2019-04-28 - Unbranding


Oathbreaker, meet Brandbreaker.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sun Apr 28 18:30:38 2019
Location: Shadowcrest - Interior

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Theme Song



So, it's been a little while. Things get busy sometimes, it happens. Unfortunately, it's probably easier to feel the slow passage of time from one moment to the next when a person is carrying a brand on their chest stuck there by an angry Egyptian god.

Either way, it's a good thing when Zatanna texts: 'jean! figured out the brand thing. come over whenev'

It'd be no secret to the telepathic mutant that Zatanna lives in the creepy old Victorian mansion in Westchester that longtime residents seem to believe just APPEARED one day, though no one can verify that by means other than their own memories, and at that point it becomes a Berenstain/Berenstein thing.

Zatanna is at the front door to greet her guest. She's got her hair tied back and up into a messy bun with two pencils stuck in it crossways. There's also a black sleeveless bodysuit and baggy black pants that look somewhere between canvas and linen and really comfortable without actually being pajamas. For once, she's not in heels, so she seems a little bit shorter than she normally would. In fact, she's barefoot.

Jean's been waiting patiently. After all 'branded by ancient Egyptian god' isn't the sort of thing you just drop on someone and expect to be solved immediately, let alone when that person is also dating the person you've had a crush on for your entire life and apparently your kids just showed up from the future and hey, graduation is in a couple weeks…

Jean's had bigger things on her mind than mystical brands.

That said, she's quick to show up when Zee says she's ready, dressed in sweatpants and an oversized tank top with the institute's logo over her heart. "Hey," she greets with a small smile, stepping forward to try to deliver a hug even as she glances down at Zee's feet. "Wow. I was starting to think your feet were just built like Barbie's," she teases.

"Heyyy~," Zatanna coos, leaning in to receive the hug. She looks down at her own feet and laughs. "Nope, just an illusion," she says with a stagey wink and then a grin. The door to Shadowcrest opens without anyone touching it, and Zatanna holds her hand out to offer Jean the privilege of going in first. "C'mon in."

Inside, the house has… energy. It's mystical energy, yes, but a powerful enough telepath can probably pick up on the change in the air to a degree. Even a telekinetic — the objects in the house 'feel' slightly different than ones from the outside, in a way that would never make sense to anyone who doesn't move things around with their mind. "C'mon, I've got it all set up in the library."

Zatanna leads Jean up stairs and through corridors and eventually it might get kind of dizzying. It'd be easy to imagine Scott, of all people, hating this place: the geometry never seems to square away properly. The place seems to go on forever in a way that seems impossible when looking at it from the outside. Windows show views that are most definitely not Westchester outdoors. Sometimes the doors almost seem to have voices coming from behind them, like in a scary movie. Zatanna herself seems totally unperturbed: after all, this is her house.

Jean looks around as she follows Zee, taking in all the oddities of the house. "Interesting home you have," she observes, a faint smile quirking as she glimpses a window that shouldn't be there. "Suits you."

There's a slight nervousness about her - this is all new and strange, no matter how normal she tries to feel about it. But she presses on, hands in her pockets. "Thank you again, by the way. I'm sure this isn't easy. And the research wasn't easy. I talked to Hod a bit. He said it's probably not something that can be fixed for him or Sif without getting to the root of the problem. Something about…things that are meant to be permanent not sticking to temporary beings like humans quite as well."

"Really, all it took was TIME," Zatanna says. "I'll be honest with you. So much of the stuff here in my house was my Dad's — but especially the library. I've read hundreds of books in there and I feel like I haven't even made a dent in all the stuff that's packed away in there…" As if on cue, Zatanna stops at a door that looks like every other door. She breathes out as she turns the knob, and as she turns it, it sounds like a lock is disengaging. Through the doorway: the library.

The Zatara family library is a room that's like the size of a brownstone in Manhattan unto itself. There are two 'floors', with bookcases going up twenty feet, and then a balcony, and then bookcases going up twenty feet again. All of them are packed with… stuff. Leatherbound editions. Slim pamphlets. Manuscripts. Ancient scrolls, probably… In the center of it all is a desk where a manuscript that looks like it was written out on handmade paper something like a zillion years ago is opened to a page that's in some language that doesn't even begin to resemble the English alphabet. There are a few chairs around, and next to the manuscript, Zatanna's got what appears to be a jar of… blue jam…?

"How many languages do you read?" Jean asks as she steps inside, quirking a brow over at Zatanna. "Or do you have like a…magic translating magnifying glass that you just hold over things and you can read it?" Apparently either of these things are equally possible in Jean's mind. Her hands got a little deeper into her pockets - there is no way she's touching anything here unless she's directly told to.

Zatanna just shrugs and laughs at the question. "I know a few. But yeah, I have something like that. Especially since a lot of the stuff in here isn't really… They're not LIVE languages, let's say." Zatanna gestures toward the book. "So I'll walk you through it."

Zatanna steps closer to where the manuscript is opened. "You can have a seat, by the way. The chairs are just chairs. I think Dad got them in the mystical bartering hub of 'Philadelphia.'" She grins. "Anyway. So. I spent a while brewing this stuff up." She picks up the jar of blue goo. "I'm gonna write some sigils over the oath in it, and there's some incantations to say along with it. I'll be up front: this ritual doesn't say whether or not it hurts. So… I mean, I can find a leather belt for you to bite or something, if you're worried about that." Zatanna sounds like she's not too worried. Or like she's covering it up by making jokes.

"Simple enough, right? It should be." Zatanna opens the jar. "So, uh, shirt off. Gotta get this right on the brand. Sorry. It's gonna feel cold. And tingly. Just think of it like magic Icy-Hot."

"Ah yes. The great halls of Philadelphia," Jean agrees with a nervous flicker of a smile. "I've heard tales of this place." Noted: Chairs are safe. Gingerly, she lowers herself into one of the non-mystical chairs, ruffling a hand through her hair. "Coooool. I'll…" She looks around the library, full of rare and irreplaceable texts. "I'll try to keep things under control." When Jean gets stressed, sometimes some very dangerous things start to happen.

She quirks a brow at the 'shirt off' part, but hey. It's not like she didn't grow up in a giant dorm. With Raven wandering around being…Raven now and then. She pulls the tank top off, carefully hanging it over the edge of the chair by one shoulder before she turns back to Zee.

Zatanna doesn't seem too enthused about the 'shirt off' part, herself. She actually looks pretty apologetic about it, and turns away until Jean's ready. After getting a fingerful of mysterious blue ooze, Zee… stares at Jean's collarbone for a seocnd, and lets out the kind of sigh that really seems like not the reaction you want to someone looking at you with your shirt off, you know?

"Sorry," Zatanna says after a second. "I keep seeing the brand in English, and I'm trying to focus on keeping it in the, you know, Egyptian, because I need to get these sigils right between the pictoglyphs…" She reaches out and draws a little squiggle on Jean's skin in blue, and then dabs her finger in blue stuff again and adds more lines to the squiggle. "There," she says, and repeats the process two more times for a total of three sigils drawn. "There, and… there."

"Okay, it doesn't hurt too bad, does it? My finger's kinda buzzing, I can only imagine how you're feeling…" Zatanna looks over at the text, and once she gets the go-ahead, she holds her hand like an inch hovering over the sigils she drew and starts reading. The language sounds weird and guttural, like she's both speaking from her diaphragm and trying to dislodge a pretzel from her throat all at once. This is probably not how real ancient Egyptians sounded.

If anything, Zee's sigh seems to amuse Jean, putting her more at ease. Less awkward than 'nice rack,' at least. "Icy-hot was a pretty good description," she says once the symbols have been drawn on, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. As Zee starts to chant, Jean actually shifts to sit cross-legged, hands palm up on her knees. Focus. Meditate. Try to stay centered no matter what happens next.

Zee's little speech in what sounds like Klingon doesn't go on very long. Maybe two eight-line stanzas, if someone's bothering to do the scansion on what she's saying. Right as she says the last syllable, Zatanna closes the hand hovering over Jean's chest into a tight fist.

That's when the meditation might come in handy, as Zatanna's not just holding a fist out to be a weirdo: she's got hold of something and she's gripping onto it. And then she starts to pull. It's a feeling like Zee just dug her fingers under every single layer of Jean's skin, down to the muscle, and is now attempting to slowly peel it away, like someone trying to rip a label off of something without tearing it. "Ah, c'mon, c'mon," Zatanna all but growls, before the world's worst magical band-aid removal finishes, and Zatanna plunges her fingers into the jar of blue stuff, like she's trying to drown whatever she just pulled off in it. She keeps her hand held there, and it seems like she's struggling against something for a moment, in a weird way that's kind of like someone doing a weird puppet show.

Every muscle in Jean's body tenses when Zee starts to pull on the brand, her teeth grinding as she clenches her jaw against a shout. For a split second, Zee may feel like she's actually fighting a physical force to get close enough - like something is pushing back at her. That's as long as it takes for Jean to lock down on the instinctive press of her abilities. After that, she's focusing on keeping everything about herself under control while Zee deals with the magic. She's breathing hard while Zee struggles with the invisible in the goo.

After about twenty seconds, Zatanna settles down, and the jar does, too. She slops her hand out of the jar and groans, "You okay?" Zee sets the jar down and comments, aloud, "Slewot." A pair of towels drop down out of thin air — one into Jean's lap, and one right into Zee's waiting hand. "Sorry, I thought it'd be more like… uh… peeling a sticker off an orange, you know?" She gives a rueful smile, and then starts to clean off her hand. "I think my fingers are numb," she notes, almost under her breath.

Only after Zee takes her hand out of the jar does Jean peel open one eye, letting out a careful breath and glancing down at herself. "I take it that means it worked?" she asks, picking up the towel but not wiping anything off just yet. "Is it- I mean, I can…wipe it off without ruining it?" Hey, at least she respects the magic.

Zatanna looks at Jean for a long moment, again seeming to stare right at her mutant pal's collarbone, before giving a thumbs-up. "You're good. Yeah, you can get cleaned up. Sorry about that." Zatanna keeps wiggling her fingers even after cleaning them off. It probably makes sense for a stage magician to not be too happy about any loss of sensation in those famously dextrous digits.

"So, you're no longer an oath breaker — or, well, maybe you are, but now it's just yours and my secret," Zatanna says with a grin. "I mean, if you run into that god again, he might recognize you on sight, but it's a funny balance sometimes because, like, they're so powerful and all-seeing and so on and so forth, but you kinda have to think we're just grains of sand to them. How do you tell grains of sand apart?"

"Thanks," Jean sighs with relief, wiping off the goo and pulling her shirt back on. "You gonna be okay?" Standing up, she comes over to get a look at Zee's hand as well. The last thing she'd want is for Zee to have been hurt while helping her. "I'm going to try not to wander directly into murder scenes in the future," she adds, rueful. "Seems like a good place to start."

"It'll pass," Zatanna says with a smile. "It's just some numbness from spending too long with my fingers dunked in that stuff. And if it doesn't go away, I'll give Doctor Strange a call." The smile turns into a grin. "See, even I have someone in my phone for when I need magic help," she teases.

"C'mon, I'll walk you out. It's really easy to get lost in here if the house doesn't respect you yet." Zatanna says that patently insane thing as if it's the most normal fact in the world about houses. "I mean, the place isn't alive or anything, but… it's not NOT alive, either, if you know what I mean? And if you don't know what I mean, don't worry about it. Just don't go running through the halls unsupervised until you've been here a couple times." Zatanna winks again, and laughs, draping an arm on Jean's shoulders.

Of course, as they're walking to the front door, one thing becomes clear: as much as Zatanna has… PASSABLE telepathic shielding, she's really worried about something. Not for Jean's sake, but for her own. That's as much of an ambient sense as she gives off, that kind of worry radiating out of her head like the squiggly lines of a Spider-sense. Must be something big! But at the same time, she doesn't show a single outward sign of it…

Jean doesn't seem to find the idea of a sentient house all that odd, especially given the general 'feel' of the house in her head. That all tracks just fine. But the discomfort coming off of Zee is another matter. Even without her powers, Jean has a tendency to pick up on things. She slows her steps just a bit, turning to put both hands on Zee's shoulders. "Hey," she says quietly, trying to catch her gaze. "First of all, thank you. Second of all…what's up?"

Zatanna raises her eyebrows at Jean's question, like it takes her a second to be like, 'Oh, wait, right, you can do that.' "O-oh." Zatanna has to let out a laugh, but it's the kind of laugh that someone makes when they're uncomfortable.

"Look, trust me, it's… It's nothing, okay?" Zatanna doesn't resist the hands on her shoulders, but her own hands tuck into the pockets of her baggy pants, like the way Jean did when entering the library. "There's… a chance… not a promise, or anything, but a CHANCE… that because I got rid of your brand… the god that put it on you will be made aware of it." Zatanna breathes out. "If I know gods, and I do, a little, I don't think he'd go back after you. He'd come for me, because I defied him by breaking the brand. And then I'd get 'BRANDBREAKER' written across my boobs or something. Or something… I dunno. Look. It's magician stuff. Don't worry about it. Okay?" Zatanna smiles, but once someone's seen behind the curtain of how the magician does her tricks, those tricks might seem less impressive.

"Zee!" Jean's hands tighten on her shoulders, lips twisting in a grimace. Oddly enough, it looks a lot like Scott's worry face. "Zee. You should have told me." Sighing, she leans in for another hug, offering what reassurance and apology she can in a single gesture. "We're going to do what we can to finish this. Hopefully before any stupid, weird, confused gods decide to come after you."

Zee's hands come out of her pockets and she returns the hug with a kind-of-awkward-but-not-too-much-so pat on the back. "Trust me, this is… My Dad used to get into these kinds of situations all the time, helping out the Avengers. If he can do it…" Zatanna trails off without finishing her thought.

"But knowing that I have backup helps. A lot. Thanks, Jean." Zee squeezes the hug once and then lets go. "But seriously, go out and enjoy yourself. Or ice up your pectoral muscles if you need to, I dunno. But this won't be a big deal, I'm pretty sure." Zatanna has a knack for famous last words.

"Uh huh," Jean drawls, dry, as she gives Zee a long look. "Just…call if you need anything, okay? I owe you. Big time." She takes a step back, taking one more look around the house before she makes for the door.

"Nah, you don't, this one's a freebie," Zatanna says, putting her signature stage-patter charm back into her voice. "And you call me if you notice anything, y'know, off. You know what I mean? I'd be a hell of a lousy magical cosmetic surgeon if I didn't provide any aftercare." She winks, and the door opens for Jean of its own volition… and then closes once she's gone. And Zatanna beelines right for the wine cellar, hoping the magical wards of the house are enough to keep Jean from noticing how much Zee is thinking about all the good one-liners she wanted to deliver about 'Rachel' that only came to her after the fact.

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