The Convention of Alternate Beliefs is in two parts. The first is for the 'real' thaumaturges, where those present get to discuss what is going on in their world and offer assistance to those whose spells are not working like they should. The second is for the general public and is where stalls sell crystals and fortunes are read for entertainment purposes only - it says so in the small print.
It is taking place in the august surrounds of the Hanging Hills Community Hall and the graffiti has been cleaned off just for today. It is time for the first part of the meeting and everyone is wandering in and finding themselves a seat at the round table. It can seat about thirty but they won't all be filled by the looks of it.
Already sitting is Isis Baxter, a powerful witch by all accounts, though she regrets her name change these days, who likes to set the agendas and lead the discussion. She waves to those who enter before going back to her notes.
Wandering in, one might first take the blond teenager to be lost. But no, slurpee in hand Tabitha makes her way towards the table to take a seat. She's even removed the earbuds of her Ipod, though they still hang around her neck. After she is settled Tabitha gives a polite nod to the apparent head witch in charge. "Evenin' ma'am." Her voice is still thick with the twang of the deep south.
Aurore's a regular at CAB events... as might be expected for a doctoral candidate with Saint Johns' department of anthropology, whose in-the-works thesis deals in large part with ceremonial practices and cosmological beliefs. The exotic-looking woman is largely native-blooded, but rather than trying to look like Pocahontas she has both sides of her head shaved, and sports ripped black jeans worn over elaborately patterned hosiery, paired with a waistcoat (or vest) and a silk blouse. She offers an amiable nod to those already present, flashing a grin and raising a hand in greeting to the familiar figure of Isis. A slight hesitation, then she moves to take a seat a couple along from Tabitha. "Hi."
Raphael is a new face. He has a messenger bag with a laptop for taking notes, and he's dressed like he just stepped out of a J. Crew catalog. So serious. No contacts today, and the glasses make him look even more preppy. When he catches Aurore's smile and nod, he nods back and offers a somewhat sheepish smile in turn. He quickly finds a place to sit and slips his laptop from its bag.
Tabitha has pulled a leg up in to her chair and deposited her chin on her knee. From this vantage point she takes in the others at the table as seats are taken. Aurore gets long look as she has been the only one to speak so far, "Hiya..." the greeting sent to the other woman before Tabitha looks at the latest arrival, a brow arches just a little then a grin curls her lip, "Evenin'."
"Aurore. Aurore Abernathy," the native provides. "I'm a regular here, so I can promise the meetings aren't too scary, on the whole." Her voice is a rich, warm alto, mingling the local accent with more exotic tones. "And people tend to be very accepting, and supportive."
Isis gives a solemn nod to another woman that whispered in her ear before she stands, her smile returning - broad and warm. "Thank you all for coming" she greets. "I am sorry that it has been a while since the last meeting. That is my fault. Though I think it also means that not much progress has been made on what we discussed then." A little laugh. "At least we haven't seen those witches again. For those who don't know me, my name is Isis. Yes...I know...poor choice. But it wasn't when it called to me. I am on the path of hedge witch. Any questions before we begin?"
Raphael does a subtle double-take as he hears Aurore's name. She did look familiar, and that's why. He sits up a little taller, busying himself with his laptop. It's pretty obvious he's not actually doing anything on it. Then he looks up at Isis. "Witches?" he asks. "Sorry, I'm new to Fallcoast. Raphael de Lorraine."
Tabitha shakes her head and again a ghost of a smile plays at her lips, "Naw, i'm good for the moment." Shifting in her seat she adopts a more attentive look as it seems things are about to get more interesting. Manners remembered at last she offers up, "Tabitha Beuchamp-Skinner."
Aurore nods to each of the others as they name themselves, and flickered a quick glance to Raphael after his response to her name - though it's not clear quite what she caught. Then she smiles again, offering Isis a sympathetic look. "I happened not to be around for the apocalyptic ultimatum, but I heard something of it," she says ruefully. "A cabal of, ahh, evidently rather potent practitioners, who made their presence felt in no uncertain terms, and issued threats?" A brow is arched at Isis, her tone of voice clearly inviting confirmation or correction from the older thaumaturge.
"Greetings to you both" Isis smiles to Tabitha and Raphael before nodding to Aurore's assessment. "Three witches...sisters. They barged in here and told us that we would all be consumed by their power to increase it. Well...we're all still here." She glances around and then looks a bit concerned for a moment. "Well...most of us. Aurore, what has happened to Judith Abernathy? She confronted them at the meeting. Has something...happened to her?"
Raphael nods to Aurore and says, "Thank you." Tabitha gets a polite nod. He's a bit deer-in-headlights. He nudges his glasses up his nose and listens to Isis. "That seems a titch melodramatic," he says of the witches. His accent is that upper crust New England sound. The one where 'yes' sounds like 'ears.'
Tabitha smiles softly again, but just for a moment as the conversation continues. "And here I thought Fallcoast would be nothing like home. Just goes to show, no matter where you go there is always someone hungry to take what you got." She wraps her arms around her upraised knee and turns her head to watch Aurore for her response.
"I was always closer to her sister, Amelia, I'm afraid," Aurore ruefully directs to Isis. "It's quite a while since I last laid eyes on Judith myself... but I *believe* she attended a big family gathering at the old courthouse. She's... around, I think, but I don't know if anything *happened*. To her or anyone else in the CAB. To be honest, quite a few people seem to get a bit of a look at what Fallcoast is like under the surface... and high-tail it out of here. Which is a pity. We could do with good people."
Isis nods slowly to Aurore's response. "Then let us all hope that Judith is alive and well." She takes some glasses out of her jacket pocket and places them on the end of her nose before picking up her laptop - all very witchy. "So, let's have a look at a few of the action items from last time. The blue goo. Did anyone end up looking into that? The last I heard, the entire farm had been consumed...or should that be poisoned...by the good. Warding did not seem to do a great deal." She glances around the assembled over her glasses. "Anyone look into it? Oh...for the new people...there is a blue goo of unknown origin that is infecting the forests and farmland outside of Fallcoast. It is slow but inexorable and no one seems to know what it is."
Raphael purses his lips and says nothing. Never knew the woman, and it's not so much dismissive of her fate as it is awkward. He's just... awkward. The keys of his laptop click as he starts taking notes. Blue goo, question mark question mark question mark. Consumed a farm!? "That's concerning," he mentions.
Tabitha rubs one cheek against her knee, "Was there any research done in to the farm? Ownership, legal actions? Is is spreading randomly or in a specific direction towards something or someone. I only ask cause it ignore a ward it might be something along the lines of a good old fashioned curse be it from the living or the dead."
Aurore squirms sheepishly. It seems that skipping the last meeting really did put her out of the loop. "I... no. I've not investigated it," she says, now feeling all the more guilty for spending a couple of months actually focusing on her thesis. "Not a *great* deal sounds as if it might help a little? It could potentially make investigations a touch safer? Having a look at it from within one, I mean. But, ahh... hrmm. Scrying might be a reasonable start, at least? Try to determine if the farm is a mystical nexus now that it's been... overrun. Alongside mundane investigations of what the conventional authorities know and have noticed, that is. Things like health warnings or EPA involvement or the owners suing someone." She nods to Tabitha.
"We don't think it originated on the farm but rather it came out of the woods. The owner is a friend of the sisterhood so he is not at fault. It spreads in a random fashion as far as we know but we could be wrong." Isis peers at the three thaumaturges "Would you three like to check it out?" It is a question asked a hopeful tone. "That would be just super. Now, what else is there. Oh, the Magnificent Magnussen. You were working on that, Aurore. He seems to have disappeared from town."
Raphael glances to the other two uncertainly, and he starts to nod slowly, then pauses while there's still plausible deniability in case the other two say no. Yes? No? He goes with the flow of the meeting on that one. And then he's back to taking notes. Magnificent Magnussen, disappeared from town. (Who is he?)
Tabitha lifts a shoulder, "Sure I be game, never seen blue goo before." She lifts her cup in salute before draining the last of the cheery red ice in to her mouth. A napkin dabs at her lips, "Could be fun, could be insanely dangerous, either way beats doing the laundry."
Aurore actually whimpers faintly when another question is put to her. "Ahhh. Yeah. He's not alone in that. I went to visit him with a group, as you might remember? Everyone else disappeared within the next few weeks after that. I never heard back from any of them about the research they were meant to be doing on him, and, well... yeah. Having met him, and been in his house, I could try tracking him down. It's a *bad* arcane connection, but with effort I should be able to scry on him. He was certainly... odd. From what I saw of his efforts, he'd cobbled together a weird mish-mash of occult lore and, well, cable television-grade magic show stuff. With Hammer Horror sort of props. He seemed sincere in thinking he'd accessed the mysteries of the universe, but it was all... odd. *Off* a bit. We didn't manage to determine what exactly was going on while we were there. But yeah. He and the Blue Goo both could do with investigating. And I feel safer scrying on either of them than trying to poke at those three witches."
Isis nods to Aurore's report. "If he comes back to town then we'll keep an eye on him." A smile for the befuddled newcomers. "A lot does happen here and you should all be aware of the dangers...and the benefits...of our paths." She runs her fingers over the screen to bring up another page. "Hmm...anything else?"
A woman raises her hand and stands up once she has been acknowledged. "Hello. My name is Tammy Pursell, I am a Voudon." The rest of the room greets her as one. "I think there is something going on at the cemeteries...all of them. I've been having some bad dreams and started seeing the Lord of Death even when awake." A nervous sigh. "I believe that someone is trying to raise the dead."
Tabitha itches the side of her neck, "Someone is gonna piss off the Baron doing that." The comment is said more to the other voudon then to the room as a whole.
Raphael's brow knits as he listens to Tammy speak, and still he's taking notes. Poor newb looks like he's just starting to realize he's in way over his head. Clearing his throat, he asks, "And this is par for the course here?"
"Disturbing *every* cemetery in the city isn't par for the course... but it's the sort of issue that's far from unknown," Aurore says dryly. "Quite often, you'll find that people who were tasked with dealing with one potential crisis have failed to do so - not because they're lazy, but because several *other* things came up and pushed their way to the front of the line as even *more* urgent problems. All too often, though, people just... up sticks and get the heck out of here and leave the rest of us wondering what happened to them. But if you want to live somewhere with access to an abundance of mystical energy of virtually every flavour imaginable? This is it. And if you like being helpful, then there're opportunities galore."
Isis makes some notes about Tammy's information before nodding solemnly. "Hmm...well we try not to have the dead come back if we can help it. Oh, speaking of returning trouble, keep on the lookout for Sint. It's that time of year again and hopefully he will have moved onto another town but we know how rare that is. Fallcoast attracts all kinds." A pause. "Sint is the Dutch version of Santa Claus who arrives with his Black Petes to punish the bad and steal children. He dropped by last year."
Tabitha says, "Well that puts a damper on Christmas doesn't it." Tabitha leans back and sighs, "And I was so planning on a quiet winter."
"Of course he did," Raphael says as he adds that to his rapidly growing file of notes. He takes a deep breath, lets it out through puffed cheeks, and says, "I'll help out as much as I can. I've got an associate with abilities that might be useful. Getting him to care on the other hand..."
"Sint's helpers seem to reanimate the bodies of those who died at sea," Aurore says - her rich voice turned decidedly grim. "And they're perfectly willing to put lethal holes in people who get between them and their targets. Or those who're just standing in the street somewhere nearby when they turn up, I can confirm from personal experience. If a preternatural fog rolls in from the sea, and you either see a rider on a white horse or a horde of weirdly-dressed figures on foot and it's somewhere near Christmas... it's best to assume it's Sint and his followers. And yeah. There're a *lot* of people around Fallcoast who have abilities of one sort or another... but unless there's an undead sailor firing a harpoon at them personally, way too few want to do anything about any of it, it seems."
Isis nods to Aurore's lamentations. "Caring is more powerful than the greatest magics." A deep breath before she looks around at those seated around the table. "Okay...enough of the horrible stuff. I believe Maggie brought along plenty of brownies so we should relax a little before..."
There is a BOOM that is more felt than heard and suddenly a spiral shaped portal hovers over the stage at the end of the hall. "Did you miss us?" hisses a woman's voice from the darkness of the spiral before a long, black latex clad leg steps out, soon followed by the rest of the witch. "Look at you all...so cute with your round table." Another figure steps out of the portal. Then another. All clad in black - one redhead, one blonde, one brunette. Three sisters. Three witches.
Raphael says to Isis, "That's a relief, because I'm not sure my magics are up to the task of dealing with these things." There's a note of apology in his tone as he says to the other, "My experience to date is largely theoretical." The portal shuts him right up, though. He opens his mouth, but the snaps it shut again.
Tabitha looks like she was just about to say something, but then there is company. She lifts a hand and it bounces just a moment as she points towards the stage. Turning her head she looks over at Isis, "Why are the witches wearing latex?" That seems to be what has the young woman stumped at the moment. She can handle a portal it seems, even 3 weird sister witches is acceptable, but no its the latex that has her stumped.
"I... would advise against mocking them," Aurore murmurs, staring in wonderment at the portal. Or perhaps the witches. "Gate-magic isn't something I even know the *theory* for, myself. I'd have to summon what's functionally a god among spirits for that."
The trio stride forward slowly. Their stiletto boots clicking on the wooden floor as cold eyes survey the thuamaturges in attendance. "I hope you did not think we had forgotten you" smiles the redhead in the center, the other two slightly behind her. "We just decided that you weren't powerful enough for us last year. You would have been barely a snack rather than a full meal." The three of them stop about ten feet from Isis but address the entire room. "This is the deal. You will have one month to swear your loyalty to us. If you do not..." A wry smile forms. "Then the New Year will be your last year. Is that clear?"
Raphael looks like he's about to say something, but nope. Nope, nope, and nope. He's practiced spells at home, read them out of books. This is some Grade-A Applied Magics shit right here, and he says not one damn word. He just shakes his head. Nope, nope, nopity nope. Nope to voicing his opinion, nope to the swearing. His glance defers to the three women nominally on his side. He knows he's a pup among wolves.
Aurore's might be a good deal more than a pup when compared to most thaumaturges... but it's evident that she's feeling more than a little outclassed by this trio. She, too, stays silent, looking to Isis in hope of something smart to say. The native's conventional snarky response to bossy white authority figures might get people killed here, after all.
Isis does not seem impressed by the ultimatum. "No one will take the knee to you three" she growls - is the rhyming cadence intentional? "Your threats hold no fear, not now or next year. Be on your way, it would be dangerous for you to stay."
The response brings smirks from the sisters before the redhead takes a step closer to Isis. "Very cute." She suddenly stops and looks upwards. "A ward. Hmmm...how perceptive of you to create one." A few steps back. "The offer is there. Whether you wish to live or die is up to you." As one they turn and stride back into the portal and it disappears as quickly as it arrived.
Tabitha shrugs a shoulder, "Nice town you have here but I couldn't take a knee if I wanted. The Baron has my loyalty and one does not switch faiths just to suit a need." She looks up at the ward and smiles to Isis, "Nice ward, if there is anything I can do please let me know."
Raphael just keeps quiet. If threatened enough, he'd buckle like a shoe. So he hunkers behind his laptop and draws as little attention to himself as possible until they're gone. Then his shoulders relax, and he says, "Well, that was, um, horrible." Still, he takes a deep breath and squares his shoulders. He's in the big leagues, now.
Isis sighs softly as she turns to look at the assembled thaumaturges. "We spoke too soon about them" she admits before a deep breath and a returning smile. "At least most of our trials are out in the open." A nod to Tabitha. "We shall all need to help. And do not worry, Raphael, united we will be more than they ever will be. If there is nothing else, then I suggest brownie time."
Tabitha gives a lopsided grin, "I do love me some chocolate. I think your right ma'am."
Raphael relaxes further when Isis addresses him, and he musters up a smile. "I'd like to be part of this, however much help I'll be." He pats at his pockets until he finds the cards he's had made up. They're for math and science tutoring at the university, but they've got his name and number. "Here," he says, leaving some on the table in case anyone wants a colleague. Or math tutor. "I am so ready for brownies."