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May, 2010... Fantasy became reality. Worlds overlay for the briefest moment. Outworlders became stranded on earth as more than half the human populace vanished. Our World, our universe, was transformed.

Fiction is now reality. Humans and those now bound to this world will either learn to coexist, or battle for supremecy.

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St. Patrick's Cathedral Vaults and Catacombs

2-14-22

3am

 

 

That tiny little thing on those whistles… the plastic… those leather half circles with the tiny piece of metal and a tambour of plastic that you could put on your tongue like a wafer and press to your palate.  The high pitched whistle they could squeal was piercing, penetrating through your sinuses like a fire alarm, itching the center of your brain like whipping rain against a window of tissue paper until it popped.  It was all he could think, hear, see, feel- that vicious searing sound crescendo through his every sense.

 

Gasp was immediate, the uncontrolled reaction unusual as the world that had spiraled to a pinpoint of focus was broken by some shred of consciousness from somewhere.

 

His hand was on fire, and the dirt floor room was vibrating, fist closing to stave the blood.  He snapped the towel from around his neck and swathed it over the flames to extinguish them and muffle the blood that had almost just created something catastrophic.  Breath seethed through his teeth at the first look of the split knuckles, then the ancient load bearing beam he’d been hitting.  Wood was also spattered with his blood, quickly wiped off as well.  His blood was like gasoline.  Once he bled, his spark could ignite a firestorm.

 

When his consciousness this time had fallen into seizure and errored, he’d no idea.  Meditation was not new to him, physical training and focus were not new to him. Together, was most definitely not new; it was what gave him the intense control he had.  This crack was getting bigger, and he was starting to lose longer moments of time.

 

Under recent intense reflection, he had pinpointed it just to before the binding, before he walked into enemy territory of his own free will.  His consciousness had bucked even the strongest of cuffs, and ever since then there had been a tiny leak in his brain.  Enough to drip over years, testing his patience, his sanity… breaking open a crack that was swiftly destabilizing an already volatile mix of skills and magic.  He could see his past so clearly before the Resonance.  His hell after.  Then numbness as he was a machine, and now.  Now was this person he didn’t recognize.  He was calculating, and angry.  An angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other.  The angel he knew and still loathed, but this devil was seductive and unknown.

 

Now as this person in the deep bowels of the cathedral where even the Vicar didn’t go, he was training again. Why?  A deeply thought out plan.  Physical training was at the forefront, his specialty was quiet and slick death.  He needed to inflict more damage, be able to take more damage.  The more damage he took, the crack would split further apart.  The more he focused on it, the angrier he became, the angrier he became the more darkness flashed in his field of vision.  Somewhere else, something else, and he couldn’t hit hard enough to make it either go away- or find the white rabbit.

 

In the wane electric light of old brick, dirt floors and cement tombs, he just kept hitting, letting the fire flush up from his feet and over his form as his hands fell to his sides and chest heaved before it extinguished.  Growl preceded the heels of his hands smacking together and palms thrust forward, the fierce blade of flame from his hands turning almost white as it scorched a brick wall, extinguishing as quickly as his temper tantrum had started.  Knees hit the floor and he fell to sit, pushing himself back against the wall with the heels of his Tims.  Elbows rested on his knees as he tried to knead the tension out of his skull.

 

It felt like he was splitting apart, and all he wanted was another throat to cut.

 

Or a world to burn.

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He'd not lost his penchant for silence, it had been beaten into his core by the Vatican, but even before the world fell apart he'd been quiet and kind.  Unassuming.  Cups didn't make a noise as he moved them, coffee poured without a splash.  He'd heard the Vicar several moments ago making his way to the small kitchen to get his breakfast.  The old man's movements had changed over the last six months, gate had slowed, breath was more labored.  The assassin studied things most people didn't, and he knew the Vicar was either getting significantly weaker, or something was wrong.  The old man wouldn't hear of it though, and the thought of losing the only one who believed in him even after he found out he was essentially the devil broke the magus' heart.

 

Rhome was by far the youngest in the building, the aging half-dozen that lived there with him had clustered together after the Resonance destroyed their own buildings.  Strength in numbers he supposed.  He was their caretaker now, and of the building by proxy.  Errands.  Repairs.  Even laundry on some occasions.  The building was equipped to withstand so much, and it mostly had.  He'd almost finished rebuilding the side courtyard that had been destroyed by the Resonance.  He'd also replaced the eaves on the alley after he'd melted them to rain molten metal down on several aggressive idiots bent on harassing a fellow fugitive.

 

There was a protective streak a mile wide buried in him, but it was a compass without a north.  Those within his immediate daily life were easy to know, those outside... he never knew who to trust, so they all were enemies.

 

The Vicar was carrying something, hooking it on the top of the door as he came in.

 

Rhome reached up to button his shirt collar, the formal dress donned in favor of the clothes he wore outside and under the cathedral the night before.  Inside, here in the sacred space, he was seen a priest.  He could pretend he was a good man.

 

*npc* Paper collar too, the seated Vicar said quietly as Rhome placed coffee on the small table in front of him.

 

Blink was quiet from the gray eyes up at the hanging coat.  It was a cassock.  He'd given up his vows, but the Vicar kept insisting.  Lips opened to protest, again, but the older man's finger came up to stop him.

 

*npc* Argue with me after I've had my coffee.  In the meantime, collar, and that.

 

Older man nodded toward the clothing.  Rhome paused.  He hadn't worn a cassock since the Vatican.

 

*npc* I know it will fit, you have no excuse.

 

The Vicar sighed softly after a long drink of coffee.

 

*npc* You're just worried if you wear it the girls won't be able to tell us apart.

 

Smile was slight, he was fiddling with his paper collar, "it's just..."

 

*npc*  Just nothing.  You are here, you are family, I will not treat you like an outsider.

 

Older man put the newspaper down on the table he'd brought with him.  It was from yesterday.  Rhome could only make out part of the headline because it was folded, but it was a story about the magus murders.  He reached up and pulled the cassock from the hanger, sliding it onto his shoulders and beginning the buttons. 

 

*npc* I will tell you this until you believe it, you are still a priest because I say so.  I can forgive sin, remember?  You also need to stop working so hard in the courtyard.  Healing knuckles hurt.

 

He swallowed softly, yah those were hard to explain.... smoothing the front of the cassock before flexing the brazen knuckles.  Moving toward the sink, the long coat swished, resulting sound jolting electricity up his spine.  There was an honest to god flinch, vaulting him into another place and another time.  Making that noise would have gotten him beaten at the Vatican.  Assassins made no noise.  Turn back after dropping off a spoon had found the footing drilled into his muscles.  His movement now was eerily silent again.

 

He didn't like this thing, irritation squashed because it made the Vicar happy.

 

"I'm bringing votive candles up from storage today.  We don't have many left, I have to find somewhere that has more.  I'll clean the shelves too."

 

The Vicar nodded, taking another sip of coffee as he opened up the paper.  He caught the headline as he left the kitchen to retrieve the votives from storage downstairs.

 

It was his doing.  The paper.  That headline.

 

One more Order magus had been assassinated.  This one had fought fiercely, but a well placed double strike into the spleen and then between the ribs had been simple.  The pattern from his Order signet ring burned into the man's flesh had been just an extra.

 

A message, to those that would listen.

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Ryan parked his car on the street to the front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Polished onyx paint, dark leather interior, matte black accents, the 2010 Dodge Challenger was something of a rarity these days.  It was the last year the muscle car was produced before the first Resonance.  5.7 Liter V-8 engine, race track suspension, the machine wasn’t the fastest on the street, but she could certainly hold her own.  There were no plates on the car, no vin, no identifying marks on any kind.  It was one of several vehicles Harker used for work, but this was his favorite.    

 

The sable clad operative emerged from Challenger’s driver side, adjusting his coat before gently closing the car door.  Harker was armed with his usual weaponry; Sig 226, portable wards, enchanted blades, and extra magazines of enchanted munitions.  He wasn’t looking for a fight today, but considering the type of creature he intended to confront… he was certainly ready for one.

 

Ryan paused for a moment to breathe in the fresh morning air.  Then he made his way toward the church.  His coat swayed as me strode calmly through the church’s courtyard.  His head swiveled as he assessed the environment.  The stone around him felt tired, it had seen better days.  When he reached the entrance doors, he gripped the handles with worn leather gloves and pulled them open. 

 

The ARMA agent stepped into the chapel’s main hall and allowed the doors to slam shut behind him.  The bang of metal and wood echoed throughout the corridor.  Ryan stood motionless for a short time.  An ominous figure standing in the church door’s shadow, he invited the stares that fell upon him.  It was not his intent to be hidden.  He wanted them to feel his looming presence, he wanted them to be afraid.  He was here to send a message.

 

Harker walked purposefully down the church’s center aisle.  He had nearly made it to the alter before one of the priests mounted the courage to approach him.  “Can I help you my son?” inquired the old cleric, a hint of apprehension in his voice. 

 

“I’m here to see father Del Santo,” Ryan’s eyes were piercing and his tone cold. “I need to make a confession.” 

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Sometimes being a priest, was harder.

 

He’d gone through the entirety of the storage room.  Starting on one side to find more votives, then finding something else, that led to something else, then something else, six hours later the entire storage room was reorganized and mentally catalogued.  He dusted off his cassock, lifting both boxes, glass clinking in them quietly.  Some of the votive glass cylinders needed replacing as well and he’d found beautiful new ones, the top box full of votive candles being balanced by his chin.

 

Steps were nimble, each foot placed carefully.  Worn steps, long cassock, double boxes, chin balancing one, somewhere in-between he heard the doors boom shut in the building above, making a mental note on the never-ending checklist of to-do’s to keep the place running.  Seems fixing the tension on the hinges had been on there already.  Damn.

 

It was his name spoken that drew the busy list making to a fine pinpoint.

 

He didn’t have to look to see everything, or listen to know exactly how many were in the vast building.  It just flicked on, like some damnable curse that couldn’t be purged no matter what he did; training beaten over and over into a shattered mind that would think for him.

 

Stepping through a small side door, the balancing continued, using his heel to quietly close the door behind him and continue his path down the shadowed side to the vestibule under the old choir loft.  Despite the imposing stature of the new occupant, the world didn’t cease turning and he had to get these boxes to their destination before he dropped them. 

 

“Father del Santo does not hold confessions until the evening,” he said quietly, answering the need with calm. Silver eyes flicked to the older Vicar emerging from the small transept chapel. 

 

He knew the Vicar was intending to work his charm on the newcomer, but the magus had cut him off at the pass. With all the times the man had hidden him from the world, it made him wonder if he really was the old priest he claimed to be and not someone like him before the world came to an end.  Such was life, and the magus was actually more approachable than the boogeyman ARMA made him out to be.  He took orders from no one. Not anymore. People just couldn't seem to leave him alone.

 

Vanguard.  Order.  The unseen threat.  They knew he was here, it had been ages since he'd heard a whisper from any of them.  Why now?

 

“But maybe I can help you,” the quivering of the glass was urgent and he lifted his chin, balancing to set them carefully on the floor next to the shelf of flickering candles.  He began to carefully collect the empty ones off the shelf, moving the flickering lit ones toward the back and opening the top box.  A small hand towel was pulled out, and he began to wipe the soot from each empty votive glass.  One by one.

 

This was going to take forever. 

 

He had the patience.

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“Father del Santo does not hold confession until the evenings.” Another priest had entered the hall through a side passage.  This one was much younger, and he carried stacked boxes of votive candles in his arms.  Ryan recognized him from the picture in his file.  Rhome Del Santo, rogue assassin of the First Order.

 

“But maybe I can help you.” Del Santo seemed genuinely unbothered by Harker’s appearance at the church.  The magus kneeled before the church altar, presenting his back to the Cloak operative.  Then, as if in a therapeutic trance, the priest began cleaning the vigil candles.  One by one.

 

Ryan could end the rogue’s life before anyone else in the room had a chance to act.  His draw from the holster was without match, and at this distance even a novice could aim true.  He wondered if Rhome welcomed death, or if he just falsely believed Harker wouldn’t kill him in a house of the Lord.  Perhaps the priest was a fanatic.  Believing himself an instrument of God, and thus protected from the unrighteous.  Or, maybe he was just that arrogant.

 

          The ARMA agent glanced back to the elder Vicar.  His hand glided along the edge of his coat, sweeping back the garment to reveal the pistol holstered on his right thigh.  “Please leave us father, I would like to speak to the priest alone.”

 

          Ryan walked forward and seated himself in the pew directly behind the church caretaker.  There was an audible “click” as he drew back the hammer on his double action pistol.  He rest the weapon on his lap, it’s barrel pointed at the priest, his finger pressed to the now featherlight trigger.  The operative spoke calmly, “I’m not from the Order.”  He smirked at his own triteness, “and as cliché as it sounds, if I wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead.”

 

A conversation between two professional killers was about ensue.  Such discussions were usually quite civilized… until the killing started. 

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    MODERN FANTASY COLLABORATIVE WRITING RP CATERING TO OLDER PLAYERS (25+) WITH A SLOWER, MORE RELAXED PACE. IN 2010, THE WORLD DRASTICALLY & PERMANENTLY CHANGED BY WHAT BECAME KNOWN AS THE MULTIVERSE RESONANCE EVENT. IN A SINGLE BREATH, OUR WORLD CROSSED WITH AN UNKNOWN NUMBER OF ALTERNATE UNIVERSES, BLEEDING INTO EACH OTHER. EARTH WAS SUDDENLY A REALM OF MAGIC AND MONSTERS. THE STORY IS CENTERED IN NEW YORK CITY BUT EXTENDS ACROSS THE WORLD. IT BLENDS A VARIETY OF GENRES; A MOSAIC OF OVERLAPPING REALMS INCLUDING ELVES, LYCANTHROPES, ALTERED HUMANS AND,OF COURSE, MAGIC.  

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