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04 January 2012 @ 12:48 am
*I seek a child of the Mother, a servant of Pain.*  

Summary: Armed with the names of the Alpha and Warder of the Columbia Gorge Hive, Mouse goes looking for some potent spiritual retribution. 5/19/2010

First-Strike pulled herself into the Umbra almost the moment the moon rose, though before that she was preparing, something that was equal parts both meditation and daydreaming. She's not entirely alone as she trods down empty, Umbral streets--there's a small dog-sized cockroach spirit trailing her, though it's mostly keeping to the shadows and out of direct sight of other watchers. Occasionally the Theurge pauses to let the spirit catch up, and they exchange a few words before she pulls ahead again.

The half moon Umbra is Weaver, Wyld, Wyrm, all in one, a vibrant and energetic effusion of color, anger, fear, love, pain, and pleasure, all mixed into a moon-shadowed melange and echoed by the city itself. Occasional pattern spiders stare neutrally at the cockroach and its girl; the spirits of raccoons and rats, dogs and cats, snakes and others scatter across the streets, with the occasional (and very rare) awakened mechanical spirit, as well.

As they draw nearer to their destination, cockroach and Glass Walker cease being quite so apart, spending less time talking to each other, but more time in the same specific area. When the strange, malformed wolf reaches the Umbral outline of the Temple, however, she stops, nudges the cockroach gently with her nose, and then steps in carefully, and alone.

The Temple has not been a going concern long, but it is a very alive place; and so its music is echoed in the Umbra, a driving beat with a bass undertone. And so, too, is its other proclivities, with the sound of a whip sounding in the night air, detached from concrete reality; ephemeral.

First-Strike's ears twitch sharply at that sound, and she turns her head, as if gauging which direction, specifically, that it came from. After a moment of contemplation she slides smoothly upward into crinos, though she stays on all fours as she moves further in, searching for the source. Eyes and ears strain to keep track of movement--certainly, the Temple doesn't attract terribly /benevolent/ spirits.

There is no actual sign of whip-cracker. But, in the umbral reflection of the realm edifice, as she turns a corner, she runs, almost literally, into a dog spirit, bleeding from any number of wounds, its blood a rich translucent color. They look as if they might be inflicted with a knife. It whimpers. It whimpers very very quietly. It whimpers as if it would like to run very far away, but somehow, it can't move.

First-Strike can barely stop herself before she runs into the thing, and her ears twist back at the near miss. She draws in a deep breath, and sniffs the air once before saying, almost as quietly, *Hello.*

The dog, evidently the Platonic ideal of a mutt, has been driven beyond words; it merely whimpers. And manages to creep back from Mouse until it hits the wall. Nothing else responds.

First-Strike steels herself, and takes another careful step forward, her ears pricking as high as they can go. When she speaks again, it's louder, and to the air itself, rather than the dog. *I seek a child of the Mother, a servant of Pain.*

There's a long, heavy silence. And then once, twice, something unreasonably like a knife but entirely not visible slashes cuts into Mouse's fur, one on each arm; blood starts seeping out. And among the blood, the fires of pain shoot up her arms, to the shoulders. *Little one,* says a voice, negligent, insouciant, amused. *What you you want?* The dog whines and scrabbles backwards, pressing up against the wall. Whoever the voice belongs to, she, he or it is not visible.

First-Strike winces sharply, only just biting back a hiss. She breathes slowly and deeply before she answers--and notably, she does not attempt to back away from the whatever that just cut her. *To ask a favor,* she replies to the air. *To offer an opportunity.*

*You intrigue me,* the air says back. And it shimmers. To say a figure emerges would be overstating the case, because it is not that clear an entity. It appears to be constantly shifting form; one moment severed plant, a second moment an image of childbirth, a third moment a dominatrix with a whip; and so on. In the first minute it is there, it cycles through death, illness, accident; it cycles through instruments of pain, through animals in the midst of brief, natural pain; and through torture victims bleeding their last breath.

First-Strike looks up at it as best she can, taking in the constantly shifting images thoughtfully. She fights back the urge to rub at her sliced arms; instead, she merely curls her fingers against the palms of her hands. *My Sept goes to war in a few days,* she explains slowly, still watching. *We go to fight the fallen wolves that serve the Destroyer.* She gestures, brief and vague, in the right general direction, inadvertently flicking blood droplets. *They are no strangers to Pain, whether they inflict it on themselves or others, but their methods sicken everything, and they would destroy everything, even sensation, if they could. As it happens,* her eyes light up slightly, *While they were busy inflicting your gifts on one of my Septmates, they let slip almost as much information as they took. I have the names of two of their leaders.*

The dog somehow manages the energy (or the concentration) to disappear. Sounds of music, of dissipated laughter, resound as echoes in the distance. The entity is briefly corn, and then a giant, half dead insect, and then a prison guard. Its voice, felt more in the mind than heard, brings the hair thin edge of pain, as if a needle is being inserted in the thumbnails of the mind. *Their pain is not My pain,* it agrees. *Their pain will circle and circle and circle until it has nothing left to feed on. But your fight,* it says flatly, *Is also not my fight.*

*You are right,* First-Strike agrees, without hesitation. *If you would be willing to listen, I would tell you what it is I'd like to ask of you. And what it is I'm willing to offer in return.*

The spirit melts into what is, to Mouse, recognizable as a cancer cell. (SIx feet tall, but nonetheless.) *Speak, and I will listen.* Its voice runs through her wounds, opening them just a touch more. *For a time.*

First-Strike breathes deeply again. And again. She can't hold back another wince, though she does try. *I have the names of their Warder and their Alpha. Akultot, who humans call Monty Hall. Laura, a metis who I am told has made a career out of excess--sex, pain. They work with a spirit they call Lady Ziqra, possibly a servant of the Urge Wyrm. This is what I would ask of you. I would ask that, at a point where it would matter most to the success of our battle, that you come to these two leaders, and that you allow them to experience the pleasure of all the pain they have /ever/ brought upon others, all at once.*

The cancer cell melts into a cat, a touch of blood on one of its fangs. It stalks towards her, voice a low purring rumble that echoes in her stomach and vibrates unpleasantly with the bass music in the background. *Again. Intriguing.* It sits in front of her, tail lashing. It washes its shoulder and then pins her with its gaze. *But what, if I may be so bold as to ask, is in it for *me*?*

First-Strike drops to a slow, careful crouch, so that she's closer to eye level with the spirit again. *If you would do this for us, I will offer you power. Some now, to help with the task. Some every month at this time for six months.* She lifts her muzzle slightly. *More, I will offer you myself. I am no stranger to pain. So long as it will not cripple me from carrying out my duties, I will accept any pain that you have a whim to inflict, as many as you have a whim to inflict, for however long you want to inflict it, for the same six months. Three months for each target.*

The spirit melts into a perfectly normal human male, in his 30s. He appears to have stubbed his toe. But his voice is an amalgam of cat and cancer, running up Mouse's arms and setting the fur on the back of her neck rising. *Oh, yesss,* it says, leaning forward just a touch, somehow seeming entirely predatory without moving a muscle. *Show me where to go, and I will take this bargain.*

First-Strike bows her head, even as her fur stands up all over. *I have prepared a vessel that I think you may like. Sharp and beautiful. It is the best way to get you to where we need to go, and the fight is in less than two days. If you are willing, I can bring it here and then bear you to the place where they will stand against us.*

It says two words. *Show me.*

First-Strike actually offers a stiff sort of bow, before she rises and turns to lead the way to where she left the blade.

A snake, missing the tip of its tail, undulates after her.

It's not a terribly long walk. As promised, the knife is indeed sharp, and it is indeed, in a deadly sort of way, beautiful. Bright. Entirely clean, a virgin blade. For another two days, at least. The cockroach spirit is apparently guarding it, though as Mouse arrives, she scuttles quickly out of sight.

The spirit's eyes glint; it melts into a coalescing ball of light and dark and flashes into the knife. *Yes,* it says, that final word echoing in the night air. And then Mouse is struck with a back spasm, hard, swift, intense. It lasts some minutes.

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