2020-04-27 - One Ring


A trip back to where things began

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Apr 27 02:25:18 2020
Location: RP Room 1

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Hot. Dusty. Desolate. This part of the world has been called a hundred things by a thousand different peoples. Whatever the name is presently, this tomb remains here, unchanged since the last time it was visited.

Fenris had been out to visit the site and check it out before bringing everyone and that's how the sand is all drained. What otherdimensional realm he had dumped all that sand into is a mystery that probably only Astryd knows. Speaking of Astryd, Fenris had asked her to come as well when he had brought everyone on over.

The Tomb is… stable for the moment. Ambrose will remember it will. It is dusty still even though the sand has been drained out. There's a lingering hint of ancient magic in the air. And a focus of an ancient hunger.

And something else. Astryd will immediately see why Fenris asked her to come. There's someone restrained here. A man with a handsome middle eastern look to him with a dusty tunic, olive skin and black hair. He is chained to the floor - how is not clear since this place was buried but chained he was all the same.

His name is Tammuz. And he has… history with some of those present.

It is a wonder that Ambrose didn't arrive reeling-drunk in order to facilitate his presence.

What isn't a wonder is how traveling the Ways wrecks him as it usually does. His inner ear goes topsy-turvy and even if there's a manner of blunting the worst of it, he arrives at the location white around the lips. Maybe the coat was overkill, but the t-shirt beneath it is thin cotton and he's wearing thinner socks to at least not overheat. His hand on Talbot's upper arm clings harder as he steadies himself and audibly gulps.

Then comes the visible shudder to travel through him. It's precisely one half mortal fear and one half Bane thrill. His pupils bloom wide and brightly-carmine as the curse surges up beneath his skin, staticky and thrashing through his veins. His heart pounds off his ribs in a rhythm he's certain the world itself can hear before he manages to wrangle the majority of his reaction under control.

"…the…the man was not there before," he notes in a voice barely there and it just as quickly dies out. Of course the Bane is already intrigued and attempting to go beyond the bounds of his aura to slink at this trapped morsel. Aperitif. Person.

Fenris hadn't said where he was going or what he was doing. She's had her own challenges this past week as it is. When she arrives, the blonde looks around and pauses at the sight of the Tammuz - it's the only sign that something is amiss.

When she recovers, the Valkyrie sighs "Please don't tell me you bought me here because you need a womans hand. The decor is a little bit dated, don't you my heart? Or did you think to make me a gift of Tammuz?"

Ambrose gets a look from the blonde "You've been here before?"

So, that's Ambrose's other half. A tallish man, apparently middle-aged, with cool gray eyes and dark hair brushed back from his brow. Ambrose's husband and Emotional Support Assassin, or something like. The oddity of travelling along the Way has him a little green around the gills, but he's still staunchly upright. Dressed in a loose white shirt, comfortable pants, and looking at ease as one possibly can in this situation.

He contemplates Tammuz with a cock of his head. "I imagine not," he agrees with Ambrose, mildly. "Surely he's a gift, but is he for *you*?" Then he's inclining his head politely to Astryd.

Fenris chuckles. "Well if he is a gift he wasn't left by me, but I thought you might like to examine him Astryd. Given your history and also given…" He points. The man has something clasped about his neck. There's a gem glowing and it seems to be draining or weakening him. And… it looks like it's… of Asgardian make. The runes on it are certainly a match and the design. Well. It looks like something deliberately designed to restrain. But why here?

When Ambrose's gift starts to poke about the restrained deity something happens in the chamber. Several whirling loops appear, radiating out from him. They look like whirls in a magnetic field and there's a presence that Talbot can sense. Actually a presence that both of them can sense but different presences. Ambrose can feel something very like his own bane. While Talbot can sense something like a mind, but not entirely like it. An intelligence at the center of those whirling fields. At least they don't appear to be dangerous. Running ones hand through them does no more than give a little tickle of energy.

No, Tammuz is being used for something.

Possibly several somethings.

"I doubt he is for me, my heart, but we shall see," replies Ambrose to his other half in a near-whisper. He's noted the reaction of both Fenris and Astryd and recognizes this to be an oddity even to them, much less his own quiet surprise at not finding an empty tomb. There's a mental distancing he's taken on now, a step back and away from himself, as if not examining this entire thing too closely is the answer — as if puppeting himself from afar will spare the breaking of old scars.

It takes him a little longer to answer Astryd: "At risk of sounding melodramatic, this is where my past died." The Valkyrie gets a lingering, ruby-pupiled look. What the Bane trips makes him abruptly sniff and turn his attention to the tomb entrance itself. Reeling in the Bane is questionably difficult, but he manages it, and very slowly, cautiously, as if the sand were thinnest ice, he approaches this chained individual.

Of course the Jackal will touch at the fields. His hand brushes through one and he pulls it away, mulling fingertips to thumbs and looking up from his fingers at the field again. "«This magic is a cousin of mine,»" he says, unknowingly having slipped into a far more ancient speech. Talbot will feel the master-thief's sense of self begin to recede noticeably.

"A woman can live in hope, Master Talbot." Astryd smirks, circling the restrained god before coming to rest by Fenris' side. It's the smallest gesture, the way she puts her hand on his arm - reassurance. But for whom? Him or her. "He would have made a nice gift, but I have all I need in a god, right here." She murmurs.

The collar about Tammuz's neck gets her attention, the blonde floating just a little closer but not touching. "Those … are sigils only the Valkyior are taught." She sounds concerned and worried. "Can you hear me, Tammuz?" The woman asks, kneeling by his side. The look she gives Ambrose when he speaks is … worried.

He's no god, nor powerful enough to go toe to toe with one. Kent lets Ambrose go forward, lips pinching as the Jackal advances. "There's a mind behind that energy," he says, softly.

And then he's only strengthening the bond with his husband, but he doesn't try to stop the Bane rising. Only listening…..and functioning as an anchor. Ambrose may surrender control for a little, but he will not be lost. Not if Kent has anything to say about it.

Fenris chuckles and briefly puts his hand on Astryd's shoulder before she moves to the downed god. When he opens his eyes, they're swirling. A bit like muddy water. There's their normal brown color and then streaks of dark drifting through.

"Astryd." He says in what sounds like two voices. His own and then another, deeper, rougher one. "What… are you doing here? Come to see my misfor-" Tammuz arches as if in pain and shakes his head. "Is this my punishment then? To be chained by your kind and then given over to you? I suppose it is fitting. I suppose I deserve it…"

Those sigils… they're normally used to restrain captives but there's two sets. One is restraining Tammuz. The other is restraining something else. Possibly inside him.

Talbot, and possibly Ambrose through him feel that mind turn in their direction. There's curiosity. And then a tiny bit of the energy reaches out to try to touch the mystical telepath. Even without touching it, it is SO COLD. It chills the very air ahead of it.

The other part of it tries to bat Ambrose's bane away. Not forcefully but it clearly doesn't want it sniffing around Tammuz very much.

"«There is something there, yes,»" agrees the silver-haired Jackal in the sleek, dusty language even as he takes a step back and to the side. Looking away from Tammuz and Astryd is to check in with Kent, very nearly idly, as if he were tracing their connection rediscovered. I will be attempting something, «Azizam». The warning slinks along the kythe like the flicker of an asp on stone. An image of the golden ring in his pocket reflects on the starry surface of the kythed mental connection.

When the captured god speaks, Ambrose's gaze slides back to him. Vocal overlays are…generally never a good thing. Flinching as the fields around Tammuz seem to worry at him, he lets out a low near-growling sigh as if to warn this foreign presence against fussing with him.

It seems only fair he should fuss with it! This is his reality anyways — or at least, the Bane seems to think so, undulating around Ambrose now in a slow swirling collection of liquid garnet. One hand drops into his coat pocket and slip: the ring slides onto his finger as if it were meant to be there. A twist to turn the stone facing towards his palm and…

…the world washes out chiaroscuro. He vanishes from sight, but not from Kent's knowledge mentally. What he sees around Tammuz is an amorphous near-mirroring of what he knows, instinctively, the Bane to look like. Those Bane-bright eyes narrow. Ever so slowly, he reaches out, drawn by curiosity and the Bane's insistence to know WHAT this cousin is.

"Does it seem like my style, Tammuz? To chain a man as such?" The blonde answers quietly. "If I wanted to see your misfortune, it would be at my hand or my Lords and no one elses. What is between us, is between us and my Lord beat senseless for trying to claim me." She's looking at the those runes at shaking her head.

"Fenris, my heart, these are very advanced. They aren't just Valkyior, they're more. Something has taken and changed them.

"Your said my said my kind, was it one of my sisters who did this to you? Tell me, please, what happened. I want to free you from what's been done to you."

Astryd might be an angry, reckless Valkyrie but she has compassion. Perhaps the Midgardians are washing off on her a bit.

Certainly not *this* Midgardian. Kent stiffens, shivers, as that cold intelligence touches him. He's not shocked by Ambrose's apparent vanishment and says to the others, no doubt unnecessarily, "He is still here."

Holding himself poised, he asks, along their link, Is that another curse? This is a place for them.

Fenris nods, acknowledging Talbot informing them that Ambrose hasn't just scarpered. He focuses on Astryd after that, watching what she does. Watching how she moves. Compassion to a fallen enemy is very much in her character, so he's not surprised by that either. "Can you get them off?"

Can she? Possibly. But it wouldn't be easy. This was meant to hold him here possibly like some modern day Prometheus.

When Ambrose invisibly reaches out to touch that mass three things happen. First, Tammuz arches again and cries out in pain. "GET IT OUT!" Get it out. Something is being held in him. Breaking that collar should release it, but is releasing it really a good idea? Tammuz's arms flex and he tries to reach up and grab Astryd's wrist but he's held fast by the chains on him. He can only get his hands a few inches off the ground.

"If you cannot free me… show me mercy." Kill him, he means. He looks right at Astryd when he says that.

Then Talbot feels the mind go into overdrive. There are no words. Just concepts. It focuses in on his own mind and tries to… the best way to describe it is tunnel into him. It's looking for another anchor. And given that it's current anchor is, er, anchored right here that's probably not good.

The third thing that happens is that the ring Ambrose is wearing suddenly becomes the focus of that energy. Like a second magnet coming into the field, the energy is realigning. And it is FREEZING cold. And not only that, to carry on the magnet metaphor, it repels his own Bane. Like apparently does not call to like.

I think it possible, but…no — similar but only superficially, reports the master-thief to Kent down the line from his place in the tomb still shadowed and grey. He does remember the incident so recently with Kamduis-Ur's report of potentially warped Valkyrior, but the Bane is insistent upon sussing out this other foreign gathering of coldness, mostly likely to attempt to chivy it away in turn.

From a far, echoing, muffled distance, Tammuz shouts — there's the twice-removed sense of something suddenly infringing on Kent — it makes him turn around and dust rises from where invisible boots scuff the tomb flooring. His other half — his? His — trouble — the Bane suddenly screels as it and its host is blasted by the influx of frigid cold. His choked sound seethes through bared teeth as he turns, ring-hand upheld and out, as if to push back and ward the foreign power. Memory provides him with a flash-frame of the gifted page inked in duplicate ring and script — and he dares in the heat of the moment.

Guttural, sibilant, crisp, he forces out in Akkadian: "…Ištēnum lā šanān…!"

The Finder did say, 'one ring to rule them all'.

"What are you sensing, Master Talbot?" Astryd asks quietly. "You or Ambrose. There is more than just Tammuz here and should I free him, I don't want to release the other without knowing more." As the Chained God arches, Astryd holds his shoulders.

"I will not kill you, Tammuz but if I can't free you, I will find you mercy."

She's silent for a long time as she examines the runes. "With your assistance, my heart, I believe I can. It won't be easy and there's a risk of course. There's a possibility it will back lash against one of us."

"Do we dare to release him, though, given there is something else there?"

"NO! No!" The monosyllables are all but barked, and seem to be both a reply to Astryd's question and a refusal of whatever thing is trying to overwhelm his mental defenses. The shapeshifter is pale and sweating. "No. There's a curse and a presence in the prisoner there. It……leave him."

Ambrose is still invisible, but he's turning that pale gaze to where his husband stands. "It wants another host, one free to take it, I think." His usual cool assurance is gone - he's trembling where he stands, teeth all but chattering with chill.

"It may want that, but he was left here for a reason…" Fenris thinks. Whatever that reason was he doesn't think that their opponents are reading them so well as to have put this here deliberately as bait. So they want Tammuz here and connected to this force like this. Talbot's objections are reasonable, to be sure. Eminently so. But Fenris doesn't want to leave a weapon where their enemies can get it any time they want.

"Hold out Talbot. And… Ambrose. If you can hear me." He nods to Astryd. "I'll help. Do it."

Ambrose and Talbot find themselves fighting the same struggles on opposite ends. Ambrose has the tail of this tiger and Talbot is trying to keep it from sinking its teeth into him. The attack on Talbot's mind becomes more forceful as Ambrose tries his Akkadian trick, but also much less coordinated. Like a man flailing, he may be doing so with all his might, but it so much less effective than when that might is directed. And thus while Talbot is still at risk should he get caught by one of these mental flails, he can also control the situation better provided he can keep one step ahead.

Ambrose meanwhile can see the power realigning on his ring. It's working. But his Bane still REALLY doesn't like this stuff. He's going to need to find the will to either force them to play nice, or he's going to need to bend this thing such that his Bane can latch onto it. Both have implications, both are possible. But he can only pick one. And he'd better hurry.

Because Fenris and Astryd are going to break that fetter.

Astryd holds, particularly as Talbot calls out, waiting for Fenris to give his answer. "Whatever happens, Fenris, I will always be your Raven." she murmurs, letting her magic reach out to those Runes. Fenris can feel the drain on his Raven, and will know that she'll need his strength.

Maybe more.

"Hold still, Tammuz. This isn't going to be pleasant for any of us - but nothing good happens without pain, right?" The runes on the collar start to glow as her power touches them, a dull, dead, red colour. "It's a combination lock, Fenris. As I clear each rune, it will hurt him. I need you to make sure he doesn't try to kill himself or me." beat "Also, I'll need your blade."

What a tail to have grabbed onto! Ambrose can see the air within his half-step out of reality become filled with mica-like winklings of ice in direct counter to the desert-arid heat of the curse filling him. The Bane continues to screel, all but deafening him as he breaks out into a sweat. Pressure building at his temples and in his heart feel to try and snap his focus on the chilblain-burn of the ring on his finger.

WRITHE, MY HEART! A flicker-flash image sent to Kent is of a cobra throwing coils and darting, sleek and quick, never to be touched for its speed.

Again, he tries the incantation, putting just that much more sheer, steely, tenacious belief that it's going to work into it: "Ištēnum lā šanān…! Ištēnum lā šanān!!! «This is not your world, it is MINE!!!!»" snarls the Jackal in the ancient language. Willpower sends the Bane to surging like a sudden bright red wave to splash over the nebulous other-curse, to attempt to wrestle it into place alongside the Bane.

Usually, he'd be doing his best to just bolster Ambrose. Be his rock, be the foundation that keeps human mind and heart anchored. But he hasn't been in a mental combat like this in decades….and even then, it was nothing like on this *scale*.

For all he's still, nearly frozen on the physical plane, the mental and magical is a darting battle, evading this new curse, refusing to let it get a grip on him…trying to parry and strike back. "Hurry," he says, presumably to all of them. It's very nearly a whimper….and he's shivering like he has a fever.

Fenris summons the blade that he normally keeps around his neck in an innocuous form and hands it to Astryd. Then he kneels down near Tammuz's head and puts his weight on the man's shoulders. That'll do for a start. At this point the dark swirls in his eyes are moving rapidly. Whatever Ambrose and Talbot are doing it's having a significant effect on the earth god.

And then Astryd starts. Each rune unlocked brings a cry of pain and a new struggle but Fenris manages to hold him down at least thus far. What else is it doing? Well Fenris doesn't know but he's concentrating on Astryd. On what's happening with her and on giving her strength.

Ambrose feels the both the power that he is wrestling with and his own Bane twist. Both of them loop into the ring, back out of it and back into it again forming concentric lobes like a magnetic field. It's stabilizing. He's almost got it… there!

The power blasts Ambrose back out of the plane he had stepped into. Talbot feels the struggles start to die. That presence is no longer trying to grab hold of him. The worrying part is that's because it is currently in a ring that Ambrose is wearing…

It's like a sudden shock-drop into arctic waters — a blast of furnace heat to strip his face of any sweat — gravity inverted and then realigned with a terrible finality — the clunk of a tumbler within a lock — a open-palm punch to the chest to leave him windless and struggling — and seemingly now out of nowhere because there goes Ambrose visibly as if hit by a truck, bouncing over the expanse of the tomb flooring and into one of the walls with a bodily THUD.

Wheezing, he curls upon himself and blindly reaches out at nothing before his limbs retract again. "«My world…mine! You cannot have it!»" he hisses still in an ancient tongue, eyes scrunched shut as he visualizes the perfect entwined balance of the Bane within himself and this newfound horror within the ring. The mental foray has all the weight of belief behind it: so it is, so it shall be.

Wordlessly, he reaches along the kythe to Kent, now echoed upon himself in all communication — status?

The runes glow, ever more brightly, as Astryd manipulates them. When Fenris hands her his sword, she shakes her head "Remove the gem when you see the sigils are unlocked. And be ready."

She's thankful for the God Wolves strength to hold the Earth God down as she works. The man flails and at times tries to grab her to make her stop.

For Fenris, the feeling of this binding is concerning - it could bind him, if they could ever get a collar on him.

As for Astryd, the power is tearing at her and the spirit that has latched onto her, feeds on the reckless way the Valkyrie continues. There's no choice of course - she's started now and the only way to end it, is to end it.

Soon, the runes are all alight, glowing a steady, dull bloody red. "Now… my heart."

"I'm not hurt," he breathes, voice desert dry. Kent's shaking now, though in the shock of aftermath rather than the strain of battle. But he doesn't fall to his knees, doesn't topple over, even if the way he staggers over to where Ambrose has ended up is more reminiscent of a new colt than his usual assurance.

The link between them is all wordless reassurance, and a query. Questing to make sure all his well, that the new curse is bound, in turn….and a flood of relief when that's what it seems to be. Only then does he look at what they're doing to Tammuz, even as he crouches at Ambrose's side.

Fenris reaches down and snatches the jewel out. It turns to dust in his hands and the runes fade. Tammuz sinks back onto the floor, barely conscious. The chains should be no problem to break now. Fenris will attend to that… momentarily.

"It's done." He says, moving to support the Valkyrie. Only when he's sure she's stable does he look up to Ambrose and Talbot. "I trust you two have everything under control on your end?"

Another blind reach bounces off Kent's shin and then settles a palm on his shoe. With a grunt and an uncomfortable sound, the Jackal then opens his eyes to peer at the ongoing battle with the links and runic jewels alike. Yes, contained, he echoes to Kent's mind of the nebulous anti-curse and its current home in the ring on his finger, this still chilled against his skin.

Fenris asks his question and Ambrose nods more slowly than usual, still appearing fairly shaken as well by the whole affair. "Yes," he breathes and then clears his throat. "Yes, it is under control."

Maybe? Mostly. Yes…? At least it's English and not some long-dead language spoken only by the ghosts of the desert winds.

Astryd leans against Fenris, her pallor chalky. Fenris can tell that took a lot from his Raven. That or the creature that feeds on her.

"Well done, Ambrose and Talbot. Do you need to examine this cave? If not, might I suggest we take this party elsewhere?"

Like … home. She needs that hot tub of theirs.

There isn't a beat of hesitation, as Kent says, "Yes, please. Let's get out of here as soon as ever we can." Then he's stooping to offer his beloved a hand up. Face still shining with sweat….and the air around him still cold and full of fear. It'll take him a long time to come down from the high of battle, to feel he's safe enough to relax.

Fenris opens a Way and helps Astryd to stand. "We're finished here." He retrieves his sword and breaks Tammuz's chains. The god can leave when he comes to.

"Come on. Let's get back to the house. A stiff drink and some warm water will help all of this. And you two can tell me what exactly it is you've done."

And then he heads into that slightly nauseating form of transport he uses so often.

And is gone.

It takes some effort, but quickly enough, the golden ring is pulled from his finger. Ambrose slips the ring away into his coat pocket and already feels clearer of mind and intent alike. Taking Kent's offered hand, there's no hint of the foreign anti-curse's influence in him but for a similar undercurrent of lingering concern echoed in his mate.

With a hand beneath Kent's elbow courteously, he glances over at the Hound. "Through the Way and then to home, I think, after a brief discussion," he murmurs, brows knitted in apology — for what came, what might come, and what will come of traveling the Way he moves towards, intending to escort Kent and himself both through it.

Pepto-Bismol, here we come indeed.

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