2020-04-07 - A Touch Of The Void


Oliver comes to visit - Ambrose loses something

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Tue Apr 7 03:37:21 2020
Location: Battery Park

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Theme Song



April, for some reason, always makes Fenris remember the First World War. Possibly because the month contains Anzac Day. And possibly just because he has memories associated with the Gallipoli landings. Fenris of course participated in both of the World Wars. As did Astryd. They watched as the world twice tore itself apart and even they wondered if it was the end. Of course it wasn't, but they remember.

At the moment, Fenris is playing his guitar and singing in Battery Park. It's a place he often goes after work to meet Astryd and have some dinner. And sometimes play guitar. At the moment he's playing an old, old song.

In Flanders' Fields the poppys blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our graves while in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved and now we lie

In Flanders' fields, in Flanders field
And now we lie in Flanders' fields

Notes lifting from the guitar travel far enough to reach the ears of a particular master-thief. He's not only out on a walk: he's patrolling and…rather daringly and defiantly out and about instead of holed up behind the warded iron fencing of the manor.

Ambrose felt the weather warranted less layers than normal; rather than the heavy long-coat, he's in a blazer and turtle neck, the first black, the latter a matte deep blue more commonly seen in the shadows of sapphires. With hands in his pockets, he does avert to take the path leading towards the guitar player and the song. Dark brows have already knitted in a cautious concern. Is it…?

He comes around the corner of the path and slowly comes to a halt. Fenris and Astryd shockingly do not register — not while the knife of memory takes him hard between the ribs. A pained flutter against his ribs, he instead backs away and behind a tree, pushing a hand to his mouth. His face scrunches and he tries swallowing down the tight lump in his throat. Hot, quick, the tears to fill his eyes, but he instead looks up into the leafing canopy and the sky beyond, lips pressed firmly shut. Nope. Not gonna cry. Not gonna cry. Maybe if he thinks it hard enough, it'll work?

From out of the darkness, another voice takes up the song. An old voice, and yet one that is ageless.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields In Flanders fields//

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields In Flanders fields
(Flanders Fields)

Loki quietly steps into the circle of light where Fenris plays this old song. The Liesmith is tonight dressed in his usual black, though tonight there's an overcoat as well, woolen and thigh length, gathered at the waist by a cloth belt.

And when the refrain is done, he actually lowers his gaze in respect for what the song represents. Even he remembers those terrible days of madness and blood, the world changed forever in the strife of the world wars.

Astryd is feeling nostalgic. This time of year does that to her. Gallipoli in the first world war and then Africa and France in World War II. It was a terrible time for the Midgardians and hard for the pair of them as they saw their demi-god children die in the wars.

The blonde is strumming a guitar as well, her voice joining with Fenris' in counterpoint as her long blonde hair falls over the side of the her face, casting it partially in shadows.

Letting the last chord die naturally, the blonde is silent for a long time before saying quietly into the air "Hello Loki, Ambrose."

Fenris lets both of his hands rest on the dark, polished wood of a very expensive koa guitar. When you're rich you can have nice things and quality instruments is one of the few things he's actually kind of a snob about. Because they really do make a difference, especially to someone who has been a musician longer than entire schools of music have existed.

"Hello Loki. Hello Ambrose." He greets along with Astryd. Loki and Ambrose aren't the only ones watching though. Across the way opposite from Ambrose is a man in a turtleneck. A very familiar man in a turtleneck.

"That was beautiful." Oliver says, stepping forward slightly but still a good forty feet away. There are unshed tears shining in his eyes. "And haunting. Sang as if you were both there."

"We were." Fenris says, turning slightly. "Hello Oliver."

"Hello Old Wolf. Hello Raven." Oliver says. "Hello Old Chum. And… Loki. So… this is slightly awkward."

Astryd no doubt sensing the aura of the Bane itself, so touched by death and glad emissary to Death, is who manages to bring Ambrose out of hiding from behind the tree — but only after he dashes his eyes as clear of tears as possible. A deep breath and he assays a smile that very nearly succeeds. Old grief is still shading those blues more bruised. Not nearly as masterful at theatrics as he thinks, Ambrose.

"Fenris, Astryd, Prince Loki," he greets quietly in turn as he walks over towards them. The fourth figure causes him to pull up short and stare. Very quickly, grief is submerged into dry ice and a politely defensive air now clings to him like hoarfrost.

"How dare you show your face." The Jackal grits out the words through half-bared teeth in Oliver's direction, having very recently dealt with another attempt on his person via the Sergeant's direction.

"Hello Fenris, Lady Astryd, Lieutenant Atherton…" And then Loki turns glacier-heart green eyes very cooly to Oliver. "Sergeant Wright."

Loki inclines his head. "We've not been formally introduced, but it almost feels like I know you, sir."

A voice behind Oliver's head whispers, Loki's voice, he can even feel the exhale of the Trickster's breath over the shell of his ear. "Methinks perhaps you're not terribly welcome here, sirrah."

Loki moves to stand with his son and his son's Raven, near to Ambrose as well, sort of forming an L shape as he keeps that cool gaze on herald of the ineffable. He also sends his senses out, stretching, seeing if there's anyone else about, cloaked by magic or illusion. Because that's a thing.

Astryds guitar is a little older than Fenris' (a lot older really because she hadn't bashed hers over the head of a criminal recently). "It's a moving song, isn't it Ambrose?" She says to the gentleman thief. "I remember the bodies that lay strewn over the fields and returning years later when the poppies were blooming…"

She had escorted so many souls on both sides of the lines during that time.

Those grey eyes come up as Oliver arrives. "We were." Is all she says to the man, putting her guitar back in it's case and taking Fenris' "You know you complain when they take so long to deliver a new instrument. Let's not be cracking this one over poor Olivers head." she says mildly.

"What can we do for you this fine evening?" The tone is pleasant, the accent of an educated, well to do, english woman.

"We'd need an eldritch horror to merit breaking my guitar again." Fenris responds to Astryd sotto vocce. He keeps his hands where they are and just… watches. Mostly he's watching between Ambrose and Oliver, seeing if they're going to go at it like a pair of angry dogs.

Oliver shudders a moment but stiffens a bit. A very British response. "My name is Oliver, and I do not doubt that… Lieutenant Aetherton… would prefer I were not here. Likely Fenris and Astryd as well. I actually didn't mean to be I was just passing by and heard the song…"

His eyes glisten again once more and then he fights it down. When Ambrose bristles there's a sense of… something. Astryd can feel it most keenly but Ambrose and Loki can as well. To the latter two it is magic that is like a touch of dry air. A hot wind from the desert. Ancient and sort of musty. What it is? Unclear but it feels… similar to the Bane if not quite the same.

Astryd can feel the difference keenly. It feels dark and empty. Like the void beyond the stars. Ageless. Hungry. All consuming.

"Your foray into the Underworlds was noticed, Ambrose. As was your presence, Astryd. Gurim has expressed a desire to meet personally…"

Fenris frowns. Meet Ambrose and Astryd personally but not him. Curious. And slightly unexpected. Not that he wouldn't want to meet him or even that he wouldn't want to meet Loki but that he WOULD want to meet Astryd.

Oliver continues to get a flat steely-blue look more sharply edged than the various knives Ambrose has hidden over his person, one revolver tucked to the small of his back. He does take note of the subtle rearranging of persona present and gains an extra haughty half-inch of studious, chilled ire about himself. Oliver's presence seems to have erased all influence of Fenris's lovely playing not minutes back. He listens, molars grinding minutely against themselves. His eyes do flick to Astryd and he too notes the absence of the Dead Wolf's presence requested.

He has little to say in response to the invitation: "How serendipitous."

The two words fall like ice cubes from his lips, crisp and cold.

"Indian food, at this time of night?" Loki pauses then, visibly thinking, hand to chin, the other hand cupping the first hand's elbow as he ponders, and then opens his eyes wide. "Oh! GURIM, apologies, Sergeant. I thought you ment garam, as in 'garam masala'." Loki's smile, is..well, not it is more of a baring of teeth and he takes a half step, just enough to place him slightly in front of Ambrose, though out of the Master Thief's line of fire.

Astryd and Fenris might find such behavior from Loki /very/ uncharacteristic, what is he playing at here?

"I'm sure you can have your people reach out to their people, the usual sort of thing." And then his gaze sharpens. "Or…could it be that /you/, Sergeant, are the errand boy?"

Astryd gives Oliver a steely grey stare. "You might have that opportunity, my heart." She says sotte voca in return to Fenris. She can feeling the void in the man and it actually scares her but she doesn't show that, not at all.

"I have the Father, why would I want the son?" The Valkyrie responds rather mildly. She's poking the bear, she knows that and it's dangerous but she's hopeful it will break the reserve.

"Perhaps you should tell us what the agenda of the meeting would be?"

She snorts "Garam marsala. That's clever, Loki and maybe I'll do that as a snack when we get home."

"It is, yes." That power. It's straining at Oliver now. He watches Ambrose carefully and he can see the man's cast shift. Leaner. Gaunter. Not by much but very much the look of a survivor in the desert. Or just enough to give that impression. And behind his eyes? Something hungry. Something ancient.

"Alea iacta est." He says quietly to the other old British soldier.

"I do not know, Astryd, what it is he wants. I had not meant to carry this message to you tonight. I only know that he has said that he wishes to meet and speak. It is a change. He had wanted to hide, or maybe fight. Now he wishes to talk. I can carry a message in return for him if you wish but he is not expecting one so you need not answer me now. Still, if you do not I have no doubt a formal invitation of some form will find its way to you sooner or later. Especially when he learns what you have all done in Patna, dismantling his little experiment."

How well is Gurim informed of what they have been doing that Oliver knows?

Loki now gets a look, that sharp grin met with a shake of the head. "I am a servant, God of Clever Words. I have always been a servant. Of my family, of the Queen, of the Nation, of greater powers still. Servitude is our lot. All of us. The difference is that I know I am a servant, while you remain blissfully ignorant while the collar tightens around your neck. You know not even what master you serve, nor the designs they have. I at least know what cause to which I put my hand."

Loki might have moved partially in front of the Jackal, but it doesn't cut off any iota of his now luminously bright glare back at Oliver. Quickly, hackling, the Bane rises to offer a prickly counter-display to darken the cast beneath Ambrose's eyes and outwardly shine crimson in his pupils. He loses his poise and seems to begin to slouch, arms unloosening from their tight crossing on his chest, as if he means to eventually lunge at his old platoon-mate.

"Quo fata ferunt," the master-thief replies in a far dustier, more ancient undertone yet. That it wasn't in another tongue is a miracle and proof of some semblance of grip on the Bane's reins against its base inclination to remove competition.

"See, I was always much more fond of Caveat Emptor, myself." Loki murmurs after talk of die being cast, or fate carrying folks—NOT a big fan of fate, he thinks about the Norns with about the same fondness that most people think about genital warts that ooze. "Let the Buyer Beware is much more fitting if you think anyone is pulling Loki's strings but Loki." His smile actually brightens to a genuine one. "Clearly you've bought the entire bill of goods of your new master, it is okay though, no doubt the next one will set you up with a nice timeshare in Tahiti and will let you sell your own bill of goods to the rank and file of the pyramid of fools below you." A sly smile. "And YOU will get to buy at a *discount*."

To Lady Astryd he smiles then, quite dismissing Oliver from his thoughts, or so it seems. "Garam Masala /does/ sound good." He says with a much more genuine smile. Of course…he's still positioned to keep an eye on the Sergeant, his back to Ambrose. A glance to Fenris then, a brow quirked in question. 'So? Do we kill it now?'

"Butter chicken, actually, Loki. I have a delightful recipe that I picked up there several centuries ago. I've had to modify it slightly as some of the spices aren't available any more." Astryd responds, not dropping her cool grey gaze from Olivers eyes.

"Be sure to tell Gurim, what we did. ANd add to the message that we will do so with everything we find of his. I however … " The blonde casts a sidelong look at Fenris. He's going to kill her, she's sure. "Would like to speak to Gurim and his brothers. However, I get to name the place and time where we meet."

"He may agree to that. I will pass the messages. All of them. You will hear back soon, I have no doubt. Look for it before the moon waxes once more." The Moon. Luna. Gurim's mother. Is that a turn of phrase or is something else going on? Astryd feels the power of the void play over her from Oliver. Not striking but probing. After he is done with her Ambrose and Loki feel the same thing.

"Have you seen behind the veil Loki? Have you gazed upon the machine of machines? Do you know how it makes slaves of all men? If you have done so and you do not wish to break it once and for all then you have a heart made of the coldest stone ever imagined by man or god. But tempus fugit Loki. For us all."

Oliver backs away a few paces and gives Ambrose a slight little half bow. "I will not promise that we will meet again soon. But I have a feeling that it might be… inevitable. Take care of yourself Ambrose. You're looking a bit hungry." And with that he starts off.

Fenris watches him go for a little bit. Once he's out of an earshot the Old Wolf takes in a breath. "All in favor of having him followed?"

Painfully cold, the lick of the void over him, and the Bane momentarily screels in wrathful reaction. Ambrose squints and lifts one shoulder a noticeable amount, though he keeps it from reaching his ear.

Now? Someone's still having difficult keeping a level head on his shoulders. Ambrose literally lets out a near-basso growl just barely heard to roll in his throat like rocks down a hillside. Inhuman, the sound, no doubt boosted by the Bane's insistence that this be resolved.

"Fuck following." It's barely English.

Annnnd there he goes, breaking into a brisk stride and rolling up his sleeves as he goes. Bare hands will apparently be the weaponry of choice — pistols at dawn is unfortunately too much effort.

"No Oliver, he *will* agree to that if he wishes to meet us." Astryd says. She hasn't raised her voice or changed her tone but there's the soldier she was, showing through. Pure steel wrapped in velvet, Astryd is. "Be sure that's very clear to him."

"And keep you filthy power to yourself."

Astryd watches as Oliver leaves, rather thoughtful, about to answer Fenris when Ambrose takes off. "I think that's your answer, my heart. I put $500 on Ambrose." She tells the other two as she starts to follow the Bane. She won't interfere, not yet.

"Oh, that sounds lovely, Lady Astryd…I'm sure my lady wife would love to see your recipe, and who knows, we have many homes, perhaps one of the gardens might still have the herbs or spices you require for the original." Loki is at his charming best right there. As she redirects her gaze to Oliver, so too does she effectively redirect his own.

"Sergeant Wright, I have seen many things, and my heart can be cold indeed, or it can burn fight to melt the moon." He smirks as he says this. "Well then, let us carpe noctum then, and seize the night ere time flies."

His eyes narrow as he feels that 'touch', and takes another step forward with a low growl at the temerity.

When Fenris speaks Loki nods. "Aye. Follow the pretentious prick." Nope, does not like.

Nor does he think it prudent to let Ambrose pursue, so…he conjures. Suddenly the park is a maze, a maze made of thorns and mirrors placed between Atherton and Wright, on that Fenris and Astryd can see faintly, but which is to every sense that Ambrose has very real. "Ambrose, Lieutenant Atherton, stand down." He does not move further, focusing on the illusory labyrinth he crafts. "It serves naught to kill him now, far better to follow and deal with the master instead of the slave."

"I would take your bet but it seems bad form to wager against a friend." Fenris replies softly. Though he's probably still heard by the others.

Whether Ambrose could have gotten through that illusion, whether he would have heeded Loki, is rendered moot in a moment. For the moment that Ambrose is at all distracted - say by having a maze of fake thorns placed in front of him - that cold, dark power screams out the night and just RIPS huge chunks of something ephemeral but very important off the man. Then they leave as quickly as they came, vanishing into the ether and when they are gone… so is Oliver.

Fenris jumps to his feet but the deed is done before he can intervene in any way.

"Damn it to all the hells." He growls. "Astryd. Loki. Is he…?"

Old, old bad habits are so easy to rediscover. His heart beats in his ears with a steady, fast thrum to drown out the commentary behind him as Ambrose narrows in on what briefly appears to be the unprotected back of that dratted bastard — old friendship be DAMNED. He blinks once and the next, he's brought up shorter by his own reflection in the midst of Loki's maze. A step backwards in shock as he looks around and then up, immediately thinking to clamber over the interference between himself and his prey. Five inch-long blackthorn bushes offer no easy place to place a boot and launch himself — if they were there at all.

Ambrose snarls, canine teeth that touch sharper to betray the Bane's warping influence from within him. "Fucking ruddy — "

The scream echoes through the Park in pure agony to chill the blood.

Ambrose falls dead-weight to the ground as a puppet cut of strings barely breathing. Life is proven by how he weakly and blindly reaches, limp as a mostly-drowned kitten.

And now his hair is as silver as starlight.

"You have a point." Astryd notes as Loki's illusion pops up. "You're no fun …" she mutters, her pace slowed.

When the dark power screams through the night, Astryd cries out "Ambrose!" It's too late… by the time the blonde reaches his side, it's Ambrose laying there. "Easy, Ambrose…."

This is bad. So very, very bad.

"Ambrose is alive, Fenris. But I'm not sure for how long. Take from me, Ambrose …"

"You were worried about creatures from the void, my heart …"

Loki's gaze tracks to where Oliver vanished, the maze fading away like a politician's promises, and a soft ring of light surrounding it, the exact point. He moves to where Astryd kneels, looking down on the drained Master Thief, noting the silver hair. "Well, bugger." He can't let him die, and he lost a LOT of lifeforce. He moves to the opposite side, and offers his hand to the man. "And you may drink of me as well, Lieutenant."

Loki keeps his deals. Almost always, this is one of those times, though none present other than Loki know a bargain had been struck. Regardless, he offers up his hand, and is prepared to allow the Bane to feed.

He's also bloody well prepared to shield, teleport, or world walk if he thinks the thing is going to eat too much.

"Take the filthy bits your former friend fouled with his touch."

Fenris is already ripping open a way. "I'll take us back to the house." They can handle whatever needs to be handled there. He doesn't notice the eyeless wolf that walks out from between a set of distant trees and stares at them for a long moment before continuing on.

The Old Wolf takes a breath and lets it go and just before he drops them in out of the night ghostly strains of music and song echo.

We shall not sleep though poppies grow
In Flanders' fields, in Flanders' fields

We shall not sleep though poppies grow
In Flanders' fields, in Flanders' fieeeeeeeeeeeeelds…

Visions hazes in and out as his heartbeat hollowly clamors in his throat. Yelling resonates in his skull — it's Talbot, swearing he's on his way — and then reality around him comes back into focus. Sideways; why is the world sideways? Someone's at his side in a fall of blond hair, reaching for his skin. Oh, it's Astryd. Her hand feels so warm where it grabs at open skin. Like treacle, tendrils of the stunned Bane reach for her life-force to take up what was lost.

But there, another source of energy, and Ambrose swallows through a whimper against desiccating thirst parching his throat and the searing pain he feels like a phantom limb's loss. Loki's life-force has an extra touch of effervescence in counter to that which he knows in Astryd, as if the Trickster's own bouquet were nosed of not only champagne and starlight, but the heat of fire and the melt of icicles along with kissing lightning.

He does take those sullied portions offered by Loki and eventually, he regains enough of his faculties to realize that there's a Way nearby — that, and to remove skin contact from both Asgardians. These are friends, not food. Again and again, pitifully, he tries to get to his hands and knees but fails to collapse to the ground.

His mouth moves silently, eyes still heavily dazed, until he manages: "…not a Way…?!"

His priorities are curious right now.

Regardless, there's no fight in him if frog-marched through and beyond the Way — definitely not at the end of the travels.

"Yes. A Way." Astryd murmurs, scooping the man up in her arms and ignoring the bite of Bane if there is any.

Stepping through The Way, cradling the man she sets him on the couch and makes him comfortable before folding herself into a chair nearby.

"My heart. Drinks, if you will? I find myself somewhat … tired." She's pale again, something else others are getting used to.

"Well, Ambrose, what on Midgard were you thinking?"

"He wasn't, Lady Astryd." And really, considering some of the rash decisions Loki's made over the eons, to have that comment uttered…is telling.

He shudders at the touch of the Bane as it feeds, but he withdraws his hand when Astryd takes up the burden of the man. Not like the weight of a single mortal is going to be a trial for a former Valkyr.

Loki will follow just behind and to her left, of course he chose the side sinister.

He looks puzzled at the Master Thief's distress about the Way. "Surely you've traveled such before? There's nothing…well, /almost/ nothing…to fear, Lieutenant."

He does draw his sword, faithful Laevateinn, just in case during the trip to Fenris' home.

Almost nothing to fear yes but the Ways have never particularly agreed with Ambrose. Something about slipping through the spaces Between that sets him on edge. Or just gives him stomach aches. Either way they emerge in Fenris and Astryd's living room and by that point Ambrose has probably taken enough to stabilize himself.

"Feeling better yet? I need my Raven to be reasonably fit for fighting so don't go overboard if you please." That's to BOTH of them.

"Loki, this is rather bad news. Not just that Ambrose was attacked but if Oliver made off with his life force and delivers it to Gurim there's no telling what my errant son will do with it." Not 'just eat it' probably, more's the pity.

Vertigo comes and goes, beginning with the abrupt lift off the cold earth of the Park and continuing on through the Way. Making soft whines in the back of his throat, Ambrose clings to Astryd and her clothing with his face buried into her shoulder tightly.

Loki will probably realize the concern about the Way once they get back to the Kozminsky house proper. The Jackal appears 2.58 uncomfortable seconds from vomiting. A final stabilizing shot of Astryd's life-force and he goes limp on the couch he's set upon, glossy at temple and eyes both. Blanketing tucked around him helps keep away the worst of some chill reaching deeper than skin alone.

He glances to Astryd and then to Fenris and simply turns his face away, unable to come up with any good answer for anything at the moment. Slowly, achingly, the silver-haired master-thief with his otherwise youthful features turns to curl into the couch cushions with the blanketing pulled up and around his ears. His back is presented to all. Of course, he's listening — intently.

"He will take no more from me, tonight, Fenris." Astryd answers, moving so she curl up next to the Old Wolf. "The Bane did not bite as deeply as it usually does. Which is concerning. Ambrose, will you be able to recover with the Banes assistance?"

She's very practical, Astryd is.

"Did you get a good look at those things, my heart? Loki? They felt … like the void to me."

"Mmm…then needs must we either intercept Oliver, or find Gurim before that happens and end one or both of them. Perhaps then that which was taken can be restored." Loki nods thoughtfully, and yawns, surprised by how tired he is after being fed upon. And then he stills a moment - thinking, yes, a dangerous pastime.

"Actualllllllllllly…with a crystal suitably unflawed, or a bowl of silver filled with the purest water, I /might/ be able to scry-trace the stolen life force…" A firm nod. "…then we could -strike-."

A nod to Astryd as he focuses on the Raven. "Aye. It was much like the Bane only…colder. The Bane /hungers/, it is a passionate thing, this other…it was emptiness, it was non-being."

"In the cabinet to the left." Fenris has some things that are useful for that kind of magic, though he cannot perform it himself. It's always good to have materials on hand when you ask someone to do such things for you. Otherwise you usually have to go get them.

"In the meantime I am going to scare up some other contacts. Possibly literally. I will return soon. Astryd, Ambrose. You both rest."

And with that Fenris grabs a coat and heads out into the night.

Upon being addressed, Ambrose's blanket-clad shoulder can be seen to shrug higher up around his ear. He doesn't respond at first, instead listening to ideas and plans weave around the living room. Then, after he hears the door shut via Fenris's exit, he volunteers in a voice abjectly hollow with weariness,

"I do not know."

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