Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 5

[ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

Webb let out a breath, slumping back in the booth, and closed their eyes.

A good person. Webb tried their best not to be the reason harm came to anybody. They weren’t totally sure why it bothered them that Ariadne recognized that. Maybe because that sort of thing made you vulnerable—easy to use and manipulate.

But this kind of situation… recognizing that there were evils in the world and trying not to enable them was one thing. Actually going out and doing something about it—

“I’m not the heroic type,” they said, and grimaced at how their voice sounded to their own ears, reedy and brittle. “Like… I don’t like what Grimm is doing, but that’s just—if it were really that easy to get him to stop, someone more qualified would have done so already.”

There were hunters and brokers that dealt with bigger situations than the ones Webb handled. People who made it their life’s work as vigilantes, trying to keep things from getting too out of hand. Webb tried to avoid them as much as possible.

Ariadne had leaned forward a little, elbows braced on the table. “There are a lot of evils in the world, I think,” she said slowly, “and they’re going to go unchecked so long as most people think, that’s someone else’s problem to deal with. I mean, I’ve been in your shoes for a long time, and I just… I don’t know. I just can’t anymore.”

“… at the end of the day,” Faraday added quietly, after neither Ariadne nor Webb said anything, “we’re not going to force you to act on anything. But we’re still going to try. So… even if there’s information you can give us, or if you can point us in the right direction, that’ll be enough.”

He sounded disapproving, in that gentle sort of way. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

“I don’t know what the ‘right’ direction is,” Webb said, trying to keep his tone on the terse side while being fully aware that it was verging on sulky. “But—yeah, sure. Fine. Keeping in mind that I do usually charge for this, and if I find out that you’re fucking with me for any reason, I will find some way to make you pay. I promise that what I lack in altruism I make up in pure spite.”

Ariadne’s eyes widened a little, and Webb swore they saw her lips twitch a little. But she managed to keep her serious composure. “Of course. No problem, Mx. Webb.”

Webb sighed. “… alright. So, I work with a lot of different people. Sometimes they’re one-offs, though obviously if I don’t know the source I have to do some additional digging to verify the accuracy of the tip before sharing it. If I can’t, I either just hold onto that until I can, or I sell it as dirty information, take it or leave it, to those who know what they’re getting into. But most of the time, I try to—fuck—try to be certain of my sources to avoid, fucking, vampires eating them or something—”

“Webb…” Faraday reached out a hand again, apparently on impulse, sympathetic. Webb smacked his knuckles with a fork.

“What this means is,” Webb continued, “that the number of people or organizations that I work with on a regular enough basis for them to be in on a whole bloodsucker DoorDash scheme is fairly small.”

“Are there any of them that you trust more than others?” Ariadne ventured. “People that you’ve worked with for a long time?”

“I don’t know!” Webb tossed their hands up in the air. “Nobody at this point, apparently! People I’ve worked with for a while could have just been fucking with me the whole time and I didn’t know it!”

But they did try to take a breath and think about that. Out of potentially dozens, they could narrow it down to four primary contacts that dealt with enough volume to make it worth their while, and whose tips at least semi-regularly sent people outside the valley.

First, there was a group with fairly open membership known as the Hallow Society. As far as Webb knew, they were a network made up of all types that sprawled throughout Hallow Point and the surrounding valleys and who acted as sort of a support system where you paid your dues and could apply to the Society for aid. Webb frequently sent people their way to help out with some of the bigger problems that a weedwhacker or a few poultices couldn’t solve. They had an elected council that swapped out every year or so—Webb dealt with whoever was sending them emails that day.

Second, an imp named Pax that worked at one of Hallow Point’s most notorious gambling halls. He was a shameless eavesdropper as well as a go-between between Webb and some of Hallow Point’s rich, powerful, and unsavory. Webb had been wary at first, but Pax’s tips had been pretty lucrative, and—Webb had always thought—an opportunity where Webb could do some valuable work, though they were getting less sure of that by the moment.

Third, an individual Webb knew only as The Curator, whom Webb had never actually seen, and yet somehow trusted no more or less than the others. The Curator lived in a little tower that smelled of books and herbs, and invited Webb over with polite handwritten notes. Tea would appear when Webb was looking the other way, and they’d leave with letters in their pockets, scented with lavender and written in neat cursive. Unlike the others, who paid Webb primarily in direct e-transfer, The Curator paid in non-standard cash, or the occasional trinket.

Finally, there were the fae. Webb usually worked with them through a dryad named Naeemah who lived in Hallow Point’s largest park, who often received rumors from her siblings and associates out in the greater woods. The fae were… not ever Webb’s first choice, but they couldn’t really turn down a network as vast as a forest.

Webb wasn’t aware of any particular dealings that any of them may or may not have had with Grimm in the past, so that line of thought wasn’t going to be particularly lucrative unless Ariadne had anything to offer.

“Do you know if Grimm has any enemies, or any bad blood anywhere that we might be able to take advantage of?” Webb asked.

Ariadne shook their head slowly, then paused, thoughtful. “I remember him complaining about some kind of peryton that had been hassling the clan at one point when they were trying to expand into a new territory, but that was a while back. I don’t know if they’re still a problem.”

“We might have to ask around specifically about that,” Faraday added quietly. “Possibly even after we’ve left Hallow Point and gone further north. The closer we get to Grimm’s territory, the more likely it is that we’ll hear about someone who’s aware of what he’s up to and none too happy about it.”

“Though, there’s also the vampire lords in town, or some of the other big groups, like the were gangs or one of the bigger covens,” Ariadne muses. “As risky as that might be if we don’t have an in, they might be alarmed enough about a vampire lord growing his power on their doorstep that they might be moved to do something about it…”

Webb nodded, rubbing their mouth with one hand. They didn’t really want to get too involved in this, but they could at least offer to set Ariadne and Faraday up with an introduction to one of their contacts. But of the four, which should they approach first? Or would it be a better idea to try something else altogether?

[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!

Or negging, that’s a thing we do apparently.]

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  • meredithakatz

    o fuck yeah there’s a peryton out there somewhere

    Also the Curator seems nice!!! You should get back in touch with them. I mean, if they’re a bad guy, it’s only reasonable you didn’t see the betrayal coming, and if they’re not, you’ve never seen as much potential for good support.

  • Vikarmic

    Hmm. Of those four, it seems like the Hallow Society is the most likely to be the leak. (Assuming it’s only one; it might not be.) The very fact that Pax deals primarily with the powerful and unsavory makes him less likely to poison his tips deliberately, ironically; people like that do not appreciate being crossed, and they’re more likely to notice that their commissions aren’t being filled and ask, let’s say, pointed questions about why. The Curator works alone and seems so enigmatic that they’d be difficult to suborn; that might make them a good ally later. As for the fae, they’re generally a headache to deal with but it’s hard to imagine them working deliberately with a vampire clan, though not impossible. The Society, on the other hand, is loosely organized and widespread — easy for someone to slip some bad information into. That’s probably where you should start, but of course you should be careful not to be locked into that assumption, and follow up everything if you can.

  • Prince Charming

    You should go to see Pax.
    Pax sounds like someone who knows a lot, knows a lot of people, and can bring you in touch with someone powerful who might not like the Grimm clan getting to powerful.

    And imps are pretty and cute. What about you? Do you think Pax is cute?

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