Bastian smiled and said "Yes, very good. Keep us posted on any changes."
Just as quickly the portal seemed to shudder and suddenly it was in front of Faustus and Seth.
"Come along, we're almost done here."
Both of them looked at one another and tentatively stepped though the gateway with the collar in their hands. Bastian picked up the collar and placed it on the corpse. Lifting the corpse up, they pointed it at a projector screen provided by a helpful policeman. The images flickered by quickly, creating a sort of moving image. The man, Van Diverson, was looking at a letter on his desk, then up at a clock, then back to the letter and continued writing. This proceeded for a few moments before Van Diverson put the letter away and pulled out a sealed envelope and stood up. Opening the door of his study, there was a younger man, but not Daniel, waiting for him. He took the letter and a small cloth-bound object, Bastian took out the "key" and looked at it. Just then the images changed to the man leaving, closing the door and sitting back down. Then the man turned and the image blurred around the edges before being consumed by blur and going black.
Bastian fiddled with a dial below the red crystal and tapped the image back. There, in the middle of the enclosing blur, was a man in a black robe and hood with a golden belt, hanging from which were large golden discs emblazoned with a skull and a nine-pointed star. He had two hidden blades extended fully, and they were glowing with green runes. "So that's our killer." said Bastian, walking up to the projection, handing off the duty of holding the body to a nearby coroner.
Bastian scrutinized the image, before saying "Let's go. We'll send someone else over to pick up the collar, we trust you'll keep it safe here?" the coroner nodded and Bastian said to the assembled Guardians "Come on, now that we know what he looks like we can fight him when he comes."
"So, I'll be on the lookout for someone going for the 'robes' look rather than my, rather snappy, 'Fedora and Greatcoat' look...' Harper looked around at the other's stony faces. 'I'm joking guys, I'll put in the same amount of effort with this as I do with every operation.'
The portal was already much smaller than before so Bastian had to squeeze through. The church was just as advertised by Breaker, the other Guardians squeezed in behind him and milled about while the portal shrunk to the size of a dime before vanishing. It was nice, if old and dusty, Bastian tried not to sneeze as he took a few steps, the sounds echoing.
"Hello?" called Bastian at the walls, causing it to reverberate.
From behind the pulpit a door opened and a priest in a typical priestly attire came forward.
"May I help you, sir?"
"Are you the deacon of this church?"
"Well since last Easter I have been giving sermons here, I suppose you could say I am. How may I assist you?"
"We believe that the serial killer known only by the alias 'The Golden Skull' will be coming here, tonight."
"This is a house of repentence, my son. If this murderer wishes to repent, he is welcome."
"He is here because he believes you have received a key from the Hellfire Club. He seems to be seeking them."
"I have had only passing interest in the affairs of the Hellfire Club, their lecherous ways go against everything the Church stands for. But when they ask piteously for help, a man of the cloth simply cannot refuse. It is part of being a priest."
"We will have to stay here overnight, for your own protection and the protection of other. If we can capture this killer, we can put an end to his killing."
"I cannot condone violence in this holy house, but if you must subdue him then do so without undue harm."
"We will try our best."
Seth skeptically turned his back to the priest, standing beside Bastian. "And if he attacks first? There maybe something he's not telling us."
"Presumably, all we have to do is wait. But it would be better to prepare the battlefield..."
said Bastian, drawing threads of fate energy and sending them twining around a column near him.
"These should suffice, I can trigger them later for any effect I need. As long as that effect isn't too grandiose. I've channeled far too much for today, the coming of the dawn tomorrow will wipe away my energies." Bastian looked around and said "Faustus, I know you have the power to ward the doors. Make sure that whoever opens those gets a nasty surprise. Seth, you're a warrior..." he looked around "Figure out if theres any sort of steeple or belfry, and make sure it's booby trapped. Put pails on doors if you need to."
Bastian tapped the communicator and said "Breaker, you're a hydromancer....talk to the water and get it some place you can easily access it, I don't want you defenseless if things get bad."
"In the mean time, I am going to do something our good father might frown upon."
In his hands his fortunamancy formed objects, Claymore explosives.
"We're going to make damn sure that if this Golden Skull comes tonight, the only way he'll be leaving is either with us....or in a body bag."
(I can still do stuff for about a week. Then I become unreliable...)
'D'you want me in here or outside? I could get out there and tell you when I see him approach and act as a safety net if that sounds good to you guys.'
"I'd say keep watch first but fall back if you see anything approach. We don't need any foolish deaths." said Bastian.
The light was lowering fast, night was approaching. Bastian took a breath and said "Everyone whose hungry come with me. The priest here will probably provide a little something. We sleep in turns, keep watch inside and out. Oh and one last thing, everyone is to stick to non-lethal options unless it looks like he's not holding back. If he goes for the target, you disable him. If he goes for the kill on anyone, throw off the gloves. Those are your orders."
Bastian had some thin chicken soup, he was slurping the noodles when he heard a thump. It was quiet, almost quiet. Bastian got up and opened the door. It was Faustus, he was breathing deeply and slowly near the wall. He looked at Bastian and said "Sorry, just finishing up guarding the building." Bastian nodded "Take five, Faust. We still need your skills..."
Bastian was almost through the door when Faustus said "You know, it's funny. We spend so much time a step behind this killer and the only reason we're a step ahead is because of the Hellfire Club."
"The enemy of my enemy I suppose..." said Bastian "Get some rest."
Fastus nodded and got up, slowly.
"Hey, try not to unhinge your jaw. It's just soup tonight."
Faustus laughed and nodded.
"What did you do, by the way?" asked Bastian.
"Oh, you'll see. I made sure to make it both visible and frightening. Guaranteed success."
Bastian nodded and sat down to finish eating, dreading the coming evening a little. He didn't want any more people to die, but he didn't want to kill a killer....it just felt wrong.
It was late, after Bastian had closed his eyes, that he heard the Chronometer in his pocket begin to tick rapidly. Bastian awoke and looked out the door just a crack. There was a blur dripping down from a window, which seemed to break in slow motion...colored glass raining down slowly. In the blur was black mass which pooled and formed as it struck the ground.
Just as the blur began to take shape, something crashed through the front door and set off one of the wards Bastian had placed. Silently triggering it, the fate wire popped up and wrapped around the person's legs and then their whole body like tough, heavy metal wire. Bastian chuckled as the figure in the center of the building smeared into shape. He was wearing a black robe and had the gleaming belt of golden discs. It was the Golden Skull.
The Golden Skull walked towards the hobbled person and thats when Bastian hissed to wake everyone up. Everyone roused and ran out the door and they heard the Golden Skull say, in a very measured tone "I knew you would follow me again, you've tailed me for three weeks."
There was a distorted, male voice that replied "You shouldn't be so obvious, any mage can smell you a mile away. Chronomancers were never subtle."
The Golden Skull extended his hidden blades and a now female voice replied
"Damn you, you idiot. You dispelled my voice."
"We can speak openly and clearly now, can't we?" said the Golden Skull, retracting the blades.
"Tell me, before I cut you loose and send you on your way, who are you?"
"I'm the future. I'm going to set us all free; you, the folks standing behind you..."
The Golden Skull whirled to face Bastian.
"I'm Sebastian Wyre of the Guardians of Light, we're here to arrest you in the name of the security of the populace and of the law. We'd prefer you to go quietly."
The Golden Skull lowered his shoulders and retracted the blades again and said "Formal, aren't you. I, however, will not be going into anyone's custody."
The Golden Skull took out a short blade, also Quintessence, and cut the bonds holding the other person. The female stood up, brushed herself off and glared at the assembled group. She, too, wore black robes and the golden discs.
"A copycat?" said Bastian, stepping foreward. "We'll need to take both of you in."
The woman screamed "No!" and whirled out two short blades from her boots and swung at the Golden Skull. Things went downhill fast, and the assembled Guardians prepared for a many-sided fight.
Breaker rose up out of the fountain, rubbing her eye as she did. "Whats going on, i felt a shake and now thi.." but she was cut short by the scene unfolding around her.
Around her, water rose up and covered her body as armor. she jumped out of the fountain and brought with her, the rest of the water in the form of a large ball above her head.
A number of water tentacles launched out at the two combatants with the forwards swing of her staff.
she hoped that they'd restrain them but her skills were rusty, it had been a while.
Outside, along rooftops, a figure ran on all fours its steps seeming more beast than man. He was dressed in simple street clothes, save for the golden mask on its face.
Crouched low, it sat on the steeple of the roof of the next building over and watched silently. Pensively waiting for opportunity to present itself...
Kase awoke almost immediately as Bastian called them all and rushed down the hallway slightly disorientated, "What's u-" Before anymore could be said before him were now two mysterious figures in black robes and layered in golden discs. "Aww dammit, now there's two of 'em!?" He thought as he was readied his withdrawn sword.
Breaker's tentacles lashed around the two and they danced around to dodge them. The Golden Skull brandished his blades and the water fell harmlessly near him, the quintessence blocked the magic in a bubble around him.
Bastian drew his Gun and fired at one of them. The Golden Skull sheathed his blades and dodged in superspeed, but opened himself to the wind magic of the other robed figure, blasting him against the wall and triggering Fasutus's ward. The walls erupted in blue flames and it shot along the steeple in a cool, harmless pillar upwards with spirits swirling within.
"That's your defense, Faustus?"
"I didn't say it would kill them..."
The Golden Skull got up and shook himself off.
Harper was quietly woken by Bastian's call to The Golden Skull: 'Wha? I'm not asleep, just..oh fuck.'
He quickly slid out of his seat and into a crouch behind a pew as the mele began. He peaked over the top of the bench just in time to see the female assailant hurl The Golden Skull into the wall before seeing her turn to face Bastian as he was distracted. Harper swung his pistol up, pulling back the hammer as he yelled, 'BASTIAN, DOWN!'. The woman glanced in his direction before ducking behind a pillar to take cover from the quickly fired trio of shots.
With the danger immedietly passed, Joseph turned and ran straight into the primary target "Oof! Duck!" Watching the bewilderment on The Golden Skull's face as he pointed he brought the grip of the pistol round as the assassin turned slightly. Sadly it failed to connect and Harper dodged back to avoid the quickly slicing blades.
"For gods sake, someone, a little help!'
Bastian whirled, pulling his short sword and bringing it down on the woman as she fell down and pinned her before pistol whipping her. She kicked up and knocked him down, ripping her robe as she stood.
"The Gloves are off, miss." said Bastian, winding fortune energy.
"What are you going to do, unlucky me to death?"
Just as she finished her sentence, a cloud of needle sharp shards of rock came flying at her and sliced her up.
"Something like that." said Bastian, retrieving his weapon.
"For go's sake, someone, a little help!" said Harper to his left.
Bastian whirled again and using his fortune magic sent his blade to boomerang at the Golden Skull. It embedded in his shoulder and set off a blast of arcane energy, sending him into the ground like the sword was a rocket.
Breaker saw her chance and used more water tendrils to restrain the golden skull to the ground. she walked towards him , her water armor still up in case anything were to happen.
"I have a sinking feeling this isn't this easy, anyone else get that?"
Breaker said and drew her bow, it aimed at the Golden skull.
The Golden Skull growled and an inhuman voice came out, his eyes glowing with blue flames.
"I'm only getting started..."
Breaker smiled and loosed the arrow.
Time slowed to an utter crawl, the arrow slowly traveling towards his head. The eyes burned as another mind took over, He slipped and slid through the water magic and stood... touching Breaker's shoulder...that's when Bastian's bullet grazed his forehead and broke his concentration and his magic became spastic. Blood trickling down his face, the Golden Skull took both hidden blades and went to bury both blades in Breaker's back as she slowly stuttered back to normal speed. He spun around another bullet, his form seeming to bolt around the room. Twirling to bury the blades into the Vampire's heart, he heard the sizzling crack as the air magic struck the water magic.
When the thunderbolt rammed into the Golden Skull's chest, he didn't know what to feel. His heart skipped a beat and his magic failed, coming back to normal time. Breaker whirled and sent two tentacles at him, bashing him against a pillar which exploded in orange energy bindings and attached to him, holding him. He lost consciousness then, sinking into darkness. A mark burned into his chest where the woman's thunderbolt had struck him.
The woman, however, went running...towards the top of the tower. Bastian took a moment to remember...the claymore mines were up there. "Stop her!" he shouted and ran after her.
Harper slipped and fell, sure the next thing he would feel would be the Skull's blades entering his neck. After a few seconds he looked up and saw him restrained by Breaker. Then it went mental.
He shook his head and got to his feet in time to hear 'Bastian's order. "Okay, what the hell just happened? Right, nevermind... Get back here you idiot!"
He turned on his heel and sprinted after the strange woman, grabbing her at the foot of the stairs, and recieving a punch to the jaw. "Right, get back down there, I'm not in a good...OH FOR GOD'S SAKE! Just come quietly will you?" He staggered a bit, before bounding after her, desperate to bring her back down safely.
(Can I catch her, or does she get away?)
The church was swathed in the massive spectral beacon now. The police had arrived below, flashing red and blue lights reflecting off the side of the building. The woman kept running up the tower stairs, reaching the top quickly.
Bastian entered, out of breath, with Harper close behind him. She was trapped between the bell and two open windows. However, Bastian knew the windows were certain death, the claymore mines had been placed in them.
"You can't win. Give up!" shouted Bastian.
The woman laughed and went for the window.
Bastian cursed in his head and put his hand to the wall and drew the fate energy out of it. His hand glowed orange as he readied the spell, a bolt of pure force. As the woman jumped int the window and pulled the wire on the claymore, Bastian fired the spell. It sent her flying sideways out the window and she began to fall. The mine, however, fell with her and faster than her. Bastian went to the window to see the woman cast her wind magic below her just as the explosive went off. The tower began to buckle and fall towards the same place the woman seemed to have landed.
It all happened very fast. The tower collapsed in a shower of stone, mortar and fragments of both. The bell was what saved Harper, covering him protectively as it landed with a clang. Bastian was shrouded in some kind of protective bubble. It took him a moment to realize it was water blocking the stones from pulverizing him. Breaker had shrouded them in water and had caught the debris. Bastian smiled and patted her shoulder before the spell broke and Bastian looked for the woman. She was standing slowly, only partially covered in rubble.
She turned in horror and saw that the Guardians were alive and threw a massive bolt of wind. That's when the screen of water flashed before him. Bastian couldn't stop Breaker fast enough, the bolt of lighting that seared through the water struck her foot and traveled up her. It was a glancing strike and not fatal, but it stunned her. Bastian went to catch her, hoping someone would stop her
Harper staggered out from inside the huge bell in time to see the woman preparing another bolt of electricity, this time the killing blow. He drew his colt and pulled back the hammer, the small sound drawing her gaze magically to the barrel leveled at her head.
"Please, don't pull the trigger."
Harper lowered his pistol slightly and smiled. "I wasn't going to shoot you in the head..."
"Well you should have." She moved to fire lightning right at him when he pulled the trigger, before movingit and firing again.
"...I was going to shoot you in the knees. Bitch, when I say come quietly, the other option is 'loud' because I'm shooting you."
He bent down and twisted her onto her front before bringing her hands behind her back and cuffing her. Finally he pulled her to her feet and dragged her to a bench near the others.
" You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law; you have the right to talk to a lawyer and have a lawyer present with you during questioning. You, specially, also gain the non-waivable right to be shot by me again if you try any more funny buisness. Bastian, consider her 'stopped'."
Bastian smiled and patted Harper's shoulder. "Thanks, I'll take it from here.."
The Police were approaching at that time with the unconscious Golden Skull being strapped to a stretcher and wheeled into an ambulance.
"I'm gonna have to claim Council Law section 5, guys...we'll finish our investigation and hand what we find over to you and the courts." said Bastian to the policemen.
"You're lucky your light show caught attention. We'd have ignored it if it was three days from now. You people and your light shows..." said the police inspector, walking up.
"So, whose the real mccoy?"
"The one you got heading to St. Mary's...lighting from this one here."
The inspector nodded and said "I'll leave it to the Guardians to finish their end of this. You call soon as you're ready to pass custody."
"We will..." said Bastian, picking the woman up. "Follow us." he said as a paddy wagon approached with the Guardians seal on it.
Harper sighed and sat down on the wet grass, making his weapon safe before holstering it. "Ah jesus, my head is ringing after that fall. I'm not sure the human body's meant to do that, under any circumstances." Suddenly he leapt up, before staggering slightly and supporting himself on a piece of masonry. "Hey, what's happened to the priest? We were here to protect him, has anyone actually seen if he's still alive?"
Bastian jumped up "Knew I forgot something..."
Inside the police were speaking to the priest, he looked visibly upset but no worse for the wear. Bastian breathed a sigh of relief.
"Father, are you alright?" asked Bastian.
"I am unharmed, but you should not have allowed them to defile the bell tower..."
"We tried, Father. I'm sorry..."
"God will forgive you..."
Bastian took a policeman aside and said "Any way you can sweep this under the rug? We don't need the people panicking over this."
The policeman nodded and said "I'll tell the Inspector..."
Bastian walked out to see a Chrysler pull up and the doors open. "We've come to bring everyone home. High Master Arcturus needs a sitrep, and he'd like it personally."
Bastian nodded "Everyone into the car, we're going home."
Dawn was peeking just over the horizon.
Rueben sat in his room. The mask was on the bed side table. He had managed to slip out to watch the others without detection and hoped it would stay that way. Kin hadnt objected, but only under the condition that he not take direct action unless absolutely necessary. Kin firmly believed he needed more work done before he was ready to join the squad.
The others would be back soon. He stood up and walked out to the commons. Staring out the window, he watched as the car pulled up and the figures inside shuffled out. His mind seemed distant, he still was in many ways.
Later...Back at the Sanctuary
The cell the woman was kept in was bare with only a lodestone chair and quintessence bars holding her inside. She was sitting her, chin in her right hand, staring at the wall outside the bars.
Bastian stepped in, standing in front of her.
"You've been quite the difficult prisoner."
"I want a lawyer."
"Unfortunately, in the custody of the Guardians you are not permitted a lawyer if we feel you are a threat to national stability. Usually, we would just summarily execute you."
"I feel so special."
Bastian narrowed his eyes "You should. Theres something about you that High Master Pharisee sees, and you'll stay alive until your frustration outlives your usefulness. Now I will ask you again.."
"And I won't tell you again..."
"Who are you working for, Why are you dressing up like the Golden Skull, Are you attempting to form a violent uprising, Are you or are you not going to answer this time?"
The woman glared.
"I am not going to ask again...I don't even know your name, you know that?"
"It's Anastasia, and no I will not answer your questions."
"That's too bad, I was getting to like you too..."
Bastian pulled out the Silvered blade and unlocked the door. The chair burst with orange coils of energy, binding her down as he approached. "I'll make this quick, it was nice knowing you."
She began to flail, trying to crawl away but the coils held her fast.
Then she changed. A blue fire overtook her eyes and her skin went gray-white, her veins showing blue through the skin. She hissed, showing sharp teeth and screamed as horns pushed through her scalp, pushing up and curling like a devil's horns. Her fingernails became claws as she flailed, wracked with pain. She was growing larger and taller, it was clear. When it was over her eyes were a striking blue, about 3-4 inches taller and more muscular.
"I knew it..." said Bastian, sheathing the blade.
"You dare to frighten the strength out of me? You insolent...
"Be quiet, Illrian. Speak your name."
"Alright, tell me about your host."
"My Host will not reveal any information and I am beholden to her wishes. I will tell you nothing."
"You are the essence of justice, yes? You are basically fighting for justice, and your host is just helping you."
"All Illrians fight for justice, peace and freedom. We fight against the Darkness and the corruption."
"You, specifically, you are Justice. Yes?"
"I am. "
"Then tell me how violent uprising solves the probolems of prejudice. It will only make matters worse."
"It is time the world saw we, the magical and the monstrous, won't bend to the will of those who abandoned the true faith and followed the wanton path to endless loops upon the Cycle, never truly rejoining the Light. It is time that actions spoke louder than words. Three days of demolishing the established system of prejudice, three days of destroying those who stand against the Light. Three days of protest and solidarity. And three nights of fear and apprehension, before it occurs and the black feathers show their true colors. Change must happen at the root if the whole of the tree is to change."
At the end of this monologue, Bastian sighed.
"You're adamant...I can see that. Tell me, what are you planning?"
The Illrian smiled and said "We march on Parliament, the very root of power here, and we make our stand there. We will rally, protest, speak and even sit within the chambers of Parliament if we must. We will shout from the clock tower 'Equality above all' and the Light will bless our Path. We will achieve what we seek, or die as martyrs for the good cause."