Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 25

[ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

Webb saw Ariadne immediately go on alert, her eyes bright, her posture tense. Faraday had the better poker face, but even so, he stood up a little straighter, his chin tilting up, his grip tightening on Ariadne’s arm.

Before the tense moment could linger too long, Pax immediately swept in between the two of them, casually looping his arms around their waists and trying to usher them towards the sitting area. “The boss does like to be direct,” he said cheerfully. “But I think everyone’s had quite the stressful evening, already. Ayesha, can you bring us some wine?” he called back to one of the vampires near the door.

Ayesha raised an eyebrow, glancing at Veracity, who simply inclined her head very slightly and took a seat in one of the armchairs with a smile that Webb wouldn’t call unfriendly, but was impressively devoid of any emotion at all. The other vampire seemed to take this as a “yes,” however, slipping back out into the main room.

Pax was glancing back at Webb, his bright blue eyes slightly narrowed. Try to let me guide you a little, here, he’d said.

Webb drew in a breath, shoved their hands in their pockets, and slumped down in one of the armchairs as well.

“Thanks for hearing us out,” Webb said. Negotiations, they reminded themself. You’re good at this shit, if you’re good at anything. “I mean, first of all, the Inquisitors seem like they’re a bit of a pain in the ass to deal with. I tried to see if they were even willing to talk about this and that was a big zero.”

“Did you,” Veracity said dryly. She swirled her glass, looking Webb over thoughtfully. They felt the uncomfortable pressure of her gaze and tried to keep their own eyes fixed somewhere near her ear—radiating weirdness and social awkwardness and wearing sunglasses inside did have its perks.

“I did,” Webb agreed noncommittally.

With the pressure off them, Ariadne and Faraday had also taken a seat, though they still looked quite nervous about it. Webb was filled suddenly with an unexpected, almost panicky swell of emotion. The two of them had shown up at Webb’s door and dragged them off on an unexpected romp across the city, sure, but they’d done so with good intentions—and probably kept Webb from an even worse fate. And in many ways, they were here, right now, in this room, because of Webb and the decisions they’d made.

Webb felt protective, and was not at all sure what to do about that. The feeling caught in their throat like fire, and they swallowed, rubbing their palms on their knees.

Pax, to his credit, also seemed to be picking up the general vibe, and perched lightly on the arm of a chair, tail swaying, tapping one golden toe as if in time to music only he could hear. “I’ve certainly heard that they aren’t the most compelling conversationalists.”

Webb shrugged. “Really not. Though, I am curious about, like, how eagerly pursued and how valuable are we in this situation. Even if the rumors were true—and they aren’t—they weren’t exactly maniac cultist level. If I wanted to be hunted down, I could have done something way more interesting.”

“I’m glad to hear you’re concerned about your professional integrity,” Pax quipped, though his tail had gone still. Webb could see that he was watching Veracity out of the corner of his eye, gauging her reaction, wary.

Veracity had raised her eyebrows, reclining back slightly in her chair, but Webb was fairly sure they saw her mouth twitch, just a little.

“We’re talking value, aren’t we?” Webb pointed out. “You seem like a person who just wants to get the best deal out of this situation, and I just don’t think the Inquisitors are gonna give much for me.”

“Perhaps not,” Veracity agreed smoothly. She hardly looked up as Ayesha returned, setting down a tray of wine glasses that absolutely nobody except Pax bothered to touch, though Webb noticed Ariadne sniff the air slightly, surreptitiously. “But then, you haven’t indicated that you’d be of any use to me at all.”

“I was just trying to get an understanding of the current going rate in the marketplace,” Webb said.

“We want to take down Grimm,” Ariadne said abruptly. “We thought… that might be relevant to you. Eliminating competition.

Veracity frowned at that. Webb could tell from Pax’s reaction as much as hers that that was not the right thing to say—the tip of the demon’s tail vibrated like a rattlesnake’s, silent but agitated.

Competition isn’t exactly the right word,” Pax cut in smoothly.

“Nuisance,” Webb said immediately. “He’s a trashy would-be interloper with bad taste and delusions of grandeur, and he’s waving his dick too close to your nice neighbourhood, here. He’s been messing with me, and I have no idea why—but more to the point, we’re offering to be useful to you in that you don’t really have a lot to lose by letting us go loose to be feral in his general direction. We might disrupt him a little, at the bare minimum. Or, with your help, we might be able to do more.”

“I somehow doubt that,” Veracity said, but her tone was much lighter, that ominous expression gone from her face. “But… games of chance do have a way of surprising you, now and again.”

Pax drained his wine glass and picked up another. “You didn’t specify what exactly it is you’re planning to do,” he told Webb.

“I have no idea,” Webb admitted, betting on honesty for now, glancing back over at Veracity. “I had barely heard of the guy before tonight. All I know is that apparently he’s been pulling my strings. If we figure out who’s behind that, it might turn up an informant that’s on his side. Maybe here, maybe somewhere else in my network… but I’d more than happily turn them over to you.”

Veracity considered this, lashes heavy over her dark eyes. “You’re right that he’s a… minor irritant, at best,” she said slowly. “But I’m not in the habit of allowing pests to breed in my garden. So, perhaps, if you did manage something, I wouldn’t exactly feel remorseful about it. However, you haven’t quite made it clear what you’re hoping to get from me.

Webb exchanged a glance with the others. This seemed to be going pretty well: even Pax seemed a bit more eager and bright-eyed, and Ariadne was sitting up a bit straighter. What did they hope to get out of her, though? Were they just hoping that maybe she’d heard something, or knew who might be involved in the plot that involved Webb? Or did that not really matter in the grand scheme of things and what they really needed was as much intel on Grimm.

In case they did… what? The thought caught Webb up short. They knew all along that Ariadne’s plan was to deal with Grimm, but what did that look like, exactly? What could the four of them—assuming Lore came along, which wasn’t necessarily to be taken for granted—do against an established vampire lord in his own home?

Lost in thought, Webb jolted in shock at the sudden fierce rapping at the door. Everyone’s heads turned that way as it opened and the door guard stepped urgently inside, closing the door firmly behind her and pressing a hand to her chest.

“Lord Veracity,” she said, obviously keyed up although she was keeping her cool, eyes bright but tone steady. “My apologies for the interruption, but we’ve just received word—it’s the Inquisitors. They seem to have the place surrounded, and they’re…” Her gaze fell on Webb. “They’re here for them.

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

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

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  • Boxy

    OK well honestly this is probably the best case scenario because 1: no way in hell will Lord Veracity put up with too much sass from the Inquisitors, 2: you’d rather get into dealings with Veracity than the Inquisition anyway

  • Prince Charming

    You should ask Pax to smuggle you out a back door.

    And you have Lore with you. Maybe they can help you someway to get past the Inquisitors. You can’t really talk to them now, but maybe on your way out.

    Before you go, ask Veracity if she‘s heard something that could point you in the right direction to find the one who‘s betrayed you.

    Probably completely irrelevant, but I’m curious. Do you know who the owner of the Drawing Dead is?

  • meredithakatz

    Wait a sec. ‘Out in force’? ‘So eagerly pursued’? enough Inquisitors to ‘have the place surrounded’? Is it normal for one skinny nerd (who only MIGHT have been the cause of people embarking on moderately dangerous quests disappearing) to get so many inquisitors so determinedly chasing them down? Or is something else up here?

    Either way I think it’s time to boogie, they’ve already failed to follow up on your ‘I want to talk’ gambit and with that many they want to at least arrest first and inquisit later, I’d imagine.

    What WOULD be best from Veracity? Backup against Grimm or to assure the inquisitors this is none of your doing? Is there some weakness of Grimm’s she knows about, or some other tool that she can provide to use against him? Any blackmail information? A particularly weird repulsion to cans of cherry cola? DOES she know something that could clear your name compellingly so you didn’t have to be on the run in the forseeable future (which might continue to be a problem after Grimm too). Anything like that would be useful, assuming you are going to go after a vampire lord in his lair, as you say.

    Anyway, you deal in information, you know what to do with information, and I imagine Veracity wants to get going too. If you can leave together, ask quickly.

  • Noah

    This might be a bad idea, but it seems like you’ve run out of good ideas. Make a deal with Veracity–a favor for her, anything she asks, to be fulfilled at a later date, if she can give you a push in the right direction. Or keep the Inquisitors from finding you.

    It sounds really bad, but you better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, eh? Eeeehhh?

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