2019-05-05 - Wormwood - Where Mortals Lost Control


Ambrose drops round to decode the tablet and leaves horrified by his hosts. It was a good night.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sun May 5 09:23:37 2019
Location: 74-36 62nd Street

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The Kerensky residence is a charming old brownstone in Queens. It isn't too hard to find, both because Ulric and Natasha Kerensky - also known as Fenris and Astryd - can be found in the phone book AND because if one is sensitive to esoteric things, the dread that hangs about this place is almost palpable.

Tonight, though, there is dinner. Fenris doesn't know what Astryd has made but it smells wonderful. He is just coming out from the back. There's a lot of ways he can poke and prod at the weave of fate and some of them require quiet and meditation.

"Expecting a visitor tonight." He says with a smile as he goes to pour the wine.

That's probably why he's hanging about the door. To let the expected visitor through when he arrives.


Alive long enough in the world to let his curiosity have free reign rather than let ennui deal him a foul hand, Ambrose bites the bullet and thumbs through the yellow pages. Having been given a proper lecture about the potential idiocy of this decision and weathering it as he usually does, he's shown up at the brownstone's door this evening. Wearing a black windbreaker and equally dark fatigue pants, he's at least combed his hair and shaved earlier in the day.

A lick of his lips is nerves on display (oh, that dread is a gnarled pit in his stomach) and after a glance to one side in what could be distraction, he lifts his hand to knock on the wooden panel thrice.


"And there he is, my heart." Astryd calls from the kitchen as Fenris does the honours of the opening the door.

The smells are delicious. Something … italian, by the mix of smells. A nice full ragu, something lighter. Garlic and pepper, bacon and beef. The blonde seems to be cooking up a storm.

She exits the kitchen, just as the man comes through the door, an apron tied around her waist. For a formidable woman, who looks ever so stern, it is surprisingly domesticated. "Welcome to our home, Ambrose. It is a pleasure to have you here."

Fenris opens the door. He's… remarkably normal looking, really. Collared shirt, rolled up sleeves. "Ambrose. Come in. You're just in time for dinner." All of this is, well… yeah. Mortal. Normal. It's not even clear that these two NEED to eat. Though Fenris does so enjoy doing so.

"Would you prefer to look at the tablet before or after? We're a bit old school with our hospitality so if you'd like not to mix dinner and work that's certainly fine."

"I trust you didn't have any trouble finding us?" Despite the normality of the situation that predatory aura doesn't go away. The way the situation looks and the way it feels just… do not match.


The master-thief does roll a half-step back from the opening door, but still steels himself at the sight of Fenris. He inclines his head at the invitation, never dropping the other man's eyes, and replies to the note of dinner,

"…Fenris." The delay is because he's actually forming the name on his tongue and for the flicker of disbelief at it. The brunet rallies quickly enough. "Thank you kindly, I shall — and good timing indeed." Ambrose does walk into the brownstone with a cautious step and experienced attention will note how he marks every exit in the room as if very ready to come to blows at any moment. Old habits die hard. Astryd's appearance does garner a small smile from him and he inclines his head to her as well, archaic by dint of lingering tilt. "Mil — Astryd," he corrects himself though not before allowing himself more of a smirk that fades just as quickly as he glances over at Fenris.

"'Old school' is a welcome thing. One rarely has need to intermingle work with dinner, so let us dine. I had little trouble finding you," he adds. "After all, you were in the yellow pages as I was informed." The Jackal still swallows visibly.


"Dinner it is then." Astryd smiles and gestures "Please take a seat and I'll serve it up. Fenris has chosen the wine for the tonight, I trust you'll like it."

The blonde disappears for a little bit before returning with plates laden with pasta and bowls with various sauces. "Please, choose what you like. I wasn't sure of your tastes so I tried to get a range of most things." It does smell good.

Dinner is a pleasant affair. Fenris and Astryd speak about local events, history, indulge Ambrose' curiosity if he wishes to ask questions. They ask a bit about him, but only to the point of polite chatting and not interrogating or digging. At the end of the meal Fenris breaks out some stronger spirits - Nine Thunders Brew sake from the Amatsukami - and goes to get the stone tablet that they were hoping Ambrose can help with while Astryd breaks out the dessert.

"Well, I must say you do your ancestors credit. Not many have just good old fashioned proper manners anymore. Ah here we are. The topic of the evening."

In better light and with time to look at it, the tablet is old and weathered and not carved on any natural stone. It's surface is black, so black that it seems to suck in the light around it, almost dimming the room a bit when it is revealed.


With marked reserve and manners, Ambrose does seat himself at the table. The spread to be scented and arriving is enough to make his eyebrows rise high upon his face. "I am honored, Astryd, thank you for…for considering my tastes. I admit, bechamel sauce is something I cannot resist." He serves himself up and once the wine is poured for all, lifts his glass. "To the hosts of the home: may it, and you, be ever prosperous." Sipping at the wine, he mulls it about before smiling to himself. "Rather good, if I do say so myself."

Time does indeed pass in talk at the table — the Jackal learned the art of it long ago, in the foreign courts of Basra, and fields questions with enough answer to slake curiosity without depthful revelation. Once Fenris doles out samplings of the harder liquor as well as the compliment, Ambrose does dare a thin smile at the man.

"My parents did intend for me to be a gentleman at one point," he allows quietly before he sips at the Nine Thunders brew. A little cough. "This is…singular." The distraction comes in the tablet itself. He sits up in his chair in plain interest and sets aside the glass of Amatsukami-based brew. "If I may…?" An open hand and pupils that flash carmine betray his near-fanaticism in regards to the inscription.

Given not but a few minutes of thoughtful silence (and a drag of finger along its surface almost possessive as he reads to himself, mouth reviving the dead language silently), he glances up between the Valkyr and Wolf.

"It's convoluted, but I believe I've made sense of it. There is a being, Mephisto, a Devil Lord, who once had a bow. He no longer has this bow." A light tap-tap of fingertip on the tablet's surface. "This bow is apparently in a place of darkness, beyond where the sun rises. It does not come for free. It speaks of a sacrifice in order to touch it. Always a sacrifice…" he mutters to himself as if he disapproves, frowning down at the script. "There are two other tablets. One with the aforementioned Devil Lord and another in Midgard. Earth," he clarifies unnecessarily. "Where mankind lost control of Wormwood."

He scratches at his jaw offhandedly, still staring at the script. "Of course, it also comes with the usual plethora of issues regarding a failure to retrieve it. Plague, famine, war, death — the four Horseman might as well ride again. Dreadfully woeful stuff," and the Jackal clicks his tongue as he glances up again. "All we're missing is a plague of frogs." The thin smile is darkly amused.


"It has been many years since I experienced such manners." Astryd murmurs. The table is soon cleared and she lets her attention turn to the tablet, listening carefully as the scholar expounds. "Mephisto doesn't have the bow. I can't say I'm surprised." She frowns at the references, shaking her head. "Where the sun rises? That might be a reference to Japan, perhaps? I'd be guessing but a good place to start would be Mephisto's realm. I … could get there. It won't be easy or … cheap." And she doesn't money, either.

"Wormwood? I … have heard of this but can't place the reference. Fenris? Do you know of this place?" beat "That's a lot of information, Sir Ambrose, I hate to ask if it says more, but does it?"

"You know a way to Mephisto's realm?" Fenris says, quirking his brow at Astryd. This he did not know, or if he had known it…

"Well that's all a bundle of joy isn't it Ambrose. I'm not sure I really expected differently. Mortal seers seem to delight in recording dooms. What do you make of it?" The man clearly has some connections with the 'spooky' end of the block so the Old Wolf is interested in what he thinks.

"The place where the mortals lost control of Wormwood. Sounds almost Biblical. Though it does ring a bell… what is it… what is it…"

It will come to him, Astryd knows.

"I wonder if we need one of the tablets to find the bow, or both…"


Leaning back in his chair, Ambrose glances between the two supernaturals as they discuss. He brings the Nine Thunders brew to his lips again and takes a small sip, already very aware of what tingling it's brought to his toes and fingertips with no more than two mouthfuls. At Astryd's query, he looks down at the tablet again. His brows meet as he reads through the ancient script again, half-listening to Fenris's words.

Another light taptap of his fingertip on the tablet's surface. "Please, just Ambrose. I left the title of 'Esquire' in the desert sands long ago," he says firstly, quietly, firmly. "Lieutenant Atherton if you must. And you may need both tablets." His ocean-blue eyes flick between his hosts. "I'd hazard that you will because no one intends to have a legendary relic taken from under their nose without risk and retaliation at hand. Gods become especially annoyed, apparently." A wry snort. "There are a few fine details scattered throughout this poetic morosity — a reference to…guardians, of course, in the Devil Lord's realm. Three, I believe, each wielding an aspect of element and…of dreams? No, that can't be correct." Ambrose leans in to squint at the tablet. "…death? No, dreams. Sleep, I suppose."

He sighs as he leans back again. "Given the brushes I've had with the mystical over my years, I would recommend you be wary. That, and employ a competent team of individuals if you truly intend to seek this relic. It won't drop into your hands like a ripe peach plucked."


Astryd quiets as Fenris asks about Mephisto's realm, nodding slowly, disinclined to say much but she does. "It was long ago, Fenris. Before we were reunited I believe. When I was learning to walk the Ways. I found Mephisto's realm by accident, or so I believe. He found … me. It didn't go well and one of the places that I prefer not to tread. But I know how to get there and what *might* be required to win access, at least."

"We have a christian bible, my heart. In the bookshelf in your study. Might that help?" Strange thing for a pair of Norse dieties to have, right?

Ambroses warning has Astryd chuckling. "Leuitenant, I shall remember that and use it at the most inopportune moment, Ambrose. I shall have a team, of course. You'll be one of them." No request. It's such a confident statement.

"Ah so we do, love. A moment." Fenris nods to Astryd and gets up to retrieve the book from his study. He returns and starts to page through, looking for something.

"Three guardians you say. Wielding the elements and… sleep. A curious trio. In Mephisto's realm no less. That makes Astryd's team all but a necessity. I wonder if we might not get by better with craft than by force of arms there…" Sneaking is not something that Fenris is especially good at but he recognizes the value of stealth and light fingers for some things.

"Ah yes. And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood and many men died from the water because it was made bitter."

The Old Wolf closes the book. "Revelations. Do you know what the word for Wormwood is in Ukranian?"

Fenris looks between the two of them and cracks a thin smile. "Chernobyl."


It's about the time that Fenris returns with the book that Ambrose breaks in his staring at the Valkyr. His mouth, hanging slightly open, closes before he starts in with,

"Excuse me, madame, but did you just claim — " The master-thief falls briefly silent to listen to the text read aloud. He rolls the bottom of the drinking glass in his hand on the table, the sound muted, and eyebrows rather imperiously at the loftiness of it all.

"Chernobyl," he echoes flatly. "The site of the nuclear meltdown." He scoff-laughs once and lifts his spare hand to press it against his chest. "And you wish me to attend upon this preordained fracas? I may live to see this world burn itself to ashes, so don't begin in on the fate of it." A lifted finger is shook, tsk-tsk. "The tablets, beginning with this one — I shall take them as payment. They belong in their home countries, not anywhere else, including other realms beyond our own." Thus, the Jackal's demands are laid. He might look cool as a cucumber, but within, he's trembling at his own damn audacity.


Astryd sees Ambrose staring and returns it with an ever so serene gaze. She might know what he's thinking, the smirk implies that, certainly. Then he speaks, and the smile grows. "You are excused. And yes I did. You are part of my team. I have claimed you. I need the best, if I'm going to do this and you, sir, are one of the best I've met in many years."

It's so final and assured.

"Chernobyl, Fenris?" She frowns, thinking on that as she lets Ambrose process her words further. "Where mankind lost control of Midgard…. Do they mean the reactor there? Or just the city, I wonder." She doesn't seem concerned about any of that.

Her cold grey eyes turn to The Jackal again as his demands are laid out so cooly. "When we have finished with them, if they survive, you may have them. But only then." Fenris might choose to toy with the scholar a little more, though.

"Astryd." Fenris says with a chuckle. "There is that 'free will' thing we keep running into with mortals?"

Astryd is a rather… military person. Polite, yes, but even after all these years more accustomed to giving orders where the younger races are concerned.

In any event no he's not toying with Ambrose. Well, maybe torying a little.

"Your skills seem to be equal to the task though. And you do keep running into us rather mysteriously which does make me think it is to some degree fated. Fortunate for us. Your bargain is well considered. We will surrender the tablets to you once they have served their purpose. Which is to say, once we have found the Godkiller and have been assured that there are no nasty surprises lurking within them."

He leans back, amused, and takes a sip of his drink.

"And yes, both of you. Chernobyl. The site of humanity's worst nuclear accident. Though I've heard rumors that the accident was a rather… secondary tragedy. It does not especially surprise me that there should be things hidden there."

Won't the other members of Astryd's team be excited. Their first destinations are a nuclear disaster zone and a hell realm.


Slumped back into his chair with hand cupping half of his face, fingers spread like spider's legs, the Jackal listens with slitted eyes. He is unamused, to say the least. A sniff and he shifts in it, reaching into the glass of liquor to spin one of the ice cubes about inside it, heedless of wetting his skin.

"Right, well…how wonderful. A nuclear wasteland, I believe they call it. What a darling idea for an excursion. It'll be like a trip to the beach, no doubt. I'll bring the sunscreen," he deadpans with a wrinkle of his nose. "And I'll have you know that you cannot claim me." He points a finger at Astryd. "I will elect to help because you have promised me the tablets once this farcical affair is complete."

His measure said, he looks between the two again, though his eyes fall to Astryd again in the end. "You mentioned a team. What's the modern phrase… I don't play well with incompetents." Not precise, but it'll do.


Astryd looks at Ambrose, then at Fenris and back to Ambrose "Let me rephrase what I said. May I request your company on these expeditions I must take? Your expertise will serve us well. Besides, who knows what else you might find as we journey?"

Oh, she's tempting him now. As a way to make amends for her previous … haughty ways.

"I am … gathering a team, yes. I will now who they are … soon. Lady Sif is one to begin with and possibly an Elf that I have yet to meet."

"You will accompany us as you can, won't you my heart?" There will be places that it's too dangerous for the God Wolf to tread, drawing undue attention when they need it least. As well as the fact he has his own journey to take as they seek to change their stars.

"We'll try not to include any." Fenris grins broadly. "Though I must confess to being curious that you're more concerned about the more earthly of the two destinations. Chernobyl may well be hell on earth. But Mephisto's realm is hell full stop."

And they have to get past guardians there. Plus whatever the Russians or Ukranians may have secreted away near the reactor.

"I will do a little more research and inquiry onto Chernobyl itself. Now that we know what we're looking for I might be able to refine the search area for you. And yes of course, Love, I will come if I can."

Sometimes things get in the way but he likes to keep up with things.

The Old Wolf does lean over to Ambrose with an almost wolfish smile. "You know she collects the souls of the dead, right? To shepherd them on? I don't know if she might decide to keep one."

Ambrose may reject Astryd's claim and it is good for her to remember to be somewhat less haughty and commanding. But it amuses Fenris to no end to let the master thief think about who might come get his immortal soul at the end of things.

"Well if that is that, shall I get us another round of drinks?"

The hospitality hasn't run out yet after all.


By the way the master-thief has his lips pursed in a muted sneer, he's truly considering breaking propriety and getting rather snotty with his hosts. He forces the consideration down along with a hefty portion of the Nine Thunders brew, the latter sure to hit him between the eyes sooner than later — hopefully, he gets home before it does.

"You may request my company, yes, madame." A beat. "Given you've offered more than the tablets alone at this point, I will agree." The notation of an elf on the team has him narrowing his eyes curiousity despite himself. Fenris's addendum is enough to make him visibly lean away from the man in return and fist a hand on the table. "Sirrah, must you!" he spits, pupils flashing again.

A glance at his watch, however, has Ambrose gathering the semi-torn shreds of his dignity. "I must decline, but I thank you for the offer, Fenris." Rising to his feet, he seems to be still fighting an inner pithy streak, but still sketches out a deep nod to each being. "I will call the number listed in the phone book for further confirmation as to details such as departure and meeting location. In the mean time, I bid you both a good evening. You were exemplary hosts." This is offered up with only the barest hint of grudge, mostly because of the aura of dread still in the pit of his stomach. With that, Ambrose does turn tail and make to excuse himself from the abode in a manner brisk without speaking to hasty retreat.


"Peace, Ambrose. He but jests. I misstepped and for that I beg your forgiveness." Astryd murmurs. Glancing to Fenris and rising as The Jackal tries to beat a retreat.

"At least take some food with you, Ambrose. We have plenty left over and …. think of it as a peace offering?" She's not sure he'll be there when she returns.

But then, they can find him easily enough. Has he thought on that?

Fenris smiles and as Ambrose leaves he nods to the man. "Peace be with you then, Ambrose. We shall speak again soon." Beat. "And our door is typically open for dinner."

Might he take that up? Well not tomorrow probably but of course who knows what the future may bring.

"Well, I'll get the godsmead then, shall I?" He says as the door shuts. "We'll see that one again. His weaves lead back here. Several times." And with that Fenris goes to break out the really strong stuff.

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