2019-04-23 - No Cretan Bull


Agent Turner arrives from the sea in the most spectacular way, with an artifact that Keiko … reacts to.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Tue Apr 23 00:53:28 2019
Location: Brooklyn

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Theme Song



It's a normal day for Keiko. Something that she's ever so happy about, her life almost normal. Well, as normal as it gets for her.

Her bike, newly reapired, is leaning against a railing near on a pier as the tattooed woman works on one the boats moored there. A simple job really but it pays well and it lets her enjoy the sun for a while.

She's whistling as she works. All … is right.

Woooooosh! Hisssssss. There's a geyser next to her, spouting out of the water as something dark jets up from the river into the air and then lands on the pier with a thump as river water - kind of gross river water - rains down around him.

It's… Agent Turner. And he's wearing a wetsuit. And he's got something that looks like a statuette in his hands. He whistles and turns to head back up the peer when he recognizes the bike.

And stops. Mid whistle, mid stride.

To shoot out of the water like that and land on his feet, how fast must he have been going IN the water?

"Ack!!!" Keiko cries out as the geyser sprays water over her. This stuff stinks. "What the …" She manages to slip with the screwdriver she's holding, gouging her finger which has her cursing roundly at the black suited figure stops, mid stride and mid whistle.

"Agent Turner!" That's… an accusation though she's frowning. Peering between him and the filthy water of the Hudson. "What the hell are you doing?"

The water is churning as though a speed boat has passed through it, though she knows for a fact that didn't happen. That would have been loud and obvious.

"Miss Kurita. Um, fancy seeing you here. I was just… getting something." He holds up the small statuette in his hands. It's golden though it's got some greenish slime on it. As if it had seaweed or barnacles on it and Koa had brushed them off. The statuette? It's looks like a bull. Small enough to sit comfortably in the hand, but with wide set horns and some kind of disc in the middle of them. It has sapphires for eyes which sparkle and blink in the daylight, almost like sunlight on the water.

"What, er, what are you doing?"

Keiko's dark eyes scan the water, looking down the River and back again. Nope, no boat. She hadn't heard one but she'd been engrossed in her work.

Cradling her finger, the tattooed woman raises an eyebrow "I was working, Agent Turner. I have to pay my rent somehow." She's still not sure what Koa had meant by taking her bank account details, it seems. "You … did that?"

She jerks her head to the churn, while studying the statuette. "Where … was that?"

"Uh, about a hundred miles off the coast and five hundred fathoms down, give or take?" Fathoms. That may or may not be a unit of measure that Keiko knows. But that'd be… nearly a kilometer. Which is a long way down underwater. With no boat. To get a little bull.

Koa does rather look like someone with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Hadn't Keiko heard something about a… sea child recently?

"Fathoms?" No, that's not a word Keiko really knows. "One hundred kilometres off the coast?" She got that though. "Without … a boat." She's not stupid, just strangely educated. "That's what she meant, wasn't it? When she sea-child?"

She, the woman from Rahm-tek.

Shaking the water from herself, Keiko examines the finger she gouged with her screwdriver. It's bleeding and very, very, sore. At least she's not cursing anymore.

"And what's the statuette? It looks a bit a like a minotaur."

Koa sighs a little bit and walks over to one of the locked chests along the pier - the ones that usually hold life preservers - and opens it. He withdraws a plastic bag which seems to have clothing in it and half peels off his wetsuit so he can get a shirt on. Shirts are good. He'll start with that.

"Yes, she meant me when she said sea child. I'm a bit… let's say my family is a little unusual. Or at least, family stories always said we were. I didn't believe it until I got into all this magic stuff and discovered I could do…" He gestures to the water. "That."

The statuette he's had to put down. It's there. Looking at Keiko with those unblinking sapphire eyes.

"Cretan bull, yeah. Was looted by a viking ship that wound up in these waters before sinking in a storm. It's been on the list of things that needed to be recovered. It might possibly turn into a real bull if you do the right, or wrong, things to it. With all that's been happening I didn't want anyone going to get it and setting it loose in the city." He pauses. "You're bleeding. Come here. There's a pack of bandaids in here."

Keiko glances at her job and back to Koa as he moves. It … can wait.

Silently she follows the Agent to the locker. "I … know you're different. I … saw you … leave your body." And that shark thing he became. "Could you not always do it?"

The Bull is pretty, well the eyes are at least, but Keiko watches Koa peel off that wet suit, not averting her eyes like others might. "What list of things?" All the questions and she has an economy of words about her. "Hmmm. Oh, right." she holds out her thumb as she glances back at the bull "Do you know what activates it?"

She's so very tempted to pick it up.

"No, no. I only started doing this when I was twenty. Only been doing it really for about ten years." Koa pulls the shirt on and then gets out the box of bandaids and unwraps one to put on Keiko's thumb.

"Had to learn a lot of things on the fly. Not very many places you can really study this kind of thing. Took me a while to realize that a lot of the things that our ancestors thought were magic… actually are. Even then I still get caught off guard by things. Like leaving my body. First time that happened it was a shock."

On the bandaid goes, wrapped tightly. Yes that statue is still winking temptation at her. What would one have to do to make it a real live bull? And what kind of trouble would that be?

"Well an offering of honey will do it. Or grabbing it by its horns and flipping over it. Which is tricky because it's so small. But it's also a bit unpredictable. Rubbing it the wrong way might do it. That's why we wanted it recovered." The question about a list gets a smile.

"A list of artifacts, Keiko. Artifacts that are in places remote enough that they're not likely to be disturbed but that we should really look up at some point when we have the time."

So he's thirty. Keiko's quiet as he wraps her thumb, considering his words carefully. How old is she really? She's not sure. Early twenties, she thinks."Learning magic isn't easy. I know that. I saw the magi as they were taught." She doesn't speak much about her experiences. "I can imagine it was a shock … much like when Arananet first came into being, seeing through her eyes and mine at the same time …" she shakes her head.

With her finger seen to, the tattooed woman considers the statuette "I know many things that respond if you rub them the wrong way …" tentatively she reaches out to pick the statuette up.

"You mean WAND has to go and check those artifacts up, right?"

"Arananet… that'd be your spider wouldn't it?" Koa says as he steps back and peels off the rest of his wetsuit to reveal board shorts. Which go well with the tee shirt he just slipped on and are of course still relatively dry. Now for some socks and shoes.

The statue immediately warms to Keiko's hand and she can feel a rumble from it. Like it's loing though she can't actually hear that. Just feel it. It's strong enough to go up her arm though.

Her tattoos almost IMMEDIATELY react. They don't like that at all. In fact they're reacting like they do to… another Nightfall user's spirits.

"My tarantula, yes." Keiko agrees. She'd used the name when they'd been at the fire museum. She doesn't avert her eyes when Koa removes the suit, it's like … she's kind of used to the whole undressing thing.

"It's … warm." she murmurs, just before she gives out an anguished cry, fingers clamping around the statuette, even though she probably be dropping it. "Stop … no …"

The tattoo seem to ripple up her arms, the spirits trying to tear themselves free. First the legs of the tarantula appear, batting the figurine before disappearing. Then Bellas head looms and snaps, then an Eagles talon. A similar pattern occurs on her other arm. "Make it… stop."

Koa immediately grabs Keiko's hand and tries to pry the statue from her grip but she's got it held tight. The sapphires have turned red and there's now audible snorting coming from the bull, as if it's angry.

"Let… go…" Koa grunts as he tries to prise her fingers loose. It's REALLY difficult. She's got almost a death grip on it.

Keiko can feel the bull's 'skin' starting to shift under her hand. As if muscle is moving. As if it's coming alive. That can't be good.

Bella's head looms once as Koa tries to open Keiko's fingers, snapping and snarling - at the figurine but damn, Koa's close, he can smell the fetid breath - almost. Then dragon appears, smoke curling from its nose. "Glydril… don't …"

"I can't let go …" she pants to Koa, eyes widening as the skin starts to shift. "It's awakening. Hit me…" Knock her out, that should make the autonomous reflex to hold relax, right?

"I can't… they're fighting me …" Her spirits are fighting her control.

"How about…" Koa's eyes narrow and Keiko sees a fish in the river just pop up to the surface, on it's side. Dead. Bluish motes fly into the man and his strength suddenly increases dramatically.

Slowly he gets her fingers curled back and then snatches the now almost HOT statuette out of her hand. The eyes go back to blue and the noises from it cease.

"You okay? What in all of the hells was that?"

Keiko is not strong herself. No more than your average human. Eventually the figurine comes free.

"I don't know…" there's tears in her eyes and her face shows the pain and strain she's experiencing. The taatoes still ripple, but not as violently. They should settle in just moment. "It's a bound spirit I think… I've only ever felt that…"

She looks at her palm. The skin is pink - burnt from the heat.

"… When they were binding me with another." She looks at the bull "It was like the binding wasn't complete."

Koa looks down at the now fairly inert statuette in his hand. Why did it react to her and why did her own tattoos react so violently? He doesn't doubt that a spirit IS abound to it. Likely a quite angry one. This thing has been at the bottom of the ocean for eight hundred years after all.

"Do you think the spirit was trying to bind itself to you? Maybe… escape the statuette?" As if the statuette were a prison and Keiko were… well a roomier prison. With angry inmates. =

"I take it that's how it was each time, then?" Beat. "How's your hand?"

"It got worse every time." Keiko murmurs, dashing the tears that spill away angrily. "You have to master the spirit they're binding, and each time it's a bigger and stronger one, as well as control the ones you already have."

"I… no, not escape really. I think…" gingerly the asiatic woman unbutton her shirt and turns so Koa can see her back. "… I think it was being drawn in…" On her skin he can see the outline of the next tattoo she was going to receive.

It starts at the base of neck and covers her back.

Koa's eyebrows go up. The outline is… still indinstict. As if the final form of the spirit was as yet undecided. "So… that thing is like a magical vaccuum. It draws in spirits. Or… it can do so, under certain circumstances." Perhaps it was just because this one was already imprisoned and possibly weakened, and thus unable to pull away on its own.

"You got that just before you ran, didn't you? It was the next thing they had planned for you." The pain… well that would have been pretty well unimaginable.

The form is indistinct but the outline ripples. Much like her tattooes did just now. "I don't know for certain. It might. The spirit in the statuette certainly wanted to awaken for me."

"Are you finished looking?" It seems Keiko is used to the scrutiny. How humanly had she been treated? Probably not a lot. "Be careful being in your spirit form around me…" Hard to tell if she's joking.

"Yes. It was next. But I ran." Would it have been her last one? And just *what* would they have bound that was stronger than a dragon?

"What was it about this one that made you run? Or was it something else?" Clearly Keiko doesn't like the way that the cult kidnaps children but she clearly also don't have huge… theological differences with it. Still venerates Plokta, he suspects. Would she go into his realm if she were offered the chance?

He doesn't know.

"How far up the heiarchy were you? They must have been furious when you left with all the… effort they'd invested in you."

Has Koa finished looking? He didn't say and Keiko doesn't move to shrug her shirt back on. Trained? Maybe.

"I … uh. It … was a lot of things. I'd been looking for a chance for a while. This one was just another thing. But I got my chance when they sent us out one day and I ran." she shakes her head. Maybe one day she'll tell the whole story but that should be enough, shouldn't it?

Does she venerate Plokta? Or is it an automatic response?

"How far up? I wasn't, not really. How much so you remember of what I told you about the Nightfall and the children they seek? I was one of their more … accomplished tattoo bearers but bearers weren't really leaders. It was unusual to leave us on our own." She lets that sink in, waits for the inevitable questions that accompany it. "Furious? You've no idea. If they take me back, what awaits me will be worse than what you see on my back."

"How did you stay ahead of them?" Koa murmurs quietly. He places one hand in the pockets of shorts and watches the woman carefully. The other hand still has the statuette. He's not letting that out of his grasp for anything now. Not until it's safely locked away.

"They wouldn't just… kill you? They couldn't possibly trust you now. Not after you betraying them once, right?"

He feels a little bad about talking about this. But, well, they are.

"Er, uh, yes I'm done looking. You can put the shirt back on." Pull it back up. What have you.

Keiko takes a moment to shrug her shirt on. It's funny how she does that. Waits.

"I hid, Agent Turner and I ran as far as I could. Heading to the big cities where it's harder to find us. They might have tracked me there but finding one person in a city this big? It's difficult. There were times they nearly got me but Onyxia got me away."

She turns eyeing that statue in Koa's hand, her eyes red rimmed from the tears, cradling her hand. "There are fates worse than death, Agent Turner. Tell me what you know of Lord Plokta … why he needs people, in particular."

"There's one thing I'm a bit confused about though. You've mentioned those tattoos they give the kids are used for tracking. So how have you managed to hide this long?"

Maybe she just got out of range. Or maybe they knew where she was but weren't able to chase her down. He's not sure either way at the moment.

"I know that he traps people in their wildest dreams and gets power from this somehow, but not much more. Doesn't sound like the worst fate in the world to be honest. Not compared to some."

"Those tattooes have a range, Agent Turner." Keiko says quietly. "They could likely find me now they know I am here and they are too. But with so many children being taken, they won't know … which I am." It's still a risk but a calculated one. "Normally I would have left the city but … I couldn't let the children be taken."

"In exchange for their souls, Lord Plokta can give a person their wildest dreams. Do you know why that is? It's because he can warp perceptions. He could still take mine and give a world of my nightmares."

Why does it sound like she believes this?

"So the Tattoos send a signal but it's not distinguishable from any other. That's actually good news…" If they knew someone who could replicate those they might be able to lure their enemies out. Sadly the magic is fairly esoteric and Koa is sure they don't have time to try to figure it out, let alone get gossamer.

"Have you experienced this before?" Is that a method of discipline? A way to keep wayward souls in line? And why not just give them paradise? How many people, really, have the will to resist it?

"I'm sorry I wasn't clearer about that, Agent." Keiko says quietly, slowly flexing her hand, the flesh still pink but it's not blistering. They could still set up a trap, use one of the tattooes as a lure. He has one, right in front of him.

At his question, Keiko pales and trembles. "We all have experienced, Agent Turner. Not long after they bring us in, we're … introduced … to Lord Plokta and given a taste of what we can expect if we fail to please or misbehave."

Which might explain why so few rebel. But how had she managed it?

"It is not … nice. As we enter puberty, the lesson is reinforced."

"So they torture you. Even if you don't deserve it. And you're told you'll get all that and worse unless you obey." That sounds awful. If Koa didn't dislike these guys before he does now.

"I'm guessing it's horrific enough that the lesson sticks. The question is… why didn't it with you? What makes you special, Keiko Kurita?"

"Torture? I suppose you could call it that. Parents discipline their children, do they not? Teach the consequences for their behaviour?" It's a twisted sort of reality that the woman has, but she's not exactly wrong.

"Horrific enough that most are afraid to rebel and they start believing the lessons we're taught." Keiko talks, snorting softly at the question. "I can't tell Agent if you're trying to be hurtful. I'm not special but there's a reason that I'm a tattoo bearer and tattoo bearers aren't given positions of leadership."

"We have to master the spirits we're given. Do you know what that takes?"

"Parents do not usually abduct their children or trap them in a realm of living nightmares." Koa points out. "And no, I'm not trying to be hurtful. I'm wondering why you had the strength to run when no one else we know of has found that."

"Well knowing you, I imagine quite a bit of stubborness." That's the one quality he's observed consistently about her. She is stubborn as anything and her animals seem to be the same. Especially the wolf.

"Bella was trouble, wasn't she?"

"Not many leave, Agent Turner. And few who do, get far." Keiko murmurs, gazing at the statuette in his hand before raising her eyes to his. "Tenacity, strong willed. Those are traits they look for, for my caste. But that makes us ill suited to be … trusted. I don't know how I did it, but we were sent on a mission one day, I got separated and I ran when I had the chance."

She tries not to think on it, when she does, she dreams.

Glancing back to her job and then to the Agent again. "I'm getting hungry. Let me finish this job up, it won't take long and we can get something to eat. I'll answer as much as I can."

Turning back to the job she was working, Keiko winces as her hand closes around the screwdriver she'd dropped. She starts to tighten the screws though as she keeps talking "Bella and Glydril, yes. You've not seen much of Glydril, but Bella…" There's a bit of a fond smile that touches Keiko's face "… I nearly failed mastering her. She nearly mastered me."

Koa might wonder after what he's seen. The wolf is rather protective of Keiko after all.

"She still seems pretty willfull." Koa stuffs his wetsuit into the plastic bag and puts the little idol with it. Then he ties it off, thinking on what he's been told.

None of this sounds like a group of people he really wants knocking around New York. Which is why it's important to resolve this as soon as possible.

"Of course. I'll get you lunch. And you can enlighten me a bit further. Take your time."

And with that Koa takes a seat on the sea chest and waits.

"I wasn't asking you to buy my lunch, Agent." Agent or Agent Turner. Does Keiko even know that's not his first name? She works quickly, efficiently, and completes the job soon enough.

"Bella is. Don't try Glydril though, I've had her perch on the top of a building looking all fearsome, smoke curling from her nose and all. She wouldn't come down, either."

Packing her tools up, Keiko takes a few moments to write in an invoice book. Painfully and slowly, Koa will see. It's not something she does with the practiced ease others might.

"Alright then, Agent. Where to? My bikes over there. I'll tell you what I can but I'm curious about you as well."

"There's a schwarma place not too far away and I'm in the mood for some of that. Come on." Koa motions for Keiko to follow.

Twenty minutes later in the air conditioned goodness of the best Scharma place within at least six blocks, Koa is relaxing with a plate full of medeterannean goodness. Keiko too though he suspects she'll eat less. She happily takes meals, but doesn't seem to really go whole hog on them.

"So… when you're ready, tell me about your escape. What precipitated it. How you got to where we are now."

Keiko doesn't stint on her food, she does enjoy it after all, and is sitting beside Koa tucking in. She'd insisted on paying for her own, but Koa might have just done so. "You don't get schwarma like this in Central America." she says.

"I don't remember much of it, Agent Turner." she says around a mouthful "Would you tell me of how you found out about your powers? And I'll tell you what I can …"

"Of course…" Koa says, settling a little and taking a few bites. "I'd be surprised by the way if you got schwarma at all in central america." Do they do medeterranean food there?

"I was twenty. Studying archeology in Crete. I'd found something on the dig out there but when I touched it… well, suddenly everything looped in on itself and no one really could see me. Have you ever heard of the tales of the Labyrinth of King Minos? It's real. And it wasn't a physical mage. And the creature that haunted it? Well… that's quite real as well."

"They had things they called schwarma when I came through, it wasn't until I got here that I realised it … wasn't. Just someones interpretation of what they thought they were."

"The Labyrinth of King Minos, where they had the minotaur? I saw something on Saturday morning TV about it, yes." Saturday morning TV - that's cartoons isn't it?

"No one could see you? What … I could see you when your astral projected. You had found an enchanted artifact and it did something …"

She'll wait but she's promised she'll share some of her story.

"Ah yes." Food in some places is…. well that's even true in the US. In the big cities you can find pretty varied food most of the time, but don't go looking for Mexican in Hawaii and don't try finding Korean in the middle of Nebraska. Even if someone claims they make that kind of food… they don't.

"The Labyrith is… well, kind of a pocket dimension. Not separate from ours but separate enough that you need to be in it to see it. So no, no one could see me and no matter where I went the thing inside could follow me." Koa half grimaces at the memory.

"It was pretty damn scary, as you could imagine."

"A pocket dimension, that's out of phase really, yeah?" Keiko asks. An eclectic education for certain. "Was it a minotaur like the legends said? How did they get you out?" She stills, putting her food on the plate and staring at it. "I … think I can imagine, yes."

"They'd sent us in to a village to collect the kids that had been found. It was a bigger village than normal and they needed me to do some scouting. They'd sent a mage with me that kept me … bound, I suppose you can say…." She starts at least, on her story.

"Correct." Koa does wonder at the gaps in her knowledge sometimes. Keiko seems to have been educated by people who thought she needed to know a specific set of things and NOTHING else. It definitely makes for some interesting conversations.

"You mentioned that the Nightfall usually abducts from small villages. Is it common for them to work with assets they don't trust?" Assets like her.

"It was a minotaur, though it looked human. You could tell that it wasn't. It had just sort of… changed with the times. Thing was huge though. And tough. I ran, for a long time. Eventually I had to fight. It was that or just exhaust myself to the point where I couldn't run anymore and die. I got lucky, you could say. Whatever the artifact had done it had also… woken up something inside me. Something that let me fight back. I had no idea what I was doing or how I was doing it, but the fact that I wanted to live was enough."

And education of the necessary in a situation where the modern world didn't interfere.

"The minotaur looked human? Like … it had changed based on perceptions? Or perhaps to reflect the world around it?" The tattooed woman asks. "Did you kill it, Agent Turner? And what was awakened was your spirit nature, yes?"

She snorts at the question about trust. "I told you Agent Turner, bearers are wilful, strong. But in this case, we were meant to get in, get the children and get out. The mage was to open a portal when I found them and it wouldn't do for us to be separated."

And yet, it seems, they were.

"That is what awakened my… unusual nature yes. But no, I didn't kill it. I'm not sure it's POSSIBLE to kill it and it definitely wasn't possible for me to do so. I hurt it badly enough that it kicked me out of the labyrinth." Koa snorts. "Which I'd call a win all things considered. I like not being eaten."

The WAND agent leans back and… takes a drink. Urp.

"So how did you wind up being separated then? Did the mage make a mistake? Or did he simply underestimate what kind of opportunity you would take?"

"You've more than your spirit animal, Agent Turner." Keiko nods to the arm where she knows the snake is tattooed. "There's that to begin with and I've seen nature wither about you. Did that all awaken then, or later?"

"It was easier than I suspected. It was the night of a carnivale, we were going to use it for cover. Easier to take children when there are crowds." she's quiet as she remembers that night, looking at the food on her plate. Food she's no longer eating. "It's also easier to get lost in the crowd yourself. I was needed down there, to do the retrieving. So I went and I kept going to the edge of the village and beyond."

"Spirit animal… oh. This." Koa reaches down and undoes his cuff before rolling it back so that Keiko can see the golden head of a snake. It's attached to, well, the rest of a snake coiled around his arm. A bracer of some kind. It's pretty. It looks rather snug. Or rather it looks very well fitted.

After a moment he rolls his sleeve back down and redoes the button.

"How long did it take for them to realize you'd run?"

The question about what else he can do has him smiling. "Well I've spent a lot of time learning how magic works. So… later. I learned how to manipulate the energies pretty early but I don't have any talent for conventional spellcraft. Plus it hurts. I have to use tools to channel it for me to get most of what I do done. The exception is the, er, swimming. I'm just… kind of at home in the water."

"It's not a spirit animal?" Keiko blinks at the bracer, reaching a finger out to try and touch it. But Koa covers it up quickly enough and her hand to falls to the table instead. "Can you remove it?" She's so … It's an economy of words the woman uses.

"Not long. Those tattooes you asked me about, they use them. They could tell I was moving away. The only chance I had was that they'd think I was caught in the crowd and had to go the long way around. It brought me precious minutes."

"They came after me, the mage did but they didn't have the training I did. They did have the humans in the village though and the came me after me in trucks with guns. I was able to call Onyxia eventually and she carried into the hills and away."

"She flew until she could fly no more …" Koa's seen what happens when her animals are mortally wounded. Is it the same when they're exhausted?

"What did the lady mean, sea-child? That generally has a meaning…"

"Well if it is, it's bound to the bracer and not to me." Koa says. "Yeah I can remove it. I just wear it a lot because it's so useful." It's a general purpose weapon. The fact that it works with his standard issue gun just makes it more convenient.

"So you ran, flew, until you collapsed." And because of the hawk she got further than she otherwise might have. "Enough, maybe, to get you out of range?"

Koa takes a breath and lets it go. "Well, family legend sais that we're connected to the Hawaiian sea-goddess somehow. And… maybe. I've run into enough things that call me 'Akua' to think there might be some truth to it. But I don't know for sure. I've never met any of the supernatural beings that married into the family. And it was probably generations ago. Fact is my blood is fairly weak. Which is why I can't do real magic without help from a tool like the bracer or my pendulum."

Keiko watches that place on Koa's arm where the bracer is, nodding slowly. "It doesn't affect you? Try to control you?" She must be wondering what that's like.

"Yes and No. They could still find me through my tattoo. It was faint, but in the wilds as I was, how many like me would there be? It was easy to follow me and as exhausted as Onyxia was, I had to move by foot. I didn't know where I was going, just that I had to keep moving, keep ahead of them. He found me two days later and sent a nightmare to subdue me."

The woman shivers as she remembers, looking up as Koa seems to understand she needs the distraction from her story. "That makes two of us, Agent Turner. Who can't do 'real' magic. Do your parents know anything about your heritage?"

"He. You mean…" Plokta? Koa doesn't say the name, but Keiko will get who he is talking about. She's spoken of only one being that sends nightmares. Why, he wonders, would Plokta have to search for her though. Unless… the tracker tattoos aren't strong enough to send a signal into his realm. And the magic he used lost a lot of juice getting to earth.

"My parents? No. My grandmother did, but she isn't well and I've not spoken to her in some time. She used to tell stories though of how the family had some kind of… priestly role. Guardian of something in the sea. I was never quite clear on what. Or why. Just that it was the duty of our bloodline."

Keiko shakes her head "… sort of, but … " she sighs. It's a logical assumption for Koa to make. "The mage. He'd used our, his agents in the city to catch me and came on me when I rested. He drew on our Lord, though, and assailed me with a nightmare. I was terrified and exhausted, I almost succumbed."

She swallows and takes a long drink.

"I don't remember much, to be honest, of what happened except that I summoned Bella and Onyxia again… The next thing I remember, I was waking on the outskirts of a city. Dirty, hungry, exhausted. I called Bella and she was a mess, it was weeks before I could call again. Onyxia wasn't much better - she'd flown past her endurance to get me clear. But I could disappear into the city for a bit…"

"Maybe you should speak to your Grandmother… and your parents." There's a something a bit sad in Keiko's tone when she says that.

"Why nightmares? Was he trying to break your spirit? Make you come back on your own? Or were they just trying to hold you down long enough to find you and drag you back?" Koa understands why that may be a potent weapon but he's trying to parse Keiko's story and from that parse how the cult operates.

"So you found a group of people large enough to hide among. But you clearly didn't stay there. You moved north. Out of Central America, Mexico and into the US."

Why New York, though?

"I do, occasionally but Seattle is a long way away and Honolulu is even further. I usually only get out there on holidays." Sometimes. When he's not tied up halfway across the world. Sometimes the tied up is literal.

"I think he thought he could trap me in them, leave me weak and bind me more easily. I … don't know, Agent Turner. I don't know how I got away. But yes, I kept moving, farther away from where I started and into centres where there were lots of people, lots of noise."

Why New York? Maybe it's just where she stopped most recently. Has Koa checked her immigration status? It's likely she isn't documented.

"Don't take your family for granted, Agent Turner. Spend what time you can with them. One day, they'll be taken from you."

Koa had and naturally he hadn't found much but the WAND agent didn't really think much of that. Lots of mystics and magical creatures have questionable citizenship papers. It seems to come with the territory. "So you moved to the most populous city in North America bar none to try and stay lost."

And then, by cruel mischance they started taking kids. In this city. Likely in others as well.

"Well that's kind of grim. You're right of course. No one lives forever. You… regret not having time with yours?"

"I stopped here, yes. About a year ago. I wasn't sure how long I would stay. It seemed safe, so I did." She lets out a breath and looks out the window, not meeting Koa's eyes. "I was going to leave when I saw the children going missing. Just move on, you know? Keep ahead of them."

"Maybe I should have. I won't go back, Agent Turner, if they try to take me."

"Grim?" That seems to draw her from her reverie and she looks at the Agent again. "Sorry. It's the truth. I … don't remember my parents, I don't know if I regret it, I sometimes wonder though …. what it might have been like."

"Different." Koa says. "It would have been different. But that's always true. We leave behind a succession of paths behind us. Roads not taken. Who can say what would have happened if things turned out differently."

The agent sighs. "For what it's worth I'm not sure you would have been safe anywhere else. And if you had left, I'd be working in the dark here. Trying to figure out who was taking these children and why, rather than working on how to stop them."

"I suppose you're right." Keiko answers, looking at the unfinished schwarma on her plate and picking it back up again, starting to eat again. It's more automatic now - she knows that she has to feed her body to remain strong.

"You likely wouldn't have known, Agent Turner. And we don't know we can stop them. But I stayed because I didn't want anyone else to go through what I've been through."

"Thank you for sharing your story."

"Thank you for sharing yours. I imagine it was… painful to think on." Koa takes another sip of his drink and checks his phone. Then frowns.

"Do you ever check your bank notifications? We've got like three payments for your services pending that you need to accept. They'll time out if you don't do that."

She's got what that's going to what now?"

The only answer Koa gets to his thanks is a small, faint, smile. She might not sleep well for a few nights until she can put it behind her.

"My what?" She looks honestly confused at the question. "Bank notifications? The emails that say I have money? Those … are spam aren't they?"

"Uh, well some of them will be. But doesn't your bank have an app?" Koa had thought he saw that on their website. He makes a motion, asking if she'll let him look at her phone.

"The e-mails might be spam but your bank's app should be pretty safe. You spend a fair amount of time helping us at a fair amount of risk. You didn't think we were just expecting you to take a write off on that, did you?"

"Doesn't my bank have a … what?" Keiko looks a little blankly at Koa, already fishing her phone out to give to him. He knows more about that damn thing than she does.

"I uh… didn't know what to think. It's not like we had a contract or had negotiated. I just happened to be there, didn't I - and you thought I'd caused some of the things that had happened."

"I can't say the money wouldn't be helpful. Between the negative reviews on YELP and Craiglist and having to reschedule so often lately, I'm not sure I'll be able to eat much this month."

Keiko dropped Tool Box.

"We don't like letting helpful people starve." Beat. "Also it's illegal for us to get work out of you without paying you. Didn't you READ any of the paperwork I gave you?"

Koa muck huffs. "Do you want more? I'm going to get another drink. And maybe some falafel."

Keiko flushes at the question and becomes very involved in her food. That hit a nerve and then some. "Some of it. The bits that I could. Most of it … " she shakes her head.

"Uh. Yes, please. I'm still hungry."

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