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supernal

Ain't that just the way

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Preface

"I don't want to position myself as some guy who knows everything, who has all the answers. I don't know what a hero is, so I can't say that's what I am. I'm just a guy that hurts people that like to hurt people. Like, I could say it's being brave and fighting for what you believe in but what's that got to do with anything at all?

"A thief feels braver than you'd think if you've never stolen anything, anything that's really worth something from someone that really wants to keep it that is. There's a fear. Of getting caught, of facing consequences, that goes the same for thieving as it does for killing as it does for, I don't know, orchestrating development loans to rebuild infrastructure after you bomb the living daylights out of it. And overcoming that fear is what makes those bad people bad people as much as it makes the good people good.

"So I'm like, so what? So what about being strong? So what about having conviction and, and grit, and so what about being clever, and inspiring, and kind? If I looked deep down I think I could honestly say I'm just being selfish. I can't stand it. I can't stand that slavery is justified for profit, that genocide is legal because an idiot king says so, that these shit-eaters are out here killing people on the basis of 'gimme yours cause god says so'."

Jericho was inside of a mobile clean room, what looked like an enclosed trailer, but whose walls were fortified against intrusion and espionage by means both material and arcane. He sat in the single chair and on the single table before him rested an ultrablack gauntlet.

All of the above was a little ritual which Jericho enjoyed with items of power. It was something akin to the naming of a sword, but a thousandfold, because Jericho gave it more than a name, he gave it his passion, revealed the glinting and various facets of his manifold truth.

He slipped the gauntlet on and took one minute to let his body adjust to the power, masked its presence by means of a resonant feedback loop with the ghost-pouch also on his person. He left the clean room after that, threaded the crowd to get to his transport, and made his way off Terrenus.

OOC

Edited by supernal

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"Doing nothing about it, leaving it to a broken system, might as well be giving them license to do wrong by people. We're the only ones who will stand up to it, who'll say. 'No. It stops here.' 

'So what do you say, Levi,' He had asked her, 'Will you join us?' 

Well, what do you think now? Levi wondered wryly, as she watched the languid, crimson pool spread across the floor beneath her feet. Barely a week before, twenty-six year old Elisha Ripken had been nobody. A temp. She spent her days showing up for roll call and her nights scoring transient highs in a crummy nightclub in Casper, perpetually adrift in acedia. But now... 

The twenty-six year old had never felt further from home than she did when she first laid eyes on Velleh Ah’bjyd's sprawling palace through the window of their transport. It appeared like a mirage in the desert, immense domes of blue agate and white, marble spires shimmering like precious metal in the sun-baked air. The desert outside of Alterion just felt like... all she could think was yellow. Like noxious, yellow heat. Like miasma. It left the taste of ozone and aluminum on her tongue. And Ah’bjyd's estate stood out against the yellow, gleaming, gorgeous, and sinister. In that moment, the thousands of miles that separated this sallow purgatory from Casper struck Levi in the chest as if they had physical weight. She felt far from home then... but only in miles.

Now, barely an hour later, standing in this room with three dead bodies and blood blooming over the carpet, 'home' didn't even feel real. 

The blood was real.

And Justice was real. 

Real enough to Velleh Ah’bjyd, she thought, still propped upright in his high-backed chair, his throat opened. And real enough to the lifeless guard at her feet who had suffered the same ill fate. 

Levi grunted, something beyond translation, and knelt to wipe the blood from her knife into Ah’bjyd's exotic rug, leaving a bright red smear on the plush, gold and turquoise fibers. She slid the blade back into the sheathe she wore at her hip just as Jericho dropped his hands. Suddenly the eerie, oppressive silence that enveloped them blinked out of existence. Now they could hear the faint bustle of activity outside of this room, and each of the three people still living would immediately observe its tempo; the pulse outside had not changed. Ah’bjyd's guards remained unalarmed–-at least for the time being. 

The newly anointed assassin, just baptized in the blood of her first victim, stood again and turned her twinkling steel eyes to Jericho. Levi had a much smaller frame than the sorceror in the center of the room; a lithe, if disalluring, figure. She pushed an errant lock of short, cadmium hair from her forehead. In a gauzy, strangely genderless voice, she asked. "What's the plan, boss?" 

Edited by Ace

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“What else is there?”

“There is still everything, Matte.”

“So tell me.”

“Just go along. Learn it in your own words. Take this.”

He downed a strong drink.

“Great, now take this.”

He took the flask full of the same… savory liquid.

Then a dark haired young man with light-brown skin and very round, expressionless features sat with Jericho and Levi in the back of the transport. He looked out the window; cacti, sand, rock formation, cacti sand, cacti. Head rocking with the slight shifts, hands puddled in his lap, the newbie known as Matte barely blinked his plain dotted eyes against the blazing light. From underneath relaxed eyelids, from beneath the dull matte of his imperceptibly brown eyes, shone something tempered and observant— either something suppressed or the illusion thereof. Every now and then, Matte glanced from the desertous backdrop to the eldritch glove on Jericho’s hand.

Matte did carry a conviction for doing what was right. His soul burned with a fury to do right. Now, en route to Izral with Jericho, he was quite able to do the type of right he desired. Matte had killed, and Matte had resolved himself to keep killing until he was the only one killing and nobody else was. At that point, and only when his humanitarian principles were sated, he would cease killing the dastardly who made nests from the despair of others.

That evening, the group found their way into the palace and into the room in question. Matte dispatched of one guard in a very orthodox fashion, catching an intended blow and turning it into a rear naked choke to incapacitate the enemy.

While Levi finished off her quarry and cleaned the blood away, Matte undressed his victim— if you wanted to call him that— and donned the garb of the deceased. Affixing it to look passable by his standards, he went to stand with his back to the door from which the most commotion was coming.

“What’s the plan, boss?”

The quirk in Matte’s brow reflected his comrade’s question, removing the flask from an inner chest pocket and taking a swig. Matte had an auxiliary idea or two of his own.

"I say we feel out the situation and see how guards get close to him. Then, I volunteer to try it. Meanwhile, anybody cued up to distract the party if I'm found out would be ideal. My suggestion is that either two of us go in as guards, or two of us help run distraction. I don't like going in without an escape plan, but I can find my own way out. Just make sure you two aren't caught up, got it— er, is that alright sir?" finished Matte, angling his head to Jericho.

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The trip from Casper to Izral was one of onerous length. It took them days. There was nothing for it. When the Casper Shipping Company generated enough revenue for an airship or two that'd be different but he had to work with what they had, and that meant water ships.

In that time Jericho spent very little time fraternizing with the two operatives he brought along with him. He wasn't sure about them. He knew very little about Levi, but she had cleared the bar. He knew the power of rhetoric and he knew that talking a good game would make people nod along before they even knew what they were agreeing to. But unconscious sycophants did not guerilla soldiers make. Levi had proven by action that she landed firmly in the camp of 'useful', but that did not preclude a long-con. She could be a friendly mask worn by any number of sinister shadows broken off from the various enemies he had made, or enemies he had yet to make.

He knew even less about Matte, but he was vouchsafed by Ignatz's Odette and that was, just barely, good enough for him.

That meant bring them along but prepare your own food and drink, sleep in your own room. That meant give them the weapons they would need to accomplish the job, both literal and figurative, but don't turn your back. That meant arm them with knowledge but only a little at a time, as they went along, so that if one or both of them stabbed him in the back, kidney, or heart, it wouldn't all come undone.

The trip from the shore of Izral to Velleh's estate was short by comparison, two hours, maybe two and a half. Jericho engaged when spoken to and made sure they knew that he knew what he was doing, that he was not unhinged and that they were not putting the integrity of their lives in frail, flimsy hands, but if left to his own devices he spent his time looking out the window. Some of the time his jaw and his fists were clenched. Other times his lips moved in rehearsed soliloquy.

And then, less than an hour after they left the transport, Velleh was dead. Months of arduous, painstakingly arranged work, of constant paranoia and specter-like living, and Velleh's rapidly cooling corpse was slumped on the ground, blood soaking into what used to be his expensive rug.

There. Finally. Now, even if he died before the day's end, then at the very least this one snake, in a world of them, was without its head.

Jericho dropped the zone of silence that cloaked Levi's and Matte's gift for violence. He flipped Velleh's body over and leaned over it.

"Fuck you motherfucker."

He spit on Velleh's face before straightening up and kicking his teeth in. He turned the head and gathered Velleh's teeth in one hand while, with the other, he fished from his person a small burlap satchel. Into it went Velleh's teeth; from its gaping mouth pulsed green light. Wisps of smoke, or something that looked and acted like it but left one with the distinct impression was altogether more substantial, funneled from Velleh's body into the satchel. Jericho tied it off and lost it on his person and extended his right hand – in the next instant that hand was covered in ultrablack metal to the forearm.

"I appreciate you two coming with me this far. It may not look like it, but we just saved a hundred thousand lives from slavery." Jericho shook his head and bit back the urge to spit again as, with his unarmored hand, he gestured to their lavish surroundings on the expansive estate, while his armored hand pointed at Velleh like it was a canon.

Velleh twitched. Seized up. Then lurched into a standing position; over the passing seconds his slack jaw set itself and his up-rolled eyes positioned themselves into a semblance of normalcy.

"Right now the plan is we clean him up a little and walk right on out."

(OOC note: the estate of course has safeguards against magic so the necromantic manipulations of the gauntlet won't last for long. Have fun with it!)

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Levi started to volunteer for the job of the distraction; The twiggy young woman would hardly pass as a guard, even in disguise, but she was fast enough to get out of a scrape. She opened her mouth to say this, but the words would never make it past her lips. Jericho interrupted with a sudden, mighty stomp that broke several of the dead merchant’s teeth with an audible crunch. The sound turned Levi’s stomach. She hastened to the closed door and pressed her ear against the carved mahogany panel, happy to give this display some space. Levi wasn’t shy about their purposes here, but some things were just too gr-

“What the hell?” She’d turned her head to warn him off the noise and, from over her shoulder, saw what Jericho was doing then. It was the luminous, green glow bathing his face that had stopped her. Levi had known that Justice’s leader was a sorcerer. He’d revealed that much when he recruited her.

But some things...things like necromancy, you didn’t fully grasp the horror of until you witnessed it in the flesh. She watched, repulsed and astonished, as this tall, bumpkin-looking man lifted his hand and raised Velleh’s body from the ground. 

21 hours ago, supernal said:

"Right now the plan is we clean him up a little and walk right on out."

“Wait, wha---Really?”

Levi stepped away from the door with both hands held out, palms-up, before her, and looked dubiously at Jericho. Then her gray eyes shifted to the body of Velleh Ah’bjyd. Surreally, Velleh seemed to look right back at her: His irises centered, his pupils locking straight onto her own. The macabre vision made the hairs on the back of her neck stand upright.

It wasn’t the fine, clean slash across his neck or the coat of blood still glistening down to his sternum that chilled her. Standing there seemingly on his own, he seemed almost a conscious man. Almost. There was some minute detail: His head cocked at just a degree or two off center, the limbs a bit too still at his sides. Those tiny differences--mere slivers, but uncanny because of their closeness to the margins--that unsettled Levi. But she acted. They didn’t have the luxury of hesitation; If jefe said this was the plan, then she’d spring to it.

Levi studied the room, face set, grim and calculating. The large room seemed to have two distinct sections: A sitting area, where they stood now, with a chaise lounge and two tall winged-back chairs forming an arc around a cold, dry fireplace; and a kind of sideboard or service area against the far wall--a space where the needs of the occupants might be handy but out of the way. There was a wide credenza bearing refreshments, a sweating carafe of water and a bottle of wine that had been opened to breathe, as well as an empty tea set. In the corner stood an elegantly carved hat rack or coat rack, and another door that might have led to a kitchen or butler’s catwalk. On the rack, Levi spotted a long, delicate swathe of embroidered gold fabric, like a veil or a headscarf.

“Matte, get that. We can use it to conceal his throat” she pointed as she crossed back to where the second guard lay face-down in the carpet. Levi squatted and pulled that knife back from its sheath with her right hand, lifting the fabric of the guard’s clothing away from his back with the left. With little effort she cut a large scrap from the tunic and, re-stowing the blade, brought it back to where Velleh.. stood…   She wadded the remnant up like a hand towel and used it to mop up the excess blood from his neck and clothes. Luckily, Velleh had received them today dressed as one would expect from the obscenely rich and vainly opulent; the luscious crimsons, wines and violets of his silk clothes only looked a bit brownish with blood, not a gory bright red swiped across a canvas of whites or creams.  

"We'll need to hide the other bodies," she added, working with the calm detachment of someone who'd done this before. In Casper she'd worked with corpses. At least with this one, she didn't have to worry about getting infected from the blood. "We don't want someone to find them while we're still being--escorted off the grounds." 

Edited by Ace

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