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Those Knife Cuts We Don't Even Notice


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Julien Vaillancourt

It had been a long time since Julien transported himself through water.  If he had not become a little stronger in the time he had lived at La Ferme Rose, warming the cold and nearly-dead flesh of centuries of rest, he did not think he could have done it.  Most certainly, he could not have traveled from the fresh lake on the borders of his territory, - his lake- to a turgid, cold puddle on the concrete at the collapsed end of a warehouse where men and women were meeting.

Now, in the shadows, he cloaked himself.  Just as glamour could make him sharp and gleaming and seductive, it could also make the planes of his body disappear into the edges of what darkness there was.  There, he was still and silent, listening... because someone else would find for him exactly what he wished.

There was a knife edge to that.  He didn't precisely know why.

In the shadows, back pressed to the cold stone wall, Julien watched the mages for hire.  They had already set out several tables.  Things were littered across them: things like thunder eggs, mirrors, cards, money in a hundred denominations.  Vials of blood.  Ewers of water holding sage, rosemary and lemon verbena.

"Do you really think they'll pay us for that?" a small, thin woman with bright red-dyed hair hissed to the gaunt man next to her.  He wore narrow glasses and his black hair slicked back so harshly it looked like glass.  "I mean, it's nothing, and we can't-"

"Shut up!" the man snarled.  "Don't tell THEM what we can't."

Julien noted that, trailing along the edges of things as best he could without being noted.  He knew there was to be a meeting, and he did not intend to interrupt that meeting until he had what he wanted.  Until he had an eye on the fabled artifact that would help him trace the witch who had bespelled Philippe.

But they meant nothing to him, these terrified and frightened little things.  SHE was the one he wanted.  She had a power to trace magic.  People pretended not, laughed and lied, whispered and plead around the edged of the truth of it, but the truth was she HAD that power.  He could ignore every human word and watch the shadows of her power, the talons of her grasp, crack the globe, if he wished to do so.

He needed that power.  And it wouldn't hurt to hear what these children had to say to her, either.
January 09, 2020 02:43 am

Ripper Reno

From the doors of the warehouse, she would emerge, body covered in a leather duster with an upright collar, gasmask concealing her face, the straps visible against her hairless scalp. The sound of combat boots would give a dull thud on the warehouse floor as she approached the mages, confidently but warily. In her right hand, a metal suitcase. In her left, a small metal canister. She stopped a few meters short of the gathered mages, speaking in accented English.

"Ladies, gentlemen. You may know of me already; I am called Ripper Reno, and I'm sure I do not need to tell you that is not my true name, but you will also understand that I am not keen on giving those with magical bent that, even if I were otherwise... which I am not."

She paused for a bit, watching their reactions, before continuing.

"My employer and I apologize for the death of your colleague, the individual you knew as Mister MacEnroe. My employer did not order his death, nor had I intended it to happen. I was attacked, and responded in kind. My employer would like to stress that this exchange is meant as a cessation of hostilities between your employer and mine. As for me, personally, I have no ill will towards your kind. Do not mistake my knowledge on countertactics as something bred from animosty, but rather a prequesite of my occupation."

The speech was obviously prepared and recited, a script memorized before the meeting, but she still paused to let her statement, and its implications, sink in.

"As a show of goodwill, in addition to amount agreed upon previously, my employer is also offering a key to a safety deposit box containing Mister MacEnroe's personal effects, and asks if any of you wish on further reparations, other than any injury to my person, to please ask for it. Should they be reasonable requests, my employer will fulfill them in a timely fashion."

She walked halfway to them, setting the case down gently and stepping back, hand still firmly on the canister, the other to her side. It was not the way she was used to doing these kinds of exchanges- in her experience the requested goods came before the payment- but the employer's directions were clear, and she was, in her ways, a professional.

January 09, 2020 03:21 am

Julien Vaillancourt

Admiration.  That was the emotion.  She cut through the world like a hot knife, strict and precise and filed entirely free of extraneous edges. Around her, the rest of the world were burbling nuisances.  Babbling nonsense, avoiding the sharper edges of the war laid out all too clearly at their doorstep.  A death, as simple as breathing, as properly demanded as respect.

It was familiar.  There was a weight to the moment that felt... proper.

Julien tapped his long fingertips against his lips, then moved a little within the shadows, watching and listening as the mages and the assassins moved around each other, cold even rhythms.  There was a sideboard, where a nut cake had been set out, as well as cheeses and meats, fruits and a few ewers of nearly translucent wine.

Julien picked up a few pieces of cheese and meat with his fingers and nibbled them.

The air here was tense and smelled of blood.  On his tongue, a smoky aged cheddar melted, but even sending what glamour he had out into the room, calming, soothing... seducing... there was something dark and astringent here.  Something that made the cheese taste like burned heart meat as he swallowed it.

Death, the promise of death, and the memory of death.  This room was full of it.  And Julien didn't mind, really, but it was practically choking him.  They were right on top of something, and he...

"Monsieur Vaillancourt," the old lady simpered. "I promise you, you won't regret having come here tonight."

Cutting his eyes toward Ripper Reno, Julien was inclined to agree, but he snapped his cold gaze back to the woman in front of him.  "You know what I want," he said flatly.  "If you don't have it, she has.  And you promised a mediation."

"Y-yes, but things have-- there have been-- that is to say I can't-" she stammered.
January 11, 2020 05:40 am

Ripper Reno

One of the other mages, a sickly man with a dark devilock and soda bottle eyeglasses, would look to his immediate peers before stepping forward with his own case, taking the one Reno left and setting it aside at the same spot. He opened the case he collected, looking to the others and nodding before closing the case and heading back to where he sat. Reno would step forward again, heading to collect the case remaining and stepping backward. She would squat down, opening the case and looking at it, keeping an eye on the mages assembled.

"Hm. These do match my employer's description..." Reno said stoically, tapping the side of her gas mask. "...And do have magical auras. Everything seems to be in order, then." She closes the case, standing up, hand still on the canister. "My employer thanks you for your cooperation."

Taking a step back, but not turning away. "Well, it seems you have other business to attend to here. So, unless any of you have any further business with me, I shall be taking my leave. And before someone asks, no I will not betray my current client. Its poor business."

January 11, 2020 08:40 pm

Julien Vaillancourt

Oh, no.  Not yet.  Julien stepped forward.  He kept his posture prim, contained, his attitude neutral.  He had no particular desire to be threatening and also no interest in seeming unctuous or overeager.

"I would like a moment of your time," he said quietly.  His voice tended to carry.  Something of the siren in his ancestry, maybe, or just crystal diction and a preference for being in charge.

This moment was the crux.  The fulcrum of the evening.  The less than satisfactory moments that had brought each of them there were, more or less, trailing leads for the alliance that Julien sought.  He knew already what she would bring to the table.  It only awaited to know what he might offer to her.

The Fae were expert when it came to payments, promises and tithes.  He never accepted an open boon, but for this... he might almost do so.  Unless he could simply find something she wanted and offer that instead.

Notably, the so-called 'arbiter' who was to have arranged this meeting deserved no payment at all.

His heels clicked on the slick tiles.  A tall, thin, pale creature with blank eyes, handsome by many standards and eerie by others.  His nearly colorless gaze was fixed on Ripper Reno.  "I would like to make a deal.  An arrangement.  An offer of payment for services rendered.  However you wish to cache this.  But there is something you can do for me and I will ensure, if I may, that it is done."
January 21, 2020 11:30 pm

Ripper Reno

Reno turned her head towards Julien, her expression hidden under her mask, but a slight tilt of her head as she seemed to be trying to get a read on his intention.

"I make it a point not to accept future work while currently on a job.. but you strike me as a man who would not be easily refused. At the very least, we can determine if this is something that does not conflict with my current business... that being said, perhaps we should discuss this elsewhere. Outside, perhaps?" She made a glance toward the mages, wary of their presence. "Or you can give me your contact information and we can arrange a meeting after my current contract is completed. From my understanding, New Orleans has no shortage of public places that one can discuss business discreetly while remaining in plain sight."

January 23, 2020 04:49 pm

Julien Vaillancourt

In truth, he did not care to wait.  That was evident enough in the slight tension that gripped his shoulders briefly, before he smiled faintly and allowed that tension to ease away.  He did not want to wait, but the trail was cold enough already.  A few days more, even a week more, should not have an adverse effect on the remaining spell energies.  At least, unless much had changed from the sorcery he once knew.

"I will not be refused, no, unless there is nothing within my power that you will accept as payment."  He inclined his chin in acknowledgment then.  "However, it would be rude of me not to respect your preferences when it comes to your job.  I am available to discuss potential conflicts of interest, but I will... I will wait until you have completed your contract."

It itched at him, twisted in his guts to feel so close to a breakthrough in his hunt and to delay it, but beginning a deal with crassness and disregard was never proper.

January 28, 2020 06:40 pm

Ripper Reno

"I appreciate it," Reno said calmly, getting on one knee to put down her package before producing a card and a pen. "This is my number." She then used the briefcase as a hard surface as she wrote something down on the back. "And the address of the establishment I will be going to after I visit my employer. I should be there in ninety minutes. Apologies if I mispelled the street, am going by memory. Is a restaurant, but should suffice to our interest. If you prefer a different place, give me a text, but please, only public places."

She offered Julien the card, her other hand not having left the canister, casually tossing it a couple inches up before letting it fall back in her hand. If Julien looked carefully, he could see a hand-written label: Анти магия

January 29, 2020 02:53 am

Julien Vaillancourt

Julien nodded. His gaze, sharp as ever, lingered over the shapes of letters, committing them to memory even as he slipped the card into the pocket of his long black leather coat.

"I don't foresee any difficulties but if anything does occur, I will text." There was an odd quality to the way he pronounced the last word, as if he were unfamiliar with this particular usage. In truth, his friends had been trying to get him more phone savvy but it seemed he had only just gotten used to ringing someone and now that was practically obsolete.

With a nod of respect, Julien melted back into the shadows. Her ninety minute estimate gave him plenty of time to find the address, examine it for potential problems, and ensure they had a table which was public while still affording privacy for the discussion to come.
January 31, 2020 02:25 pm

Ripper Reno

Reno nodded, collecting her package and leaving the warehouse, stepping backwards, not taking her eyes off the mages as she made her exit.

Once outside, she would stow the canister, checking the time on her phone. She wasn't too far ahead of schedule, so she took a brisk pace to where she called for a taxi to pick her up. Once she was confident in not being followed, she took her gasmask off and replaced it with a bandana to cover her shaved-bald head, then dialed a phone number before putting the phone to her ear.

"Hello, I would like to place an order for carryout. Large with pepperoni. No garlic knots, please." This was a form of thieves cant, a pre-arranged code to update her employer; that she was on the way with the package, and there were no complications. Another phone call was made, this time to one of her brokers.

"Steven. Just calling from work, I'm on my last break. I'll be heading to a liquor store on my way back. Tomorrow we can discuss grocery shopping." Again this was the mercenary code, letting the broker know she's looking into some side work before taking any contracts from him. A professional courtesy, a dance she was weary of, but it was a necessary thing. After all, the brokers need to make sure their contacts get their contracts fulfilled in a professional way too, and knowing when she can take a contract helps the broker from needing to save face later.

February 01, 2020 12:05 am

Julien Vaillancourt

Ninety minutes later, Julien was seated in the booth of a classic sort of greasy spoon diner.  It smelled of bacon and burgers and hot sugar, as well as liminal cigarette smoke and the ghosts of past perfume and sweat.   A glass of ice water was bleeding condensation on the table in front of him, untouched.  He could not say as much for the fresh, hot basket of sweet potato fries, one of which he was currently enjoying in swift, careful bites.

He had examined the location and discovered no security problems.  Not that he had expected to find any.  Although Julien was not a professional in the manner that the person he knew as Ripper was, he was old enough and experienced enough to understand what constituted good business, and to ensure the proper and swift conclusion of any job he had to do.  This wasn't professionalism, it was... manners, in an old-fashioned way.

He hadn't changed from earlier, but his long leather coat was removed, set aside across the booth, so he sat in a Hannibal t-shirt and suede pants, his long hair marking him as other even as his stern demeanor led others not to pay too much attention.  And if his stern demeanor couldn't manage, he had glamour at his disposal.  But so far no one here had seemed eager to peek, pry or stare.

Someone put a mournful country song on the jukebox.  Julien picked up another roasted sweet potato.

His potential business partner entered the place.

February 04, 2020 11:22 pm

Ripper Reno

Reno sauntered in from the women's bathroom, wearing jeans, leather jacket and gloves, a Misfits tee underneath the jacket and a red bandana on her head. A waitress went over to her, with a tray in hand, on it a meal of steak, scrambled eggs, and pancakes as well as a bottle of cheap beer. Reno thumbed over to the table Julien was seated at and the waitress would set it down across from Julien, Reno taking a seat being mindful of Julien's jacket.

"Evening," she said to Julien, cutting her steak and waiting for the waitress to get out of earshot; since they were the only patrons around, the waitress would be on her phone. Once this happened, Reno would speak.

"We'll be able to speak freely here. We're close enough to the music that nobody will be able to hear us except up close, and most people don't pay much mind to the random conversations of strangers regardless." Twisting off the top of her beer, but leaving the cap on as she took a bite of her steak. "So," she said while chewing. "Why don't we discuss your problem, and how you want me to solve it."

February 06, 2020 12:40 am

Julien Vaillancourt

The tall Fae nodded.  The location was just public enough to be safe for both of them but private enough that he did not have to pick at his words like a choosy child might at a plate of vegetables.  He was still of the realm of creatures who learned early to be careful what they offered and what they asked for, but in this business he was beyond caution.

"I am looking for someone.  Well, in the interest of disclosure, there are two someones, but I have no objective method to track the vampire.  I have a certain ability to detect magic... as a scent, or perhaps a taste.  I was able to preserve the remnants of a spell the witch used, and I was led to believe that you might have a method to track that magic to its source."

Mentioning the vampire had been an afterthought.  He did not intend for that quarry to be part of the deal, but since the two had killed in concert before, and tracking the witch might well lead to a confrontation, it would be lax of him not to warn her of the vampire's possible presence in the equation.

"I should note that I am not seeking out these people for their own health.  They have wronged me, the worst wrong of my very long existence, and when I- or we- find them, there will be blood shed."

February 08, 2020 05:14 pm

Ripper Reno

Reno frowned at that, taking a forkful of egg.

"I, personally, do not. I do know someone who may have such a means, if it is possible without possessing magical abilityy itself, that is."

Reno cut up more of her steak, mixing it with the egg for another bite before continuing.

"Before we move forward however, I want to be clear on what exactly you're looking from me. Are you simply looking for a means to find these individuals, or are you looking for a hired gun as well? And there is of course the matter of how you intend on compensating me for my services. Even getting you in contact with someone with a magical tracking device, or an information broker, requires a degree of risk on my end. Not as much as stepping into battle of course, but bringing people into the network of the underworld comes with a degree of risk. Especially when it comes to introducing these devices to someone they may one day be used upon."

Sipping her beer as she let that sink in. What Julien exactly was, she wasn't sure. She knew that, when she activated the filter on her mask that allows her to detect magical auras and spells being cast in the moment, she saw something from him.

February 09, 2020 08:22 am
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