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  1. My head swivels as if on a dial as I look between Jack and Jack. "Oh Lord, now there's two of them." I turn to address the newcomer. "Okay, I'm going to call you Katana, then -- unless you'd prefer Jack 2.0, of course. I mean, if you think of a nickname, put a pin in it, I guess. Speaking of--" I pull the sharp pins from his hair and wave them excitedly in Jack 1.0's face. "VoilĂ  -- weapons!" I fist one like a dagger and hand the other over to Jack, thinking Katana already has enough of an advantage with his blade. My nervous babbling still increases as the growling intensifies, though. "Please, please tell me that your surname would either indicate that, a., you are such a sword enthusiast that you committed to a legal name change, or b., that you come from a long line of staggeringly competent swordsmen who were called after their occupation, like how the name Potter was derived from pottery, and Smiths were named for their smithing, and Berrys were named for their, er, berry-picking skills, or whatever, so in the event that that thing that's making a noise like an angry chainsaw tries to have a go at us, we can count on you to skewer it, right? "Please tell me that you are confident you can kabob a freaking wolf."
  2. Noticing the disturbed surface of the water, I'm quick to step back from the edge and rejoin Jack. I squint to make out the kaleidoscope of colors swirling within the glass figure. "Well, I wonder if all the colors of the rainbow means the smoke has psychedelic properties." I snort. I lean closer to Jack and whisper: "I'll be honest, I'm really tempted to grab and dash with it just to see what it can do. Maybe we could hurl it like a smoke bomb if we're cornered by anything nasty. But we can look around first and see if there is anything else worth check out here." I pull the compass out of my pocket to gauge if it's willing to cooperate, given our new surroundings. I groan when I notice that the needle is still idly spinning. "It would be nice if we could find a more practical weapon, though. Or, hell, just a meaningful lead would be appreciated."
  3. I tentatively reach forward and try to wipe the moisture from the glass to get a better look, but my fingers snag on an almost-hidden seam in the surface. Puzzled, I cautiously pry the capsule open.
  4. I look around at the Japanese-style garden, feeling almost at peace for the first time during this entire ordeal. "Well, this is a nice change of pace for us." I hurredly glance around at the elaborately-dressed figures I can see peering at us from behind the statues and foliage. I grimace, hoping I haven't just jinxed us. I creep towards a pond filled with water lillies and glass orbs, hoping to get a better look at what's inside them.
  5. "I'm just saying, something to hunt with and something to protect ourselves with would be nice. Honestly, anything." I try to picture a military-grade tank rolling underneath a sky shining with a smiley, crayon sun, and snort. I'm quiet for a long time as Jack finishes his perusal and replaces the objects, dreading voicing the obvious. "Honestly, we might have to risk danger again at some point to get answers here, but we can try to feel the place out as much as possible before it comes to that. And if we are given the chance, arm ourselves with anything. I think the best we've going to get for now is found objects; something that we can fashion into a weapon. "The butcher's shop might have knives, hooks, that sort of thing -- but we can worry about grabbing those if and when we get there." I shudder. But yeah, you're probably right about the meat. My money's on it being long pig, or something equally...." I trail of, shaking my head. I keep the compass on me. I feel we're close to unraveling the mystery behind it, but I need to observe it a bit more for things to fall into place. When we enter the tower, I gaze around at the mismatched time pieces with a sense of dysphoria. "I guess time is broken here, too. Maybe that's why we woke up looking like...this." I wave a hand between us to call attention to our scraggly, unkempt appearances.
  6. "Not a great idea to eat something smelling of ambrosia in this place. Could be poison. If we get desperate, maybe we can try it later, or find something to feed it to first to see if it's deadly. Speaking of, we should start thinking about where to find something to eat." I lean heavily against the stony hip of the demoness, crossing my arms. She doesn't seem to mind. "I mean, they are the central element in this courtyard, in pride of place between all the buildings. And maybe I've played one too many RPGs, but shiny metal objects held by statues in hero poses give me quest item vibes. I just wish their application was a bit less...escoteric. Like, I'd take a caveman's club over an unhelpful magic compass right now. "If we can find a way to strike a spark, we could try to light the candle. Would be great if we could put it in the lantern, but that doesn't seem to be possible. I didn't see any star-shaped holes in the cathedral, either, but then again, I was a bit... preoccupied." My arms tighten over my chest and my eyes shift away. "Haven't been to the clock tower, though. Did you see anything of interest at the butcher's?"
  7. "Awesome." I sigh, glancing at the lantern, and notice the latch fused closed with rust. "And let me guess, along with the busted compass and pocket watch, that candle doesn't light, this lantern won't even open, and the star is only fit to be a tree topper. Would be great if they were holding like, a sword or a blunderbuss, or you know -- something actually useful. And no, I can't really make out what's inside, but I don't think the latch will budge." I try to jiggle it to make sure, and as expected, it doesn't move a centimeter. "Anything in the cup?" I siddle up to the statue of the demoness. "Woah." I whistle lowly. "Well, I will say one thing: these statues are freakishly realistic. I can almost make out the weave of her fishnets."
  8. I nod vehemently in agreement and take note before slipping the compass into my hoodie's pouch. I approach the base of the nearest statue, the one of the man holding the lantern, and run my hands over it. I use his limbs as leverage to look for any inscriptions, maker's marks -- anything to help point the way as to how or why they came into being, grumbling at having so much surface area to cover. I reach up to take the lantern, but pause, and cast a suspicious eye towards the fountain. It continues to burble ominously, with no clear bottom visible through the blood. "This isn't some sort of trap, right? Something isn't going to crawl out of the depths of Dracula's favorite lawn ornament over there if we take more that one object each or something? I would say I'm being paranoid, but no. I don't think I am." I look over to see Jack inspecting the pocket watch. "What time are you getting on that thing, by the way?"
  9. I take the compass and gamely follow along, watching the needle rotate pointlessly. I throw up my hands in helpless denial, but he's already pivoted to begin the return trek out of the wasteland. Finding no further argument there, I turn my attention back to the compass, trying to leg it to catch up. "Normally, a compass needle is influenced by magnetic fields, but I'm assuming that, based on the brand of dream logic in this hellscape, this is supposed to be...magic of some sort." I do sarcastic jazz hands. "I would like to get a better look at those statues, though. Maybe they can offer up something more useful." At the mention of the statues, the needle pauses and points fixedly ahead of us for a few moments before continuing in its aimless progression. "Huh, it just stopped spinning for a bit. Has it done that before?"
  10. "Okay, this is bananas." I wheeze and double over, still trying to recover from the uncharacteristic exertion of running. Weird, 2-D sun aside, I need a minute to collect myself. I don't know why he thinks the claim that the blood isn't his should reassure me, but he seems to think it should, so I don't comment beyond quirking an eyebrow. I mull over his name, and it draws a parallel blank in my mind where my own name should rest with reasonable certainty. "Um, I seem to have a slight case of retrograde amnesia? Or something? I...I don't remember my name or who I am, exactly. I guess you can call me --" I take a minute to riffle through my mental baby names book. "Sophie? Sophie. It'll do for a placeholder, I guess." When I recover my breath, my hands start to fidget with anxiety, and once I notice, I tuck them into my hoodie's front pouch self-consciously. I look back up at his perplexed tone and shuffle closer to regard the device in his hand. "What is that? Where did you get it from?"
  11. I see that, reassuringly, no cultists have broken off to follow me when I glance back. I think I may hear something to the side of me, but I can't pick out distinct words. My heart races, spurring me on, until a figure manages to overtake me and block my path. I stop short, my arms windmilling to keep my balance. I have to blink a few times to adjust to the direct sunlight beating down here so I can drink in the worrying details I see on their person. They look wild, their facial hair unkept and clothing splattered with blood. I cringe, and worry about its source. I'm on my guard immediately. I bite back a hysterical giggle. I have no answer to that last point, obviously, so I counter with my own interrogation: "W-Who are you? Whose blood is that?" I gesture to their shirtfront. I smoothe my hair back in a nervous gesture, and my hand brushes against greasy caramel-colored strands. I cringe in disgust, wondering if I look as bedraggled as they do. I pass a hand over my leg where my capris cut off at the knee, and notice some hair growth there. I could swear I had shaved that morning. Keeping an eye on them, I scan the periphery for more useful details, noting the landscape is particularly strange and unreal here. Something in the sky catches my eye, and I do a doubletake that nearly gives me whiplash. The sun looks like a cartoon depiction, like a child's bad fridge drawing. I point dumbly at it with a flat, "What."
  12. I am having regrets. I stand gawking before the skeletally thin and diseased figure patiently poling the boat closer to shoreline for us to board. The nearer I had come to making out his features in the gloom, the surer I became that his presence couldn't portend anything good. I am holding up the line, and I can see the others behind me crooking their necks and reaching out experimentally to examine the sudden impasse in front of them. If empty eye sockets could look questioning and a bit perturbed, I'm sure theirs would. I have to make a break for it, and soon. I'm afraid to run towards the clock tower, in case it is peopled by more horrors. But I can see nothing beyond the buildings laying before me, and I don't know what may be in store in the expanse beyond them. I don't even know if my potential persuers can see me to give chase, or if they will only grab blindly for me once I break from formation. But I begin to feel fingers twining in the fabric of my hoodie, and shaking them off, I make a break for it. I dodge left and note that I can't make out whether the other person has returned to the courtyard, and their fate remains an unsettling mystery to me. Still, if they yet survive, I feel dubious about possibly leading the cultist's entourage right to them, so I branch off and run into the great unknown, behind the cathedral. Hopefully, I can lose them there, if they are, in fact, chasing me. I can't hear anyone else's footfalls over the sound of the wind and the rushing of my own blood in my ears, and so risk a glance backwards to see if I am actively hunted or alone.
  13. The desire for total obeisance dampens the further and further we get from the doors of the cathedral and the direct gaze of that -- that Thing in chains. Blinking until I feel fully-aware again, I take in my position in line as my former de facto brothers and sisters heading the group file towards a large boat at the bottom of another set of steps. Scanning around, I take in the haunting architecture, and the details of the peculiar statuary standing in the courtyard, their glittering objects attracting my gaze. I also note the figure loping towards a rather cede-looking butcher shop, and sigh internally. I feel torn, because every instinct I own is saying to split off and hide for when the others inevitably come to hunt me down and return me to the fold, or worse. Then again, the only other person I've seen here looks like they're about to stumble into more eminent peril. If I catch them in time, maybe I can head them off, and we can run to shelter together. But where is shelter? Where is safety in this place? Chances are, between the cultists, and the butcher's, and who knows what else lurks here, I'm just going to triple our chances of a joint and grisly death without having some time to get my bearings. They're just going to have to tread lightly and fend for themselves a little while longer. I weigh my options, and decide to stick with the group. They seem to, at a bare minimum, at least tolerate me as long as I fall in line, and that might suffice to ward off any other threat that may consider hunting me here if I remain unprotected. Saftey in numbers, and all that. The courtyard has proven too dangerous already, and I'm curious to see whether any other place further down river might be more inviting, or at least less hostile, to human life. I shoot one last lingering look at the figure now standing before the butcher's, but lightly shake my head in regret and carry onward.
  14. My mouth drops open in shock as I watch the only other human in sight bolt like a startled baby gazelle and leave me to stew in my imminent doom. "Did they just--?" I can't help but rasp, but that's as far as I get in my self-indulgent rant. A hand shoots out from my left and secures my flailing left arm in place; the motion is echoed on my right. Instead of feeling alarmed, I feel a sense of rightness and belonging wash over me, like I'm among my kin, among the Host. The grip on my wrists coaxes my hands together in supplication, and I readily submit to the act, bowing toward the figure sitting on the throne before us, resplendent in Her chains. I feel the twin grips on my arms release, but feel no desire to shift from my new position, beyond the need to catalogue the subtle feeling of being watched. My eyes drift towards the rafters, where shadows are made thicker there by countless quivers-worth of black feathers. With a certainty I can't quite place, I know the sharp beaks I can hear clicking there above me will rend me apart relentlessly until I am nothing but bone, spent carrion, if I stir again, if I am out of order. I can feel their judgment hanging thickly from my outburst earlier and it makes me curl into myself with shame, feeling utterly useless -- a burden to my Brothers and Sisters. An irritating mote in the eye of my god. We stay bent and hushed for some time until She is sated with our subservience, and then we are summarily dismissed, rising as one. We leave the cathedral in an orderly train, no lantern-bearers flanking us as we make our exit, nothing to light the way.
  15. I rowse slowly and notice that faint light is streaming through a thin layer of fabric covering my face. I start to hyperventilate as I become more aware; the fabric is oppressive, and as soon as sleep paralysis releases my limbs, I tear it from my face. I look at the drapery in my hand: a veil. My confusion morphs into a prickle of fear as I look around me, trying to gain a sense of orientation, and instead feeling more divorced from reality with every passing detail I take in, the only thing grounding me in this place being the humble wooden pew I find myself unnacountably slumped against. A tentative whisper issuing from somewhere in my lowlight surroundings startles me: The sound echoes strangely beneath vaulted ceilings, and I consider staying mum, but the voice is so human and unsure that it emboldens me to whisper back, "H-Hello?" I notice a movement from one of the veiled figures a few rows ahead of me as they turn their head to regard the owner of that voice, and it draws my attention there, as well. I try some impromptu sign language to capture their attention and communicate the idea that they should be a little more cautious of mysterious, silent figures in what could very well be Black Mass (barring me, of course), but accidentally jostle the figure to my left. Oops.
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