Monday, December 4, 2017

Chapter 109: Summon Bees

There she is again.

In an "ideal" relationship, Acheron has read, from some perhaps-not-to-be-trusted self-help book, both people want to be together, but are self-sufficient on their own. Under that philosophy, Acheron cannot depend on any other person to make him happy. He must be his own source of happiness. And yet, he is only ever truly happy when he's with Claire. This thought plagues every thread in his visions, and continues to haunt him when he is awake.

He tries to hate her, but he cannot. In his visions of their future he is calm, often smiling. He loves his mother and adoptive family, but with them he's always nervous, always trying to hide his thoughts and nature. He wants to protect them. Claire, meanwhile, doesn't need his protection. She is a dangerous witch.

She only needs saving from herself.

Or from him? He can't decide.

She chooses this, but there had to be a way for him to evade it.

That makes him complicit in the whole ordeal. Right?

None of this adds up. There must be something he's missing. Some misinterpretation. Something isn't what it seems.

Acheron wonders if his love for her is what's limiting. If this obsession, if he can call it an obsession, chokes his ability to see beyond it. He has never met this woman, yet he cannot see a life without her. If the universe only wants them together for the singular purpose of reproducing exactly once, then surely he would be able to see futures where they become estranged. His own parents, as far as he knows, were only together for a single night.

Of all the many branching timeline possibilities Acheron can see, as mundane as school tomorrow or as fantastical as fighting wizards centuries in the future, this moment in time keeps coming back, more insistent than any of the others.

Kir would have him believe that because of Claire, because of the desire to see her again and the chance at a normal life in some other cycle, Acheron would involve himself in Loki's scheme to throw Kir's control off of their universe... and then unravel that scheme from within. But what if Kir's assessment is wrong?

It seems he won't fully know what motivates his older self until he becomes his older self. And that is terrifying, because Acheron doesn't know if he likes that person.

 Am I some kind of sociopath in the future? Acheron worries.

He envies Dysen, who can sleep through the night.

Though he senses he is not the only one up at this hour.

Everything okay? Orazia hears Acheron's voice in her head.

Yeah, she telepaths back. I'm just testing a defense spell.

SUMMON BEES does not go well.

Let's just enjoy these funny screenshots.

 Oh, and Milo's awake too. Playing in the sprinkler.

A new sunrise.

A new day.

More of this.

Go Tigers!

Sometimes after school, Acheron likes to go to the playground he played at as a small child. It's well-kept but empty, silent but for the ocean waves crashing behind it.

Fairuza meets up with her friend Lauren Foster-Savage.

Fairuza has so many friends, her father can't possibly keep up with them all.

If he did manage to keep up with them all, he'd object to Lauren, who makes a habit of staying out past curfew, and was once suspended from school for decorating the principal's office with graffiti slurs.

"I'm starving," Lauren announces. "Want to split the price of a pizza?"

Fairuza agrees enthusiastically to the plan, "I want olives and green peppers on my half."

It's at this point Lauren notices she doesn't have her phone. "Damn, I must have left at The Foundry..."

Lauren is too lazy to make up an excuse as to why her bored friend can't follow her on a simple quest to find her phone, so both girls end up at The Foundry, one of Starlight Shores' many dance clubs.

The club is lifeless at this early hour. The woman tending the bar locks eyes with Fairuza for a moment, and brave-trait Fairuza feels oddly unsettled.

Glowing eyes, Fairuza notices... then she immediately forgets about it, as soon as she isn't looking at them anymore, and tells herself it's the bad lighting in here making the bartender's skin look so... fake.

Lauren takes a quick look around at the room behind the empty DJ booth. It has three arcade cabinets in it, but no phone. Lauren groans and says something about it being downstairs.

"I'll just order the pizza on my phone while you look," Fairuza offers. Then she thinks better of it, "Or not, in case your phone isn't here and we have to run all across town looking..."

Lauren rolls her eyes. "It's here somewhere."

"Unless someone stole it?"

"They better not have."

Lauren has a key for closet which leads to a basement via a ladder.

"Did you get a part time job here or something?" Fairuza asks.

"I know the owner. It's cool," Lauren assures her.

Fairuza isn't sure what she expected The Foundry's basement to look like... maybe extra food and drink storage, maybe a small employee break room... but she wasn't expecting this.

This looks like a thrift store or something, but it's not.

There are some very expensive items laying around with the rest of the junk.

A couple of people sit at computers in one corner of the massive, cluttered basement, pretending to work.

Maybe it is just an employee break room, Fairuza decides, as she eyes up Robbie Platt, the guy running on the treadmill.

"Hey Lauren," Robbie greets Fairuza's friend.

"Hey Robs. Have you seen my phone?"

"Nope, all I've moved is laptops today," Robbie responds.

"Hey Stan, seen my phone?" Lauren turns to the man sprawled on a ratty sofa.

"I'm nursing a hangover, kid, don't talk to me."

"You lazy shit."

"Better than being a careless shit. I didn't even know it was possible for a sim to lose their phone."

Stan Powers makes a show of putting in the effort to stand on his own two feet. "Who's this?" he nods towards Fairuza.

"Friend from school," Lauren shrugs.

"You know the rule about bringing people down here."

"We're just here to get my phone, it's not a big deal."

"Rules are rules, little girl."

"Fuck off, Stan." Lauren glares, but Stan does not 'fuck off'. "Do I seriously have to?"

"What's up?" Fairuza interjects. "Do I need to leave?"

Stan reaches in his pocket for a small plastic container and fishes a needle out of it, of all things. He hands it to Lauren, who looks at it with distaste.

"I'll get in trouble if I don't prick your finger and contribute a blood sample to the spiritual energy cauldron," Lauren grumbles.

Fairuza recoils. "Blah?"

"It's some new age crap the boss is into, totally harmless."

"Is the needle drugged?"

Lauren assures her the needle is not drugged. Fairuza reluctantly allows the needle to prick her finger, and watches Stan strut off carrying her blood sample through a fancy door that seems out of place, even in this haphazardly furnished basement.

"I feel like I shouldn't have done that," Fairuza mumbles.

"Nothing to worry about unless you believe in hocus pocus," Lauren laughs. "And even then, it's just for good luck."

"Can I see this cauldron?"

"Nobody goes in there without an invite," Lauren answers, and with that settled the two girls begin searching the room for her phone, looking behind crates and under chairs.

"It's not in the skelly!" Fairuza laughs. She has given up looking in logical places for this damn phone.

A man with gaunt features and red irises walks out of the fancy door.

He flips a phone - the phone - out of his pocket and hands it to Lauren, narrowing his eyes at her. "Careless, careless," he scolds her in a quiet voice. "You know how I feel about unanticipated visitors."

"It was only supposed to be for a few minutes, Rook," Lauren grumbles.

"I will deal with your insubordination later. For now I'd like to chat with your friend." The red eyes turn to Fairuza. "My office," he commands.

Curious about the eyes, and strangely at ease, Fairuza follows his lead. "Uh... sure..."

Lauren looks a little worried.

The office is small but tidy, a completely different atmosphere from the chaos just outside. There is absolutely no sign of a blood-filled cauldron.

Fairuza can feel Rook's eyes on her as she takes in the various strange details. There are jelly beans growing on a magical tree in a little pot... of course she doesn't know it's magical, or that the jelly beans are deadly, but it's certainly a weird thing... and where does that other door go to...

"Have a seat," Rook says. And she does.

The lighting is good in here. She's starting to suspect this man is a vampire, but she's never seen one before, and isn't sure how to go about asking. She's heard they have mind control powers, but she isn't scared. She came in here because she was curious and brave, she tells herself... not because of any supernatural compulsion.

"Yes, I am a vampire," he says, though she hasn't said a word.

"Well that's neat," Fairuza chuckles. "Do you have any special powers? I didn't get any special powers. Kind of a bummer."

"The abilities of my race are well documented," he says wearily.

"I've read about them on the 'net, I just wondered if you were all the same. Not personality-wise of course, sorry, I meant your weird powers."

The vampire declines to comment on his power level. "Perhaps I will answer your questions if you answer mine. One of your very recent ancestors, a parent I think, had to be a werewolf."

"You got that from just a tiny drop of my blood?"

"I have to be quite careful whom I deal with, child. My kind are not welcome here."

"Doesn't taking people's blood seem suspicious, though? If you're trying to hide what you are."

"It's a security measure to catch a very specific type of person."



"Are vampires and werewolves natural enemies, like in cheesy novels?"

"Quite the contrary. Vampires and werewolves should consider one another brothers, and sisters. We were both created for war, but turned on our masters, and have since lived feral."

"I wouldn't know about any of that," Fairuza admits.

"Tell me your name, child. We've not been properly introduced."

"Oh." Fairuza does feel like she's been assaulting the guy with a barrage of annoying questions. "Fairuza Law."

He watches her passively, observing how one thought connections to another, one name branches into other people and places and memories, a complex web of neural pathways tied to her identity. "There now. A proper introduction wasn't so hard was it?"

"Sorry." She smiles awkwardly. "And you... are?"

"Torian Rook."

"Oh, right. Lauren called you by your last name earlier. You're the neatest chess piece. Like, the little castle thing."

"I oversee a branch of what you'd call a crime syndicate," Rook is remarkably open about this, Fairuza thinks, "smuggling people like myself to places where they are safer."


"Don't look so surprised. My very existence is locally illegal. Following the letter of the law was never a real option, so you'll have to forgive me for being blasé about it."

"I hope you're not secretly an SC agent. My Dad would ground me forever."

"As we are in the business of keeping things beneath the public's notice, Supernatural Control tolerates our movements."

"So what do you want with me? Why are you telling me this?"

"I do tend to find my talent young," he remarks.

"Ohhh, shit," Fairuza mumbles, thinking about Lauren. She's getting the feeling more illegal things go on around here than just vampires trying not to be kicked out of civilization.

"However, my interest in you... well... I didn't know about other inhuman creatures in the area."

"I really don't want to talk about my family. They'd be pissed if I did..." Though she guesses it would be a piece of cake for him to investigate who she is, where she lives, and whom she lives with.

Rook tells her there's no need to talk if she doesn't want to, he's already gleaned the information he needs from her mind. Two adult weres, one teen, and two teen sorcerers pose no threat to his interests, he claims. They are unlikely to be affected by the syndicate's activities at all. The part-extraterrestrial private investigator shouldn't be hard to throw off their scent either, should the need arise.

However, employing a werewolf would be a tremendous boon, given their hunting skills... if Fairuza's young cousin could be made amenable to the idea. But he cannot risk tipping her off to the plans he is hatching just yet.

"I can't help but notice your distaste for the potential criminals in your midst is... subdued," he says, in a voice she finds so silky smooth to listen to, "You worry for your friend, but you also understand how the law can be unjust."

"W-well that depends on what you're doing," Fairuza tries to get a hold of herself. "Something tells me you don't just help vampires. I bet a lot of the stuff you have hoarded out there is stolen."

"Your instincts are correct. Helping my own is a hobby, while I line my pockets with the wealth of my enemies."

"Uh. Enemies?"

"Politicians who would see me hunted down and killed whether I had committed crimes or not, for example. Would you call them anything less than my enemies? I cannot take war to them directly so I find indirect means to reduce their wealth, then their power, then their influence. It can be a long game."

"You can't seriously be pulling the 'my victims deserved it' crap on me."

"Spend time with us, Fairuza Law, and you can judge for yourself."

"I don't think so..."

Moving in a blur, the vampire is on her before she can blink. Their incredible speed was not exaggerated.

"Your friend, Lauren, is going on a heist tonight," Rook informs Fairuza. "You will go with her. Your curiosity has gotten the better of you."

It's a risk to use his powers this way. The mental suggestions wear off after a while, leaving the victim able to question their actions. If he's right, this foolish girl will blame her bad "decision" on her own impulsiveness and curiosity. If not, she'll suspect he used mind control on her, and he will have to prepare for the inevitable wrath of a young sorceress. Or two.

He doesn't fear the werewolves, or the bumbling PI, but mages are dangerous... which is why he needs to act now to put them at his mercy.

"I am a master thief, I have trained many successful apprentices," he informs her, once she's stopped resisting and is smiling stupidly at him. "You need not worry for Lauren. You'll see."

"Yeah," Fairuza answers, defenseless against his tampering. "It sounds kind of exciting..."

"I shouldn't need to warn you not to tell anyone about my true nature."

"I won't tell anyone you're a vampire... you won't tell anyone my Dad's a werewolf.. seems fair..." she drones.

Rook smiles wickedly. She won't remember this conversation clearly; it would be so easy to feed off of her now, but he restrains himself. She's only a child.

Lauren is shocked to be told she'll have company on her mission tonight, but she knows better than to argue with the boss when she's already annoyed him once today.

"Make sure to finish your homework before starting the job," Rook warns. "It's easier for an upstanding citizen to avoid suspicion than for a rebellious high school flunk-out to do so."

"Ugh, you're mean today," Lauren complains.

Acheron and Lauren aren't the only trouble students.

"I didn't see you in class," Dysen comments worriedly, meeting up with Molly at the art museum. He's always found this place disappointingly lackluster and boring, though part of his attention is caught now on a large painting behind his girlfriend. It seems identical to one hanging in his family kitchen.

"I forged a doctor's note. I'm sick, blah blah."

"Oh. Okay. Would this have anything to do with you being rejected from art club?"

"Who gets rejected from an after school club?" Molly grumbles. "Max limits on school clubs? There can only be so many people on the football team, sure, but I think the art room is big enough for one more person..." She doesn't go as far as to say the art club president doesn't like her. She's too proud to say something that cliche.

"It won't matter in the grand scheme of things," Dysen insists. "It's not like you won't get into art school just because you weren't in some high school club."

Molly glares at nothing. "Do I even want to go to art school? I mean, really? I'd be surrounded by people like that, wouldn't I? And I just want to do my own thing."

Dysen reaches out and strokes her hair. "That's what you usually do."

The anger melts from her face so she can smile ruefully at him.

He grins back toothily.

"That painting is called Puck's Soliloquy," she says, glancing at where his eyes lingered moments ago. "But it's just a reproduction. Like the one in your kitchen." She has a keen eye for slight differences.

"Then why display it like this?" Dysen tilts his head. His keen ears pick up a scratching noise, but he isn't sure if Molly can hear it.

"I don't think they know it's fake. There was a rash of high profile art theft in this area before we were born. Whoever stole the original must have gotten away with it." Molly frowns as the scratching becomes a loud, wailing yowl. "What's that noise?"

Acheron is less than pleased to get home and find his mother stroking a cat. The cat.

"Mom? What the-"

"Isn't she precious?" Ceth coos. "Dyse and Molly found her trapped in a dumpster, but we cleaned her up, oh, yes we did..."

Acheron gives his mother a hard stare. "It's a stray... it could be diseased..."

"Orazia poured some cleansing potion over her, it's fine."

Her? Acheron frowns even harder. He always thought the cat was a guy for some reason.

The cat, whom Dysen has named "Maggie", makes herself at home.

Carlos and Lela caved more quickly on the cat than they did over the snake.

"I don't know what your deal is," Acheron growls, once he has a moment alone with the feline, "but I want you away from my family."

"This is a nice spot," Maggie says. "Warm. Hmmm. I have a good feeling about this. These are good humans. Kind humans."

"No one in this house is completely human," Acheron counters, confused.

"And I am not completely a cat."

"You're a girl, though?"

"This form is female."

"You're a guy djinn poltergeisting the body of a lady cat."

"Are you going to inform your tribe of this? They do not hear me like you do."

Acheron glares. He can't risk telling them. At best they'd think he's insane, at worst their reactions might do something to anger the djinn. He can't risk that, not until he's certain it's harmless... and there's no way it's harmless. "What's your real name?"

"Why, I am Sir Kay," the cat answers, apparently shocked Acheron doesn't know.

The teen lets out a long sigh. "I don't even."

There's a lot written about the Sir Kay of Welsh legend. King Arthur's seneschal, a mighty warrior, eternally stubborn, inflicts wounds that cannot be healed, can go over a week without breathing, kills some witches and a cat monster, gets pissy with Perceval. None of it seems particularly relevant, and a lot of the tales are contradictory. Myths are just that, Acheron concludes. The djinn Kay and the mythological knight are not the same.

Loki is a character from Norse mythology. A jerkass god, foretold to break free from imprisonment at the time of the end of the world and die killing another god, Heimdallr, who is attested to possess powers of foreknowledgelike the Vanirand something about doing battle in the shape of a seal. Though that's not quite right. Ragnarok is not the end of the world, it's the end of an era. The survivors of the cataclysm are supposed to repopulate the world.

It's just a name. Not even that weird of a name, if one is from Aurora Skies.

The Acheron is one of the infernal rivers. One must cross the Acheron to enter the ancient Greek underworld. One psychoanalyst from the fumbling beginnings of the science used the river as a metaphor, casting the Acheron as psychological underworld beneath the conscious mind.

It's just a name. There is no underworld.

Carlos harvests wolfsbane, while Milo hunts for insects and rare metals. The brothers don't mind helping Orazia acquire alchemy ingredients.

Milo's search occasionally yields space rocks for Lela.

Dysen can only hope he will not have Lela's medical issues when he become an adult.

The syndicate's target is Annabel Gooder.

At dusk, the entire Gooder clan leaves their lavish mansion to attend a charity gala event, and Lauren and Fairuza make their move. Lauren has cased this place for months; Fairuza feels more like an unnecessary observer than anything, and Lauren is keen to let her know she was hoping to impress Rook by doing the job herself. Fairuza promises to not get in the way.

They get past hired security guards, cameras, and electronic locks with ease, all to make off with a wildly expensive stash of jewelry. At this point Lauren is suddenly glad to have Fairuza, because Annabel Gooder's collection is so massive it requires both of them just to carry it off in briefcases.

Fairuza feels like the dumb muscle, able to lift a lot more than her friend.

The mansion is impressive, but this loot is enough to buy twenty of them. It's weird, Fairiza thinks, since all they are is shiny rocks, but they're valued at enough to make even most rich people blush. This kind of wealth just sits around in Annabel Gooder's house, when it could be giving hundreds of poorer families better lives.

Of course, that's not what the money from this heist will go to. Fairuza and Lauren are not Robin Hood, she reminds herself, they are breaking the law for no grander purpose than spite and greed.

Fairuza feels many things... a thrill, a rush of adrenaline at the thought of how dangerous this is and how much wealth she holds on her hands, shame as she wonders how she let herself get into this mess, admiration over how cool and collected Lauren is, giddy as she considers what her cut of the profits might be, vindicated as she thinks about how she's sticking it to Annabel Gooder, a staunch opponent of simbot and vampire rights. Gooder also wants to privatize police forces, and keeps getting voted into office despite how well-known it is that she has evaded paying several millions of simoleons in taxes. Annabel Gooder belongs in jail just as much as Rook does.

As Lauren and Fairuza escape the mansion with a not-small fortune, Fairuza bitterly thinks about how fabulously rich people like Annabel Gooder would never have to deal with the consequences of their proposed legislation.

"You can't seriously be pulling the 'my victims deserved it' crap on me."

Fairuza's own words from just a few hours ago drift back to her mind. She frowns. She's so confused, and now she's done something so outrageous, she can't ask her Daddy or her uncle or her big sister for advice. I messed up, she thinks, as she and Lauren return to The Foundry...

Rook heaps praise onto the young thieves. Fairuza is quick to say Lauren did all the real work, and when Rook slyly questions her about how she felt about the job, she evades the question, citing curfew as a reason to run home.

Tabira Rook isn't so sure about the new talent. "She may be mortal but her family is like us. I don't know that I trust your instincts on this."

"We have too much invested in Starlight Shores to relocate now," Torian responds. "We need to neutralize the possibility this rogue pack can threaten our operations."

"But winning them over through underhanded means seems... wrong," Tabira protests.

"She doesn't suspect I did anything to her, so her family will not suspect. It's been one day and we already have all the necessary pieces to see her in jail, which we will hold over their heads if we must. Blackmail has never let me down before."

"She's a child," Tabira points out. "Humans do not often send their children to jail."

"The child stage doesn't last forever, Tabira. We'd simply hit the Gooder mansion a second time, then see Ms Law incriminated as an adult." Torian pauses. "Let's stay optimistic, though, shall we?"

For the safety of himself, his daughter, and the syndicate he likes to know he has everyone under his thumb; he doesn't necessarily like to think about applying pressure.

"So you still don't know if she'll join your little family or not."

"I can't be completely certain she'll develop a taste for our work, but either way,  I may be able to use her to get to the young werewolf."

"It's so hard to get werewolves to leave the sanctuaries," Tabira admits, giving up the argument. Her father has never been wrong when talent scouting before. Everyone who works under him is an enthusiastic, happy little criminal, and their profits make hiding in this horrible basement away from the sun and outsiders slightly more bearable.

Etc.: More bees more problems?

The Foundry lot was mostly made by Caterpillar. I altered it to add the basement. I had no idea how to make a criminal base of operations, so I just threw junk everywhere. I figure these people are just getting started in Starlight Shores (since I just now added them in!) and don't have a nice setup yet anyway. The Chinese paintings in Rook's office were also made by Caterpillar.

So there's this bit in the Prose Edda where Heimdallr and Loki both turn into seals and fight each other. I'm not sure why gods were always doing this kind of thing.


  1. :o *cue the required Acheron should see everything at all times and save everyone or he's now a loser * subplot. >:3 So where's uhhh... Acheron on this?

    I like how you're building plotlines for everyone in the growing generation, they all truly belong and it will be hard to move on without any from here. Dyson and his girlfriend are so cute! And it just makes sense that there's vampires hiding under all the nooks and crannies. Annabel Gooder, she really is such a snob!

    1. Where was Acheron when Fairuza was being mind controlled by a vampire? Freaking out about some cat, I guess! :)

  2. Ah! Not the bees! AUGHGHHGHGHGH!! And yes, I can attest that more bees=more problems. XD

    So poor Acheron. That bit about an ideal relationship really broke my heart.

    Fairuza's reaction to the "spiritual energy cauldron" is my exact reaction. XD

    Oooooohhhh Rook. I love his name. I love his look. I love everything about him immediately. His motivations are fascinating--I hate writing vampires because I feel blah about them, but you made him really exciting (also, a testament to the number of Vampire: The Masquerade campaigns I've played: I immediately decided he must be a tremere who has thaumaturgy and dominate XD).

    Maggy is amazing.

    1. I... get zero of those vampire references, sorry. xD

      Boyfriend made me watch Die Hard recently, so while I was writing Fairuza vs Rook I kept thinking about Hans Gruber staring at Ellis's rambling with that "I am surrounded by idiots" look on his face.

      Rook isn't as smart as he thinks he is though.

      And I like the name too! He's actually named for the bird.

  3. Also I knew you'd get a kick out of the title. xD

    Maggie was named by the game. Maybe I shouldn't have gone with a Maggie and a Molly, but whatever. The cat was only supposed to be in that one scene (and dream sequences) but it was too cute to let go of so I altered the scene and then had Dysen adopt her.

  4. :O

    Nooo Fairuza! This won't end well.

    Lol, Acheron doesn't seem pleased about their new cat...

  5. You know that feeling when you dream about something really sad and then wake up weeping? I imagine that's what Acheron experiences every time he sees Claire die in his dream. It's heart-wrenching ;_;

    "I didn't even know it was possible for a sim to lose their phone." XD Genius!

    Fairuza's interaction with Rook was great. I wonder what specific kind of person he's trying to catch... and I loved the way you described his mind reading!

    Molly and Dysen are so cute together <3 So is Dysen going to be a criminal? But you said you were grooming him for a very social roll... hm...

    Loved this chapter!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I've had my fair share of persistent nightmares. I've even had some where I wake up screaming and flailing, but, at least I'm not as weird as my cousin who can hold lengthy conversations while she's asleep? o.O

      Rook has a long list of people he doesn't want anywhere near him, no doubt. I'm not sure if I'll go into any great detail about it.

  6. I'm really worried about where this is going for Fairuza. D: It doesn't seem that she figured out Rook hypnotized her.

    Dysen is so sweet to Molly. I wonder how their relationship will be after they grow up, though.

    I love that they adopted "Maggie". Perfect.