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The thing was, she hadn't meant to burn the church to the ground. It wasn't like anyone had been using the old thing, and the happy side effect of her untested candle ward exploding was that it had taken what the locals dubbed 'Hand Teeth' with it. Mabel risked sticking around to kick about the ashes (another lucky side effect that a fire ward backfire burned fast and left only cool ashes and charred stone bones behind). She found a collection of baby teeth, clumped together in the form of a fist, and used the muzzle of her gun to scatter them.

Then she got the hell outta dodge, cutting through waist-high fields of dead brown grass rather than walking along the highway to get back to her car. The police were bound to show up sometime, and she didn't feel like spending another week in some rundown county jail, free meals be damned. She always parked her car a good distance away from whatever she was hunting, be it dead or not, to keep them from getting to it - that had happened a few times, and she learned her lesson very expensively from it.

It was waiting for her when she got there.

It sat cross-legged on the top of her car, like it had every business being there like any normal person. Mabel froze when she saw it, and that was her first mistake. She had never seen one of them before, and until now she didn't even think they existed. It spotted her as she stood there like an slack-jawed idiot, and stood. Before Mabel could think about it, she brought her rifle up and fired squarely at its chest.

It tumbled off her car, bounding face-first off the hood before landing in a sprawled heap in the dirt. It so astonished her that she had hit the damn thing - she didn't think they could be hit, right after not thinking they were real - that she went in for a closer look. Besides, it was between her and her car.

That was her second mistake.

The mask still covered its face; she expected it to peel right off like the cheap-ass thing it looked to be. And it wasn't pure white, not like the ones she used. He had scrawled on it, messing with the eye sockets somehow. She couldn't see properly because it lay face down. Mabel poked it in the shoulder with her rifle. That was her third mistake.

It grabbed the barrel and yanked hard, jerking the gun from her hands. That had been stupid of her, she should have shot it full of lead when she had the chance, but now her gun had vanished in the darkness and the thing was getting up, no wound in sight.

Mabel turned and ran, even though it was smaller than her and she could probably kick its ass, given the chance. She ran because there was a strange ringing in her ears and a buzz of sound flooding the area, like a orchestra of insects that should all be dead this time of winter. She ran because even in the dark, with clouds covering the moon, she could see something moving among the distant trees. And she ran because it was right on her heels, silent and horribly alive.

When Mabel was a girl, she used to scream all the time. She screamed when the dead tore at her skin, even though she knew they were only trying to help in their silenced, strange way. She screamed when the not dead tried to do the same thing, because they usually were trying to hurt her. She had learned not to scream, because the last thing you wanted to be in this business was a screamer, and it was especially the last thing you wanted to be as a woman in this business. You didn't scream, even when they grabbed you by the hair and pulled you down the hall, because screamers never got hired for anything, and she so desperately needed the money.

She doesn't scream now, weaving through the streets of Xanadu, even though it might help her. She doesn't scream as she spends half her time dodging obstacles of the living and the lifeless. She trips once, landing on her shoulder and tearing a new rip into an old jacket, and even though she can't see it anymore she gets up and runs anyway. It had followed her through the door, she wasn't going to escape it so easily. Mabel rounds corners while looking behind her.

That was probably going to be her fourth mistake.


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Jan. 29th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
Work is not something that Enfys does in Gotham - sure, she has a job, but it's not work. Work is something that stays the fuck out of that city, because anything human she might touch is already on Bruce's territory and it's not a place where the things that rise up under her fist congregate. Work is something that Enfys goes home for, sometimes other places, and usually by way of commuting through Xanadu, which is why she's picking at a café sandwich on the patio, Bruce on the other side of the table, and-

-and she's moving before she's even started thinking about moving, because it's Mabel and she's running from something and the instinct to fuck that something up kicks in without Enfys's conscious permission. Sandwich forgotten, tea spilled, and she's vaulting the low fence almost before her mind catches up to her.
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
That Enfys is an explosion of immediate action is no surprise; it's a strange feeling to know Okay, she's got that part handled and not have to think about it past that. Bruce doesn't go to Mabel, but rather looks to her wake. He knows if he tries to grab Mabel he'll just get a black eye for it, so: this.

How, exactly, he gets from the cafe table to in between the two women and the rest of where Mabel's coming from that quick is a mystery for the ages, but he does, back to them, and looks. There's only subtle changes between his casual stance and this, but there they're.

What is it?
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
It's a matter of not colliding into anything that makes Mabel stop more than anything, a blur of familiar faces that she has to stare at for a moment, gulping for air, before she registers them correctly. Bruce, Enfys, cafe, battle axe. Right, she could work with that, as soon as she could breathe properly again. It felt like she had been running for miles, she truly had lost track. She would breathe better, possibly, if she didn't keep twisting around, eyes darting everywhere for something.

"Don't let him touch you," she wheezed pathetically. With a deep breath and her best 'this is fucking serious' tone given the circumstances, she said it again. "Don't let him touch you." She had to listen for the sounds of the dead, the shrieks of something that could never be. It wasn't a long wait.

It rounds the corner like it's out on a stroll, calm and controlled as if it hadn't chased her through worlds. It even had its hands in its pockets, black jacket zipped up to its throat and blond curled hair going every whichway. Now that she could see its mask, she realized what the markings were; it had drawn itself a face, with fleshed out lips and black rimmed eyes. Why does it need a face?

Up close and personal, it looked exactly like what it was; a teenager in a stupid Halloween mask, sizing them up in a casual way as if this was a perfectly normal situation, battle axe aside.
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
"What," Enfys enunciates, holding that axe - long handle, made to fight long range or used as a staff in a pinch - like she knows exactly what she's doing with it, "the donkey-fucking Christ is that?"

She can see what it looks like, but stupid teenagers don't make her flesh crawl like this; girls like her might have once been designed to fight the vampire, but over time needs must, and just because it doesn't clench her gut like a bloodsucker doesn't mean she doesn't know what something fucking wrong feels like. Enfys puts herself between it and Mabel like it's second nature - maybe Mabel can handle herself, she doesn't know, but she's clearly still trying to catch her breath and a part of Enfys sincerely wants to split that thing in two from crotch to crown.

"You, back," without really pausing, poised with her axe to take this from stunned tableau to pitched battle in a matter of seconds if it so much as breathes wrong. Does it breathe? What the fuck is that. God, she hates coming in blind.
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
It's like a natural scale, in that when Enfys gets louder, Bruce gets quieter. (Fighting an elder god'll do that to people, maybe.) He tilts his head, watching the teenager - Bruce is a spiritual brick wall, and doesn't sense a damn thing, so while his instincts are telling him there's something weird and unsettling about this kid, he's mostly working off the reactions of the two women with him. It's their realm of expertise, not his.

Still, he's suddenly holding something small in his hand, fingers curled in lightly, forearm raised. Whatever that is.

"Are you all right?" Muted, barely more than a murmur, and while he turns his head slightly so Mabel knows he's talking to her, he doesn't take his eyes off the masked figure. (He hates stupid costume masks. It looks too much like a clown one.)
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
Mabel's eyes flicker to Bruce, though she doesn't answer him directly. They're still very wide, and very scared.

"He's a messenger." Now that she'd caught her breath, her voice had gone all shaky. Damnit, she had been trying to work on that. "He's just a messenger, but if you let him touch you he'll get into your head."

He could do more than that. She cocks her head to listen, but she doesn't hear anything. Not the sound of crickets, pitched a little too high. Not the sound of life fading away either; there was still traffic and laughter in the distance. He had the power to do a lot more, and he was just standing there, considering. What was he waiting for? And why does he need a face?

The masked thing tilts his head, as if a change of angle would help. Then it charges again, shoulders down as if rushing a barricade.
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
"Oh, fuck a bunch of that-"

Enfys steps nimbly to the side - she needs the room for what she's about to do, this weapon wasn't made for close-quarters - and if she were using anything but an axe then what she does next would be termed 'clotheslining'. Only instead of a thud and a fall, it collides with her blade with a sickening wet crunch of bone and blood - it goes down when she jerks backwards, but the axe is up in the air again and slamming in a second time while the body's still gurgling, twitching.

When she cuts off his hands - can't hurt, especially since she intends to poke the body a little if Mabel doesn't veto it - it's not with the most finesse in the world, but she's improvising with an unideal weapon.
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
Something like a cross between mild panic and incredulity springs up in Bruce when he realizes (before she's even finishes speaking) what Enfys is about to do - there's a split second here, but the decision is between 'get in between superhuman girl with an axe and something that's going to corrupt you with evil magic mojo' and 'let her do her damned job'.

Bruce just steps back, avoiding getting gore on his shoes.

He looks from the mangled body at Enfys, expression wry.
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
Mabel braced herself with her knees and breathed in deep, looking suddenly a whole lot better and not at all disturbed at stupid masked kid, now stupid masked body parts, lying all over the place.

"He weren't a person no more," she explains, catching Bruce's look. "They never are, not after he gets them. She did the right thing. Don't touch him yet; I shot the fucker in the chest and he stood right up. Shoulda blown his head off."

Regardless of her words, it didn't seem about to piece itself back together any time soon. It seems more concerned with oozing and other general things dead bodies did when they were freshly dismembered. Some of the blood was pooling around her shoe, but she doesn't notice.
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
Making a sharp gesture with the wet axe (...what was that clinging to the blade? ugh), Enfys warns, "Do not even begin to start with me," before moving smoothly along, circling the pieces of what was left and studying it.

"Right. So. Messenger for what or who, then?" And we're down to business; you're goddamn right she thinks she's entitled to be involved after having so usefully dispatched said messenger.
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:32 pm (UTC)
Fine! Fine. Bruce raises his arms a bit in a gesture that's only a slightly defensive shrug - whatever, okay, look at him like he's the crazy person when Enfys just decapitated and dismembered some teenager in a mask in the middle of a public area. Do what you will.

(He really hates all this supernatural shit.)

A flick of his fingers and whatever he was holding is gone - he walks past them a bit and nudges Mabel, gently, urging her to step back away from the blood - and looks around at the people who're watching them, both to see if anyone's watching with too much fascination and to silently tell them to move along. Fortunately it's not busy; that he prefers cafes in less trafficked areas should not be a surprise.
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
"I need a battle axe," Mabel declared, stepping away at Bruce's urging and wiping the blood off of her shoe without looking at it. One half circle to the right, another half circle to complete it.

"Maybe a sword. Seems easier to haul around. I shouldn't tell you," she adds in the tone of someone who knows full well she'll have to, in detail. She crosses the circle with a line cutting all the way through it. "That's how it spreads, people get told and then they do some dumbass thing to cement the deal, and bam. Sometimes they end up like that asshole - I didn't think that was actually true, but shows what I know. Sometimes they end up dead."

She crosses the circle from the other direction, making an X that cut through the circle's boundaries. "The rest of them are a bit more complicated." Mabel looked down for the first time. "Oh, fuck - "

They weren't on the street anymore. There was no body, just a circle of blood crossed out with an X, a basement that had no doors or windows to get out of, a ton of scattered and busted concrete, and a single lit lightbulb above them. It was swinging back and forth, chain dangling, as if someone had just turned it on.
Jan. 30th, 2011 08:52 am (UTC)
Enfys stared down at where the body was, or would have been if they were still standing on the street in Xanadu, and said in an undertone with a certain amount of disgust, "And I bet it'll be gone when we get back, too." Assuming they got back. "Also, if we live through this-" she said that so casually, looking up at the lightbulb and tilting her head like she was listening, "-I will hook you the fuck up, Mabel. Discount for a friend."

Edited at 2011-01-30 08:54 am (UTC)
Jan. 30th, 2011 09:10 am (UTC)
... Well, there go his plans for the day.

Bruce pulls his PINpoint out of his pocket automatically, even though he knows what he's going to find: Congratulations, user, you're totally fucked. He re-pockets it and glances around, taking a closer look without moving.

"Now can I start?"

Shut up, Bruce.

Edited at 2011-01-30 09:18 am (UTC)
Jan. 30th, 2011 09:59 am (UTC)
Mabel savagely scuffs the symbol on the ground until it was a blurred mess of blood and dust, swearing. She's not nearly as creative as Enfys, she'd have to pick up a few pointers. If they lived through this.

"This is my fault." She says it without guilt or fear. Now she's pissed. She spent too many years doing her best to keep moving and most of all keep anybody from getting involved, because that was the only thing within her power to do. Don't get other people hurt. Don't tell anyone, for fuck's sake, because telling people always got them involved.

He wasn't here, not physically; it was a small enough room and there was nothing really to hide behind, but more than that she couldn't feel him. He could be here and they'd never see it until he wanted them to see it, but he gave himself away in other ways. She pulls out a lipstick case from her jeans pocket and pops off the lid to reveal a thing of chalk jammed into it instead. Kneeling, she brushes away dirt and grime in order to draw a jerky circle around them.

"Try to stay inside the chalk, I'll see if I can do some good. Watch the corners. And if it helps any," she adds, knowing full well it won't. "We probably won't die."
Jan. 30th, 2011 10:53 am (UTC)
"I will thump you," Enfys threatens Bruce idly as she takes a step inward to tighten their grouping - she won't, of course, for about a thousand reasons, but that's no reason to tolerate sass. Her eyes track the corners, the shadows, and she's used to being poised on this knife edge at least, different as it is in Mabel's world with Mabel's problem (which they've yet to properly identify, but she can work with that if she has to).

She rests the butt of her axe on the floor, conscious of the blood and other such liquids still dripping from it and holding it with care not to disturb the chalk circle around them.

"What are we dealing with?" she asks again, eyes narrowed - her body is at odds with the casual back and forth at Bruce, tense and ready and trained by experience if not anything with some kind of finesse. (Anders had tried, but Enfys is a berserker at heart and she still fights like a nasty little brawler.)
Jan. 30th, 2011 11:12 am (UTC)
It is justified sass - not five minutes ago they were eating lunch. Now a decapitated teenager has transported them into an inescapable room. (Some part of Bruce asks how his life came to this. Another part says shut up, Batman.)

He ignores Enfys, because that's how they roll, and looks at the mark on the ground Mabel's made an unmade. He doesn't ask, though, and waits for the explanation - something about this place is triggering his you're being watched instinct hard enough to qualify as a full fledged sense.
Jan. 30th, 2011 12:10 pm (UTC)
"Would I love to give you specifics. Remember when fairies and shit like that used to be referred to the Good Folk 'cause people were so afraid of them they were afraid talking about them would call them? He's kind of like that, except giving him a pretty name and listing out common features ain't made him any less dangerous."

Mabel pauses, chewing her lip in concentration. Around the circle she had tried to add symbols from what best she knew about alchemy - she was a self study, and some of them she surely was getting wrong. It probably wasn't going to matter, anyway. "This is gonna sound stupid, most work I do does. People call him the Slender Man. Nobody's got any good idea on where he came from, what he wants, or why he does the shit he does. Nobody's even got a clear idea what it is he does. Messes with minds, likes to fuck with kids." Her expression darkens.

"Really likes to fuck with kids. Uh - fucks with memory, screws up time, displaces... reality? I wish I had details, but people who try to get details disappear. I don't know why this is happening now. I don't know what he wants."

Why again, she should have said, but that involved a lot more backstory than she was willing to give. There's a buzzing in the air, but she thinks she might be hearing things, overreacting. Maybe.
Jan. 31st, 2011 12:54 pm (UTC)
"Great." Enfys hates this kind of thing - when half of it is taking your best guess and holding your fucking breath - except for how she doesn't, really, only knows that she should. Her self-preservation instinct has always been more of a polite suggestion than anything else.

She gnaws on her lip, studying the symbols that Mabel's adding. The problem (one a bit of trial and error through Xanadu has taught her the hard way) is that she's not in her own world and she has no guarantee that she can trust her own expertise to carry-over here; a battle-axe is pretty much a battle-axe anywhere, but magic is something shifting and alive and to simplify it as much as possible, they aren't all speaking the same language.

After a beat, she digs through her bag until she finds a tube of cheap red lipstick and crooks her finger at Bruce, being as he is the most determinedly mundane of the trio. "Personally, I wouldn't take a trip through your head if you paid me, but c'mere and let me see if I can't encourage everybody else to feel the same way-"

The illustrative way she is gesturing with the (now open) tube of lipstick may be a hint as to how she intends to do this. Give her some skin, Bruce.

Edited at 2011-01-31 12:55 pm (UTC)
Jan. 31st, 2011 01:09 pm (UTC)
You don't have a pen? he seems to say. Sigh. Bruce pushes back his jacket cuff a little and gives Enfys his left hand, meanwhile speaking to Mabel - his tone is soft-spoken as is standard fare, but lower, quieter than usual. He's both irritated by this an on edge, for a whole host of reasons.

"How did we get here, for one? What was that mark in the ground? And do you mean actual reality, or the perception of it? How did it follow you into the Nexus?"

From anyone else, it'd sound like he was interrogating her, but Bruce manages to keep his cadence even. His main focus, as ever, is their surroundings.
Feb. 1st, 2011 06:52 am (UTC)
Mabel's not standing inside the circle when she's completed it to her satisfaction.

To be fair to Enfys, Mabel doesn't know what she's doing (hence burning down churches) half the time. Her knowledge on what she considers 'magic' comes from skeptical scholarly texts and the odd New Age publishing. She only read the latter when she recognized the names involved - most of them were bullshit, at least when it came to what she could do. As for what is was she could do, that was also an area of darkness. She could open doors to places like Xanadu (though usually worse), and had a level of success with basic warding commands, but she had no real idea of why.

"Shifting reality, losing time - we feel through a door of sorts, right, but none of us saw that happen. We just ended up here. That mark's tends to a warning, a notice that he's around, just like that masked little shit is a messenger. I didn't draw it on purpose."

Her expression gets tight again, as she rolls up the sleeves on both arms. Her scars aren't all that noticeable in such lousy light. She's wincing and she applies the mark to both forearms with the chalk as best she can; circle, slash, slash, circle, slash, slash.

"It always follows me." That message outta be pretty clear. Come get me; not them.

The buzzing in her skull is getting louder.
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