The Many Tales of Blackjack: L'Abbaye des Morts

   
Erin walked down the aisle, pausing beneath the cross, holding her hand just barely above the altar, not touching, not yet. She blew out a gentle breath, blowing the dust up into the air, watching it as it floated, shining silver in what light there was.

She glanced behind the pulpit to spot a small pipe organ, and a smile curled upon her lips. She reached into her coat and withdrew a silk mask, raising the soft cloth to her face. When she looked up again, she had more than a new face. She had a new self, hair white as snow, skin white and silkin, but covered in beautiful hints of color, as if they had swelled up from inside her and were now softly shining through.

"Look, Sasha," she said excitingly, her voice as smooth as satin. There was something beautiful, compelling, intoxicating in that breathy half-whisper. "Didn't you say you used to play?" She took him by the hand and lead him closer to it, her eyes shimmering. No longer were they solid white, but instead human, a vivid, vibrant green. Almost human, at least - they sparkled as they moved.

"Why not give it a try?" she suggested, soft pink lips smiling at him. "For old time's sake?"

Throwing cares to the wind and spending max glamour on the roll, plus Verdant Spring for a total of +17 bonus to Sasha's next expression challenge.

As the music began to sound through the chapel, she returned to the altar, her hand lingering once more above it. With one sweeping motion of her hand, she brushed the dust from the surface, letting it hover once more in the air around her.

<I have come,> she spoke, the Dragon's Tongue harshly flowing beneath the music. <Speak to me.>

Dice Roll: 10d10s8e
d10 Results: 9, 10, 3, 6, 7, 9, 7, 8, 6, 8, 5 (Total Successes = 5)
Inanimate Communion

Presence(3)+Expression(1)+Muse Bonus(10)+Verdant Spring(7):
Dice Roll:
21d10s8e
d10 Results: 10, 6, 7, 8, 8, 7, 2, 2, 3, 8, 9, 3, 3, 8, 4, 9, 6, 6, 8, 9, 10, 10, 3, 9 (Total Successes = 12)
Phantom of the Opera

"Why not." Sasha said, looking about the old, pale church with a tense sort of smile. Absent-mindedly, he patted the jacket he wore, with the shortened shotgun hanging in a loose hold beneath it. On the whole, Sasha preferred the threats one could see to the ones one couldn't. Not because they were any less threatening, Sasha knew that perfectly well, but at least they were simpler to keep track of. "I am rusty, but here goes."

He sat down at the pipe organ, and with a flourish, He began to play. The music swelled, grand and imposing, as Sasha's fingers flew over the keys with supernatural alacrity. He could hit no wrong note, could not misplace a single instant of that perfect music. And it was, indeed, perfect. It was magic.

...candles...

That was really all it was. A strange, uniquely ascetic ceremony. There was a priest, certainly, or perhaps the more accurate name would have been 'monk', for he was dressed in a plain brown cassock. He looked old, his face withered till it was quite nearly a skull, wrapped over with scraps of flesh enough that he still lived -- yet -- and still passed among mortal-kind. He was
old.

He took them out, seven sets of candles, and he lined them up in little rows on the altar. Two by two, merry bands of soldiers, candlesticks in wrought iron and carved ivory, candlesticks plated with gold, candlesticks of fire-charred wood, candlesticks of clay, candlesticks of stone, candlesticks of bloodied bone...

Sometimes, the old monk set them one way. Sometimes another. He lit them with fire from an old lighter, and sometimes, when he was alone, he warmed his withered hands by the flames. But he always treated the candles with respect. He didn't light each candle every time. Sometimes, he lit the iron ones and the gold ones. Other times, it was the clay candlesticks that were so honored. The candles themselves were smelly old things, of genuine beeswax and incense rolled into them, handmade, crude and rough and loved.

The old monk was not always alone. Sometimes people came. Old women from the villages, praying to the seven saints. Once, a grim looking man from some far-distant city, in one of those countries were war and crime were so intertwined as to make soldier-criminals, murderers with machine guns. Once a dapper young woman came, dressed all in green, and she did not smile and her eyes were not human.

It didn't matter. All the monk ever did was light the candles.


Tick. Tock. Tick.

Erin came from her reverie, the watch in her hands ticking away. The Moment of Truth, it read now, as the door to the vestry opened, and the old, old monk came tottering out. He had a skull-face, and his hands were lined and veined, and he moved slowly, for his bones protested at the treatment. His skin was tanned and weathered from years in the sun, but his eyes, his eyes were the strangest things, for they were dead black, and two little orbs out of which an eternal void could stare.

<Greetings, young one.> He said in the Dragon's Tongue. He switched to French next, old-fashioned, formal, elegant. <You have come a long way.>

<Greetings, honored Father,> Erin replied, with a bow. She looked at the pocket watch, swallowed, and flipped it shut.

She raised her hands to her face, and they came away with the silken mask, which was quickly tucked away into the folds of her coat. The death-head moth wings furled back into place like a cloak, hints of gold hidden beneath mottled blackness. Her eyes reopened, solid white in contrast to the monk's solid black. She did not switch to French, instead continuing in that roiling, sinuous glossalia, saying:

<I have come in the footsteps of another - It has been a long path.>

<Should we sit, honored Father?> she added, in respect to his frail bones.

Sergei nudged him, and Sasha stopped playing, the echoing notes of the pipe organ fading away. They watched as Erin and the old man talked, in a language that by very definition they could not speak. So they sat at the pews and waited and watched, not knowing what else to do.

<If you like.> The old monk said, seating himself down in the front pew, and folding his hands in his lap. He obliged Erin by continuing to use the Dragon's Tongue. <But please. Call me Marcel. Tell me, young one, why are you here?>

<I must beg pardon,> Erin said, as she sat beside him on the pew. <I had hoped to speak in the fair language of this country, but,> she gave a wry smile as she switched tongues, <I don' speak de words too good.>

<I am here because of the Servants of the Book, and a man named Verité,> Erin continued. <I have had brushes with some of them, in the past, and I may yet find more of them in the future. Professor Verité told me to come here, if I wished to learn. So I am here. I... am not sure what I hope to find,> she admitted. <But I am here.>

<Under the circumstances, we may continue in the Tongue of the pre-Babel days.> The old monk said with a wry smile. <Out of consideration for our ears.>

<Jean-Michel... you poor young man.> The old monk said, his rheumy eyes staring off into the distance. <You came to a bloody end. Have you read his La Couronne de Rois? Theogonía Hekate Klêidouchos? The Jinji Fojing? Scriabin's Thirteenth (Threshold) Sonata (Op 76)?>

<They all contain shadows of a truth.> Marcel said. <Though filtered through a thousand broken lenses. Tell me what you have learned, little one.> The old priest smiled gently. <And I shall pass the truth through one more shattered glass.>

Erin folded her fingers and cast her mind back, thinking to those first days when her life had truly started, when she'd stepped from the world of faerie and into the world of angels.

<I have read La Couronne de Rois. Verité himself offered it to me, or something that shared his name, when I met him in Siberia. I have read of the worlds beyond ours, and the Seven Servants of the Books. I have read of those who join their minds to them to walk the earth as their avatars. I have seen the brilliant light of God in his visions, and the creatures that cast shadows from it - I saw the tears in his eyes as they burned him for what he wrote.>

<I have read parts of the Jinji Fojing, what parts of the ruined book I could find. I have seen the Emerald Lama and his followers, and heard of the forbidden Sutra, hidden from the very start of Buddhism. I have seen the great statues of their monastery, tall as mountains, each representing the other Fallen. And I have seen the day the monastery fell, and Belial's avatar shattered their order.>

<I have seen the black flesh of Cybele, quivering as her high priest and favored son sought to call her forth. I have felt that verdant heat upon my skin. And I have seen the last remnant of her order cast to the winds. I have read some of the rituals of Ba'al Hammon, lost to time. I have seen the avatar of Arshelfar, and I have seen Belial's chosen cast him down as well.>

<I have heard an echo of Typhon's voice, the Mad and Betrayed King, Seventh and the Last. I have heard he claims the Great Fire of London, that he has taught mankind the secrets of radiant fire and war. I have met his children, who offered me oblivion rather than facing his wrath. They have wept for me, and promised me a prophecy, that when the City of the Sun burns, Typhon will open his eye, and we shall see...>

<I...> Erin's voice caught, for a moment, but she was compelled to be truthful, in this darkened house of God. <...have heard the name of the Servants of the Books from my Mistress, and to this day I wonder which might have visited that place, whilst I served there... I have met the avatar of Belial himself, face to face. I have spoken to him in Dreams, and he told me a secret: That the angels are ideas, and you cannot kill ideas. That it is hope that keeps the Servants here, until they can finally finish the mission they came here for.>

She looked up, into the priest's jet black eyes.

<You have travelled far. You know more of the Grigori than any have since Jean-Michel's day.> The old priest said, and he smiled down at Erin. There was a pause, and then he folded his hands in his lap. <I remember Jean-Michel. He was an earnest youth, so eager, so wishful. A rationalist and a man of science, but never a man of faith.>

<And so, where do we begin... with the nature of the Grigori? With their original missions?> Marcel said, and stars reflected in his black eyes. <With their downfall? With the Nephilim? With the love that bade them break their tasks, and the curse that keeps them here? With the eternity wherein all but a handful broke their curses, or gave up hope and now merely slumber? With the thousands of years of angelic politics, which angels learned from men, and the betrayals and recriminations? With the foolish mortals who worshipped at the Grigori's feet, and how this was not enough, could never be enough? With the double-handful of men and women who chain the Grigori to Earth unknowingly?>

<The Grigori...> Erin trailed off, feeling a sudden weight upon her shoulders. She gave a glance toward Sergei, recalling her own angelic aspirations, high and mighty, and how love had undone them all.

<I had heard of other angels still slumbering in this world, who wait to wake and cast their curses on mankind... but these I have heard of only in passing, and know little of, or even if any of it is truth,> Erin said, pondering over Moon's writings. Seth had found something in there close enough to the truth, but which parts of it she could not say.

<Then let us start at the beginning, if I may. What are the Grigori? Professor Verité called them fallen angels... or 'parts of greater whole that did not return when their missions were completed'. And Oleg Wormwood said they could not return until their missions were complete. Yet neither said what the Grigori had come here to do...>




 

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