2019-04-27 - Nine Rituals And The Order of the Lunar Renewal


Koa invites Illyana and Keiko to share a find with them. He might not like the answers he gets in return.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sat Apr 27 08:12:12 2019
Location: Triskelion

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Theme Song



Koa's private office, which is to say the one that he has that ISN'T in the SHIELD building, is not a bad place. It's where he houses his private collection of artifacts and where he does a lot of his research into what they can do. It's also where he does a lot of his 'thinking' and musing and when he's on a difficult case he can often be found here working on one trinket or another while he lets things ruminate.

There had been an invitation extended to both Keiko and Illyana to come. There is, in anticipation of this, food. And booze. The food is chinese. The booze is russian.

There is also gelato. It's in the mini fridge.

Koa is at the moment not partaking of this. He's at his desk on the other side of the room from the food tinkering with a little something when…


The deflagration tosses him back against the wall with a blackened face and a charred collar.

"Ow. No… that doesn't work."

Honestly, food always makes for good bait for the queen of Limbo. Not that most people know it but she doesn't know how to cook, she doesn't really have any source of income, and Limbo's food sucks at the best of times.

"You got the anterior indicator reversed." Illyana's voice comes from over by the food where the blonde is pouring herself a drink with her back to Koa. Setting the bottle aside she picks up the glass and turns back his way, her manner relaxed and almost lazy. At least outwardly.

At least Keiko didn't get lost on her way here. That's something. She's still not using the map app that Elmo installed on her phone - that's just confusing.

With her bike secured outside, she knocks on the door and hearing the noise from within, tries the handle … and lets herself in. Her backpack held in front of her. It's … wriggling. "Agent Turner?" She says as she gets to the door, eyes widening as she sees his blackened state.

"Uh. You … Did I get your message wrong?"

"Oh. Miss Rasputina. You're here." beat "Uh. Hello."

Koa grunts and picks himself up, blinking owlishly. He grabs a wet wipe from the corner of the desk which might have been sitting there just for this reason and starts to wipe his face and neck off.

"Huh?" Such an eloquent response to Illyana's observations. That blast of flame probably should have hurt him but it doesn't seem to have. The source? A worn, smooth rock of the most ordinary looking type sitting in the middle of an 'investigation' circle.

"Miss Rasputina. Keiko. Hello, no you're fine Keiko. Help yourself to the food and vodka. I was just trying to figure out this philosophers stone. Still no luck. I've got a present for the both of you though."

The at the moment rather casually dressed agent pulls out a pair of books with worn, cracked leather spines. Both of the say 'On the Art of Living Ink.'

"Took me a whle to find decent translations, but I thought it might be of interest to both of you."

Inside, well, Illyana will recognize it as a grimoire, but one for making spells bound in ink and flesh. Keiko might recognize it differently. It's VERY similar to a book that Nightfall uses as a manual for its tattoo making. Not the same, there are variations on the recipe of the ink and the manner of the binding. And this book doesn't mention Plokta. But the layout and the instructions, all very similar.

It's in the way Illyana's brows rise a bit, and the way she stands a little straighter. Illyana likes presents.

The tumbler is set aside as the blonde moves closer, accepting the book. She takes the time to look over the book in some detail before she cracks it open. Finding something to lean/sit against, she slowly leafs through the pages. "Fascinating. Run across this while looking into the kids?"

"Alright …" Keiko eyes Illyana, still holding that wriggling satchel. "I've got … something for you. Well I think it's something you can deal with." The backpack is proving a bit of a handful and as she enters the smell of formaldehyde accompanies her.

"Philosphers Stone? You mean like Harry Potter and Nicholas Flamel?" Clearly she's seen the English versions of the movies. Has to be movies, Keiko doesn't read.

Placing the wiggling pack at her feet, she takes the book without helping herself to a drink or food. "There's … words in this." Is her first comment, though a frown draws her brow down. "Where did you say you found this?"

"Oh? Put it down on the desk I'll take a look." Koa moves the stone because he can see the bag is wriggling and that presumably means there's something alive in it.

"Yeah, there's words. It's a fifteeth century translation of a fourteenth century chinese text on the subject. That's why the art's all… stylized."

And it is. About in the middle of the book there's a pciture of a wolf not unlike Bella… but you know. Old. And Chinese. With a pair of droopy wiskers like a moustache. Because.

"I did yeah. Was doing reasearch into the history of Tattoo magic when I ran across it. I think you'll both find the inscription on the final page to be rather illuminating though for different reasons I suspect."

The final set of words are penned in a spidery hand it they say 'This grimoire was translated from the Holy Texts of the Order of the Lunar Renewal by Belasco and are committed to the care of the servants of the Mindful One in return for the mysteries of the Nine Black Virtues. Long may he live. Long may the Mindful One rule in Otherworld."

"Like Harry Pot…" Koa's brows knit together. "Why have you seen those movies but don't know how to operate a cell phone, really Keiko? But yes, kind of like that but with more transmutations and explosions and less whining teenage kids."

Illyana Rasputina arches a brow over at Keiko as the tatooed woman is eyeing her. "What? I haven't done anything!" She says, defending her (hah) innocence.

A nod is given to the satchel. "I didn't realize this was potluck. Did you want it to be nice and fresh or do we eat it while it's still alive?" The blonde's question is like she's asking after the weather. So much for not doing anything.

A frown follows Keiko's comment about the words. "Of course there are words. That's what books are for. Words." Illyana's eyes narrow a bit as she peers at Keiko. "Do you not know how to read?" Any follow-up to that is lost however as she flips to the final page and skims through the paragraph. The sorceress goes very, very still and very, very quiet.

"I didn't say you had, Miss Rasputina." Keiko answers mildly. At least Illyana hasn't suggested tribute. Yet.

"Are you sure?" Keiko looks at the pack that's wiggling at her feet before putting the book aside for a moment and hefting it up. Koa's going to have to do something, that pack just keeps moving. Across his desk to the inks he has set out on the edge. "I … I'll let Agent Turner look at it. I don't know if it's alive or dead."

Taking the opportunity, Keiko pours herself a drink - a liberal one - and returns to peruse the book she was given. "Pictures are nice." she says quietly, glancing at Illyana and that sharp question. "I know how to read a little. Mostly Spanish but I had to learn English when I got here." Take from that, reading doesn't come easily and she's probably got the literacy of a seven year old.

"I watch Netflix, Agent Turner. That's easy to do."

"The images here …" she points to a page. "… are similar to the techniques our Magi used when marking us. The formula for the ink is wrong th—-" Illyana going quiet has her glancing that way and makes her flip to the last page of her book. She pales. "The Nightfall symbol. Sort of. This is like the one that was etched on the ground in Hells Kitchen."

"It wasn't potluck. Are we supposed to eat this Keiko?" That's a bit of a tease as Koa does not expect Keiko to have brought live food to eat. He opens the satchel and… 'meow-meow.'

"Oooooh. Where'd you find this? No, no this is not a good thing to eat." That's to Illyana just so it's clear as Koa lifts a calico cat out of the satchel. A perfectly normal calico cat but for the fact that it has a second, surgically attached head. (It's siamese.)

It just hangs there for a moment and both women might see Koa getting one of his larger, lower drawers open. So he can put it inside. And lock it.

By the time he's done that both women have gone pale. And Illyana has gone rather quiet. Koa comes around the desk to lean on the corner a little.

"Yeah. The Nightfall symbol. A moon eclipsing the sun. Or in this case, actually, that's the symbol of the Order of the Lunar Renewal. They were working. With Belasco, who since you might not know Keiko, was a Splinter Lord like Sifror or Plokta. Was. Up until recently…"

Koa lets that hang for a moment. "Plokta's agents were working with Belasco… five hundred years ago. And they gave him something in return for being given Tattoo magic. He was translating something for them they couldn't translate themselves. Holy Texts. Does any of that sound familiar to either of you?"

Illyana Rasputina might normally have a joke about the two-headed cat. Or at least some questions. But not just now. Not with that writing staring up at her.

"Yeah." Illyana says finally, her tone steady but flat. Which is unusual. She usually always sounds like she's mocking someone or something. "Belasco must have done something with the original book, because it's not in my library." She says, picking something fairly neutral to talk on, as though she needs to test her voice first. "But I know the Nine." All too well.

"You know it …" The cat, Keiko means. "I don't know where it came from, it was at home one day when I came in from work." She's a bit distracted though as her finger traces the symbol in the back of the book.

"Who is Belasco? Didn't you mention him, recently, Miss Rasputina?" Koa explains and Keiko nods. "You seem a little upset, if you don't mind me saying." If only Keiko knew.

She tries to make head and tails of what Koa is actually saying. "Are you … Lord Plokta … was working with another Splinter Lord. He was translating something for them…" She's thinking. "There were scrolls our Magi had in our temples. They said they were sacred …"

"Uh, yeah. This little guy has been running around since sometime in the 1870's. Normally fine unless he's exposed to catnip and then he's all claws. WAND had him on lockdown but he escaped. Must have slipped out when you were visiting or through a portal at some point."

Koa glances down to make sure that the lock is holding on the drawer - it is - and then looks back up.

"I'm a little unclear on Belasco's timeline, Keiko but I'm not entirely sure he was a Splinter Lord at that time. He did become one at some point and it's possible that he had some manner of rapport or mutually beneficial relationship with Plokta. The fact that they had dealings going back that far - even if it was through agents - suggests to me that they had found some common ground. Though…"

Koa makes a face. "… it's tough to know sometimes when beings like that are working together and when they're using or cheating one another."

"Miss Rasputina has a… personal knowledge of the man." Koa says quietly. "What I'm curious about… if I'm not pushing too hard… is what the Nine Black Virtues are. I have never heard of them before but they were considered important enough to bargain powerful magic for."

Illyana Rasputina closes the book, setting it aside so she can go back to her tumbler of vodka and takes a few large swallows before moving over to sit down. She hasn't even made a plate of food, which should be a sign of the apocalypse. An apocalypse, at least.

The blonde woman looks between the pair of them and she's clearly considering what, if anything, she's going to say. Finally, she blows out a long sigh through her nose. "Being the ruler of Limbo was actually a punishment for Belasco. He'd failed a task set to him by the Elder Gods and they trapped him there. The only way he could get out would be for him to let them out of their prison." She takes another drink of her vodka, but it's more measured this time. "The Nine Black Virtues is basically a path to unlock the door on the Elder Gods prison."

Keiko listens quietly and looks back to the book. "Nine …" she says quietly. "… is a sacred for us …" She watches Illyana and flinches as that information is given.

"All of us have to undergo nine challenges. For myself, I've done … seven and they were going to put me through my eigth." Koa might draw the parrallels to that, or he might not. "The challenges are not easy and they get more difficult as we progress."

"They are rituals. The High Magi of the order say they sanctify us for our Lord."

She can draw the comparison easily enough. But … maybe she's wrong?

"Sanctify you to your Lord." Koa murmurs. He might need a drink himself in a moment. "You mean… align your souls with your Lord? I think I saw that phrasing in there somewhere in realtion to getting the tattoos." That would make it easier for Plokta to draw power from those who… ascend.

"The ones who complete all nine challenges. Are they the ones who disappear? Who are rewarded and never seen again?"

Keys. Prisons. Elder Gods. There's a lot of stuff going back and forth between these two Splinter Realms at the moment, or at least a LOT more than he'd expect to be seeing.

"I didn't think that Plokta particularly had anything to do with the Elder Gods. Why would he give them a key to their prison? Unless he thought it would benefit him somehow."

Maybe it would. With the world threatened by the elder gods, how many would turn willingly to the Mindful One? Or maybe there's something else…

"Belasco… was he still working on that key when you…?"

When she overthrew him.

The disgusted sound Illyana makes and the flat look she gives Koa is probably answer enough, but she follows it up with: "You're looking at it."

The blonde stands, draining the rest of her vodka in one swallow and goes over to refill the tumbler. When she speaks again, it's in an almost snide sort of mocking, quite different from her usual amused mocking. "And the world should be safe, as long as I don't decide 'fuck it' and finish the ritual."

"It's not just the Tattoo Bearers, Agent Turner. All of us who are taken, undergo the rituals. There's nine rituals that for each … caste, if you like." It's kind of horrifying, really. To think about that.

"Most, yes. Our High Magi are said to have to undergone the ninth and final ritual. They go to reside with our Lord for a time and then are returned. But more go than come back." Keiko's watching Illyana very carefully.

She knows danger when she sees it and Illyana is dangerous.

"Could the ritual be finished against your will, Miss Rasputina?"

"Unless someone decides to forge a new key." Koa mutters. His eyes widen slightly when Keiko asks if the ritual could be finished against her will. He hadn't considered that possibility even if his mind had grasped the notion of starting the process over.

"The question I think, though, is WHY an earlier version of the Nightfall would have been willing to hand something like that over. Does the Nightfall keep records that we might… get from them? Or… did Belasco keep anything in the library?"

This isn't just idle curiosity on Koa's part. He suspects the answers to this question might be important and not just to Keiko and Illyana. He wonders too, that if there was this connection five hundred years ago what other connections there might be. And in what ways these two women's private hells might have been influenced by the other's. That's not his place to ask though.

Not yet.

It's telling that Koa doesn't ask if she will say 'fuck it'. In their interactions, Illyana seems to have earned that consideration at least. That he doesn't think she will. Or… not any time soon.

Illyana Rasputina tilts her head side to side in an indecisive sort of manner. "Yes and no. I mean, Belasco completed five of the nine rituals. But I have to be complicit to some degree. He can only complete the ritual when I complete certain… tasks. He also would need access to the Heart to perform it at, and that involves getting into my citadel." There's pretty obviously *large* portions of this story that aren't very clear and Illyana doesn't seem particularly inclined to share.

As to formerly-Belasco's library, she gives a shake of her head. "It's been a long time since I read through his books. Maybe?" Even if it was there and she read it, it was likely couched as something else and she wouldn't have knew it was important.

If Koa had mentioned he thought the Nightfall, or Plokta, was a private hell for Keiko, she might look at him with confusion.

"Records from the Nightfall?" Keiko frowns. "I … don't think they would be here, Agent Turner. Not in New York. In the temple, maybe… " The temple. Does she even know where that is?But she's thinking. "They've sent more Magi to New York though and they must have something … to mark the children."

She nods slowly "They might, yes. But I'll have to find the Magi and then steal them."

And she doesn't want to put herself anywhere near those people.

"Heart?" Keiko picks up on that, at least. "Your Heart?" it doesn't make sense but the blonde might be talking in euphemisms.

It might confuse Keiko that Koa thinks that being held in a cult and brainwashed and subjected to magical tattooing processes possibly designed to alter the nature of one's soul could be a private hell. It was all she knew after all. But he does. And… it might well be.

"We might need them, Keiko. That might be an important question…" And if she doesn't want to put herself anywhere near those people, then perhaps she can arrange it so that someone else will do the dirty work. Or at least… go with her.

"Near the Heart…" Koa's brow furrows. "The Heart…"

That's actually something that's escapted WAND's notice about Limbo, not that this is surprising. There are a LOT of things that have escaped WAND's notice about Limbo.

Koa doesn't press directly. Neither does he offer sympathy, directly. His instincts, such as they are, tell him very firmly not to. Instead he levers himself off his desk and collects glasses, returning with three tumblers of vodka. One for the blonde, one for the brunette and one for him.

"So, unlikely you think…"

But possible. And that's not really something Koa wants to consider. But he has to.

"Limbo's Heart." Illyana clarifies. To be fair, not many are aware of Limbo's Heart, even in the Occult world. "It's essentially the locked door to the Elder Gods prison." At least one of them. It tends to be the only one that Illyana is invested in. Literally.

The blonde accepts the glass with a nod instead of thanks and takes a step back, turning away. A stepping disk opens like a door in one of the office walls and Illyana walks towards it without a word. She needs time to think this over and what few (human) social skills she has sort of tank when she's got a lot on her mind.

It is all that Keiko has known and she's only been out for a few years. Private hell? Perhaps. She certainly has her own demons to deal with.

"I'll … I'll see what I can do, Agent Turner." The womans eyes float to that bottom drawer where he's locked the kitten. Maybe she wants it back - something to cuddle and all.

When Illyana leaves so … quickly, she just blinks. "I uh … I can get going as well." Somehow. She'll work out how to get those scrolls.

As Illyana leaves Koa picks up the copy of the book she'd left behind and tosses it after her. She might need it. He has no idea if that actually WORKS but it doesn't appear to be in his office when the disk closes. Though… he might find it under the couch later, or something like that.

"Why don't you get a bit more to eat first, Keiko." Koa says. "You can tell me about exactly how you found that cat and whether or not it has anything to do with your Yelp review. That is, if you can stand the sound of me not quite blowing myself up a couple more times."

One of these days, possibly, he'll have something to talk about with these two that is NOT horrific. But today, sadly, is not that day.

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