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January 3, 2022


The Book of Kells Occult Shop


Lips pursed as she blew out the flame on the Nag Champa stick.  The scent was her favorite, it always clung to skin like a sensual swath of warmth... bringing her back to center wherever she was.  The smoke curled upward, then spun in a tight coil as she placed it into a gold burner.


She lifted tea to her lips, eyes still on the smoke that left her bookshop of the arcane always in a lazy and intoxicating haze.  Almost the end of a long day, the regulars in the teashop the next room over were deep into books and late day conversations.  She, was on her favorite stool behind the main counter, eyes wandering over the Sky Disc on the wall she'd risked her ass... Alistair's as well, to go retrieve.  Her addiction to collecting everything dangerous and powerful hadn't abated, but without her 'partner in crime' the task had been much less fun and a lot more dangerous.  Magus had the ability to kick ass.  She on the other hand, was just... fast.  Enhanced her ass.


Lately... she was regretting throwing her hat in with Arma.  A lot.  The entrepreneur dealt everything to anyone, if they couldn't use it safely that was their business.  Arma had kept her straight.  Gave her a code to honor.


That code hadn't been seen in over a year.


Long sigh preceded her rise from the stool, taking her empty tea mug with her as the pillar of Hell's Kitchen went to retrieve another cup.  She needed to pay Arma a visit.  Soon.  Time to sever ties.

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Ryan knew he could go to ARMA for all his supernatural supply needs, but he enjoyed touring the local occult shops throughout the city.  Often, he could find intriguing trinkets or amusing charms, and occasionally he stumbled upon items of true magical merit.  Another benefit of visiting such establishments was to maintain relationships with the shopkeepers.  They were privy to much within the supernatural realm and often overlooked by the major players.  Eyes and ears of the magus community can be an invaluable asset for a covert operative.


            Ryan walked casually into the “Book of Kells,” the bell at the front door chimed excitedly as he crossed the threshold.  The hunter’s attire fit naturally in the shop’s mystic ambience.  A long black jacket, dark garments, and black boots; all were aged from travel and war.  His brown hair was short and kempt, but not clean cut.  A days’ worth of scruff still clung to the agent’s face.  Blue eyes nonchalantly scanned the business as he made his way to the counter.


          Harker recognized the beauty behind the counter, though they had only ever spoken in passing.  Rorye had been an associate of ARMA’s for some time.  Rumor had it she was romantically involved with the faction’s founder before his disappearance.  Ryan hadn’t been tasked with finding Alistar, but if he had been, she would be a good place to start.  He wondered if ARMA was even keeping tabs on her these days.


          “Hey gorgeous,” Harker said with a warm smile.  He leaned against the front desk as he spoke, crossing his hands one over the other.  A familiar face was likely all he was to her.  “Anything new or exciting in stock?”

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Halfway through the next cup, the heel of her hand slid over the ledger with ease as she did her books for the week, cursive barely readable to anyone but herself.  Everything was always by hand, she didn’t trust computers anymore.  Punching a few buttons on the register to pop out the drawer she went back to writing, hitching her heel up on the rung of her the stool when the glittering chimes of the door sounded.  She was an attentive host, but she wasn’t a nosy one, preferring to let visitors shop themselves.  This one, was familiar.  On the rare occasion she had visited Alistair at headquarters to bring lunch and usually a beer, she’d seen this one.


Great.  Fucking great. On the eve of quitting the team, the team shows up.  She closed the drawer with a quiet click.


Pencil slid behind her ear as she pulled her hair over her left shoulder and braided it quickly into a thick plait, tossing it back behind her again.  Cold air from the outside prompted her to slide on a comfortably frayed large knit gray cardigan over her silky deep blue tunic, the sleeves long enough to reach her fingertips.  Oversized and bohemian, it was her favorite and it definitely showed.


Brow quirked at his greeting, but her expression was amiable, pencil plucked from behind her ear to continue the book keeping.  Eraser tapped as she paused.


“Always new and interesting, but never free, even for flattery,” she said quietly with a soft smile, sliding off the stool and closing the ledger to put it under the counter.  “Something for business or personal use?”


The question was a logical one.  She knew who he was associated with.  Every ARMA member also had their own personal interests too.  It was a thing with them.  Always in search of a bigger, faster, stronger weapon.


“Coffee?” she asked as she picked up her coffee cup to go retrieve the third refresher from the small cafe on the other side of the shop, “It’s on the house.”


She was going to add some whiskey to hers.  ARMA here meant a problem, a complicated need, a complaint, essentially a long night.

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“Always new and interesting, but never free, even for flattery,” the shopkeeper replied, turning her attention to Ryan.  For a moment, he was taken away by her beauty. Even with her hair in a braid and bundled in a comfortable sweater, the fact she wasn’t trying made the allure feel even more genuine.  “Of course,” Ryan said with a nod of his head.


          “Something for business or personal use?”  Rorye asked.  The woman was acting nonchalant on the surface, but Harker suspected thoughts were racing through her mind.  She was almost too at ease with his appearance.  It felt like an act.  The agent wondered if he was just being paranoid.  Always looking beyond the surface.  Occasionally, chasing ghosts.  Phantoms created by his own pessimism and hyper attention to detail.  Ryan braced his hands against the counter and stood up straight, letting out a sigh, “These days it feels hard tell one from the other.”


          “Coffee?”  Rorye picked up her coffee cup and turned away from him.  “Its on the house,” she said over her shoulder as she moved toward the café adjoining the store. 


“Yes please.”


Harker waited for her to return.  He looked about the store, staying near the counter and making sure to keep the woman in sight.  His thoughts wondered.  Alistar had been missing for nearly a year.  Surely, if Royre had any connection to his disappearance it would have been discovered by now.  Fighting past his cynicism, Ryan thought for a moment about the impact the disappearance likely had on her.  If they were together, had anyone from ARMA reached out to her?  The operative thought back to his time as a Soldier in the United States Army.  The vows he and his brothers had made to each other.  A promise to look after loved ones, should some of them never make it home.  Had anyone done that for Alistar? For her?


Ryan gave Royre a gentle smile as she returned to the counter with coffee in hand.  “Thank you,” he said taking the cup from her.  His curiosity getting the better of him, “It’s Royre, right?”

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 “Of course,”


Brow quirked briefly at the answer, amiable or just trying to placate? Interesting. Here’s to interesting.


 “These days it feels hard tell one from the other.”


“That’s because you don’t put enough whisky in your coffee.”


Lips curled upward at her own quip, soft footsteps shuffling up the few steps into the tea house addition. Behind the counter she added a refresher to hers and poured him a fresh one. True to form, she reached into the cupboard above it and splashed something into hers, then actually made up a small tea tray. His mug, her mug, interesting looking fancy-pants sugars and cream…


“Aw fuck it,” she said under her breath and clinked the small whisky bottle on the tray too. He might like whisky. He might like it black. Cream. Sugar. Who the fuck knew these days.  New customer, better to be prepared.


Trot down the few steps was light. She set the tray on the main counter where she’d been sitting and handed him the cup.


“Thank you,”


“Anytime.  Help yourself, cheers,” she tapped her mug against the whisky bottle and took a drink, wrapping her hands around hers for the warmth. The fireplace in the library room needed to be stoked.


“It’s Royre, right?”


"Mhm," she nodded, sitting back on her stool, lips pursed and eyes a bit cynically curious. There were no qualms about studying him. He was ARMA, sure, but she didn’t know which one of the many flavors this one was. She'd never paid enough attention to learn them all.


“ARMA business?” she asked quietly, taking another drink from her mug. “Do I have to turn in my secret decoder ring?”


The quip was amused, but warm. She hadn’t been in contact with them since the young gentleman came in with his intriguing item. Since then, old regulars of the not-ARMA-friendly variety had been pressing to resume business. She wasn’t sure if the white knights were keeping tabs on her like that.  Honestly, she didn’t give two shits if they were.


“Or, are you here for something else?” she took another drink, settling in for what seemed to be shaping up as a rather interesting conversation.

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“Mhm.”  The woman leaned back in her seat, dark almond eyes felt like they were trying to see through him.


          Ryan set his cup down on the counter and plucked the whiskey bottle from the tray provided.  The agent flashed his hostess a sly grin.  He added a sizeable splash to his coffee, filing the cup to just below the brim.  Setting the bottle down, Harker picked up his cup and placed it to his lips. 


“ARMA business?”  Rorye asked as he sipped from the mug.  He winced happily and then let out a soft, blissful gasp.  The drink was strong, but it wasn’t the coffee.  She had already deduced he was from ARMA.  She was smart, he would wager clever even.  Perhaps she recognized him from around ARMA as well. 


“Do I need to turn in my decoder ring?”  She teased, her tone warmer than her eyes had felt just a moment earlier.  “Or, are you here for something else?”  The inquiry was inviting.  Harker was surprised she had shown such hospitality so close to the day's end.  He suppressed his desire to assess her motives, and instead focused on answering her question. 


“Like I said, business and pleasure are hard to keep separate these days.”  Ryan leaned forward on the counter, resting his elbows on its surface.  He cupped the coffee in his gloved hands.  Ocean blue eyes meeting Rorye’s chocolate hues.  “I’m here for two reasons I suppose.”


Ryan savored another sip of his coffee, “First, I am here to see if anything new has hit the streets that could be useful to me, or cause problems for ARMA.”  He paused for a second.  Considering how to phrase his next words. 


Alistar was dead.  ARMA was finally coming to accept this fact.  A fact Ryan had come to accept just a couple months after his disappearance.  No Soldier goes missing in action for over a year and is found alive.  Surely, Roryre had come to this realization as well.  Ryan wanted to know how she was handling life but risked opening old wounds.  A risk he would take cautiously.  Especially, since he still didn’t know the full extent of their relationship.  “Second, I came to check on you.”


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