthorne out the corner of his eye (he has the extended field of vision of a bird - useful, that). The mirror flashes several times in Hawthorne's hand, focusing its energy on the tear, like ribbons of light emerging from its surface - entwining themselves around the werecrow's wings and talons - then repairing the rip in space-time as threads would repair a piece of cloth...
In moments, the rift is gone, and the only strange things to remain are a werecrow, a mage, a centaur, four iron 'nets' made out of fencing...and a spinning mirror in the mage's hand. Kiliaen turns around and morphs back into human form, staring at Hawthorne and the Key. Unblinking, the man lifts a finger to point at the other person and says: "For the Key. A favour someday." Then the man frowns and shakes his head a bit, lowering his hand to his side. "Excuse me. This mouth is better suited to speech. You may keep the Key, but we will be watching. A favour may be asked - but for now, gratitude is offered. Magus." He leans to the side, to look past the human at the struggling centaur in the yard. "Leave it. Kill it. Keep it. Your choice. My work is done."
Alexander looks curiously as the bird-man turns into an actual man, and speaks. He doesn't know what to make of the message he is given - he's definitely keeping the mirror, there's no question of that. The rest is heard, filed away for future reference and contemplation as the two turn to face the centaur. The dogs gone thanks to the iron, Alexander purses his lips. "Much as I am loathe to do this, there's no place for such a creature here." Transferring the mirror to this right hand, he begins gesturing with his left. Another series of incantations and the metal that was previously ripped apart is wound back together on itself, creating a much larger net. The metal net is then lifted up, up, over the centaur and dropped onto it.
Alexander turns without a word, not wishing any part of watching what takes place next. He looks once at Kiliaen and then walks towards the wall of the house. Another gesture, another incantation, and a portal opens up in the side of the building, a blue doorway leading elsewhere. But just before stepping through it he pauses, looking over at the bird man. Just looking at him. Taking in his appearance, his presence, the manner in which he knew how to seal that rift. And Alexander wonders.