Night falls over New Orleans yet again, but for once, aside from a crying Cyclops baby who seems to be having trouble understanding that darkness means sleep time, the air around the group is rather calm. The Hyde problem handled, and Nelen's suicide gambit turning out successful in more ways than one, the group finally has a weapon to use against the Manticore that could catch it off guard. Things are peaceful for a change as they simply need to get back home to India to use it...
Of course, this peace soon is interrupted by a firm knocking on the hotel door.
Nelen grunts, sitting up in bed as he fumbles around for his glasses. He'd called home for advice on a crying baby and had gotten told "Well, sometimes babies just cry." before trying to ignore it and getting some sleep. Apparently coming back from the dead is rather exhausting. He gets out of bed, the former warlock wearing just a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, as he grumbles under his breath and heads to the door, yanking it open and, without even looking, grabbing the person on the other side by the shirt. "Hear that crying? It has kept me awake until approximately fifteen minutes ago. Whoever you are, you had better have a DAMN good reason for waking me up!" he snarls.
Nelen's hand would be met by a stabbing pain when it grabs onto the shirt in front of him. A rather thin clawed hand digging into his flesh as its owner slowly peels Nelen's hand off. In front of him was a pair of visitors, a young woman and a young man who looked near exactly alike. Short black hair, pale skin, dark eyes, and matching black suits with white shirts, though the woman's now was a bit crumpled where Nelen's hand had been..."I assume you're the warlock?" She says in a cold tone, eyes darting to look beyond Nelen. "We've come for you, Natasha Kernovich, and anyone else connected to the mystical arts in this room. The prince has summoned you."
Nelen hesitates despite his grogginess. Normally a late night visit from a vampire would result in him snapping their necks, cutting off their heads, tossing the bones into a back alleyway, and letting the maids deal with the pile of ash left behind before going back to bed... but if they worked for the local prince that would be exceptionally unwise. "Hm..." he huffs, adjusting his glasses. His eyes were red, but unlike before it was just from tiredness. Truth is, as he'd found out after Merihim reverted to Cernunnos... he'd lost his blood magic, which meant he could no longer let a vampire feed on them and have Merihim tear them apart from the inside out. Still, they called him 'warlock', that at least meant that the vampires probably didn't know that he wasn't a blood mage anymore. Still, he wasn't a complete idiot, "How do I know you're actually working for the prince?" he asks, folding his arms over his scarred chest. After all, he didn't know these two bloodsuckers from any others in town. They could just say they're working for the prince, then deal with anyone who could contradict them after the dust settles.
The male twin simply nods at that, reaching into his jacket. "We, of course, brought proof. Show this to Kernovich and she'll confirm this is the prince's seal on a letter with instructions to bring her, the warlock, and others to his court tonight." He pulls the paper out at that, indeed it was a letter saying just that, a blood red wax seal pressed into the bottom with a crest that seems to be a snake biting into a human hand...
Nelen looks it over, raising his eyebrow at the pair, and nods. "Right, you won't mind while I confirm this. Nothing personal." he replies, closing the door. He doesn't bother locking it, if they really wanted to come in they could just kick the door and most of the wall down. He walks to the window and opens it up, sticking his head out onto the fire escape where Natasha was just finishing with her breakfast. "Natasha, the fuck is this about?" he asks, holding out the letter where she can see it.
Natasha blinks a bit, looking up from the now paler looking maid she had grabbed a few floors up. "Hm?" she asks, taking the paper. "I have no idea, he doesn't say why he wants us, but that is his seal." she replies with a shrug, casually letting go of the maid and climbing into the window. "Alright, who wants to meet a vampire prince?" She then pauses, looking at the fae boys. "You two should stay here..."
By now the commotion has woken the others up, Stephy sitting up in a silken nightdress that was so pale blue that it was almost white, the fae boy immediately jerking awake at the mention of a high ranking vampire, "Uh... actually I think Sammi and I are going to go check up on mom." he nods, glancing at the closet door as he gets to his feet, not bothering to dress as he pulls Trixie and Sammi out of bed, knocking on it before opening the door. Instead of the interior there's a pathway surrounded by brambles which he quickly leads the two onto, closing the door tight behind them. The fair folk were, after all, prized treats to the undead. They only stayed around Natasha because they knew she genuinely didn't want to kill them and, on the off chance she lost control, they knew Arja would club her into unconsciousness if necessary (she'd understand when she woke up).
Nelen frowns, then throws a pair of jeans and a teeshirt over his shoulder, heading into the bathroom to get dressed as Simoni shakes out her head, the girl wearing a loose pair of green cotton pajamas. "Why does a vampire prince want to talk to us? I mean... do you think he had some sort of deal going with Al before we got rid of him?" she asks, sliding off the bed to get changed as well.
Natasha nods at the retreating fae, "Smart plan for them…" she smirks before looking to Simoni, shaking her head. "We are schemers, sure, but Hyde blood was near undrinkable, remember? Turning this city into a cesspool of poison blood and creatures strong enough to fight us off would be suicide. I doubt he had any hand in that."
Arja yawns rather loudly as she nods, moving to dress quickly. "Mhm, maybe he wants to thank us then, be nice to get a little gratitude from a vampire..."
Natasha just scoffs in response. "Oh please, are you still complaining that I feed off your maids? You know they have fun too."
"Just sayin, a thank you would be nice," Arja adds as she slides into a simple red tank top and jeans.
Simoni opts for her usual outfit of a sleeveless green top and a loose knee-length skirt, clothing that's easy to transform in if the situation calls for it... and it might given whats going on. Nelen comes back out after a bit in his street clothes, Dawn still curled up on the bed in her animal form. He walks over and lifts her up, then holds her so she can climb up onto his shoulders.
"Mnn... wuzzit?" she mutters as she paws a bit, blinking her wide yellow eyes.
"Vampires, apparently we've been summoned by the local prince." he replies to her, the cat immediately snapping awake. She'd been Nelen's partner when it came to merc work for years after all.
"What?! Seriously? The hell happened? Did Draculaura over there chew on one of his favorite mortals or something?" she asks, her tail floofing and swishing as she stands up on all fours, looking over at Natasha.
"Hell if I know, but I'd imagine we'll find out soon enough..." he nods, glancing over at Drusilla. "Hm..." he frowns, then pokes the smaller ball of floof until Dusk's eyes open up and look up at him. "Do me a favor kid, stay back here and let Drusilla know where we've gone if she wakes up, okay? Girl needs a rest." he nods to the kitten, which gives a small yawn and nod before immediately falling back asleep. "..." he sighs, "Well, hopefully he'll remember." he nods, glancing around, "Okay... so Nessa, Patli, and Alice are all in the next room over... Aisha is staying with her folks..." he pauses, "... where's Loren?"
Finn McCool's over on Bank Street is an authentic Irish pub and popular spot for St. Patrick's day. This time of night it's still busy, even as a young man goes sailing through the front window with half a beer stein lodged in his face as Loren stomps angrily through the frame after him, "CALL ME AH DYKE WILL YE? I'LL HAVE YER GUTS FER GARTERS BOYO!" she snaps, cracking her knuckles as he tries to frantically hobble away with a broken knee on one leg.
Back at the hotel...
"... y'know, on second thought, it's probably best she sits this one out." he nods, then sighs, "Right, best not keep 'em waiting." he sighs, then sticks his fingers into the small cot they had set up for Scylla, giving her belly a tickle before heading out with the group into the hallway. "So, are either of you going to tell us what this is all about?" he asks the pair.
The pair don't seem to have moved an inch as the door opens, simply nodding and motioning the group to follow. "The prince has found one of his toys has gone missing," the male says calmly as the group is led out of the hotel.
"It's a very old, rare, toy that only a select few of his peers would know what it even is, let alone where it is." The female adds in equally cooly, the group taken to the back where a large catering van waited. The prince had a rather dark sense of humor it seemed.
The male nods as he opens the back of the van for the group to pile into. "Solomon's shamir." he finishes before shutting the doors on the group, Natasha's eyes wide open in shock at that...
Nelen raises his eyebrow as they hear the vampires move around to the front before the van starts moving. Simoni sits next to Arja of course, and Dawn is draped over Nelen's shoulders, still in her animal form. No need to let the vampires know she's not an ordinary cat just yet after all. "So, Natasha. Care to fill us in?" he asks, noticing her reaction, "A relic of King Solomon's going missing from a prince's collection, we're the prime suspects... I'd like to know that we're going to have at least a chance of surviving this." he nods to her.
Simoni glances between the two, "Yeah, uh, that sounds pretty important Nat. Shamir... um, isn't that some kinda sword or something?" she asks.
Natasha shakes her head, "I genuinely have no idea where it could be, but I know what it is plenty well. Solomon's Shamir is a... worm basically. A worm that excretes a solution able to dissolve literally anything. Stone, diamond, magical material, it can eat through anything at all. His is actually a small fraction of the original, most think that it's an offspring of a much larger mother from Moses's days. This thing... this is what built the first temple of Jerusalem, he used it to carve gemstones that were so powerful they were literally why ancient people in that region believed ALL cut gems were mystical. Not only is it incredibly destructive, years of use by a holy leader in sacred service imbued Solomon's with an inherent... power to it..."
Nelen blinks at her, "... a worm?" he asks, Dawn biting down a laugh at the idea. "Right okay, so... someone stole this worm that can spit holes in everything... why would they think we have it?" he asks as the van rumbles along through the nighttime streets of New Orleans. "Hell, why would they think we need it or want it? It sounds like it'd be stupidly dangerous just to have around."
Natasha sighs, leaning back. "Because I'm a part of a holy order among the vampiric. The Order of Caine. It's technically open to anyone of the Abrahamic faiths but it's pretty much mostly Jewish. We worship Caine as the original vampire, and the greater son of Adam. We're a... martial order, connected to the Knights Templar. The Templars are also known as ‘The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon’. You see where I'm going here? Jewish vampire order of a group that claims to serve the temple of Solomon... We're a very small order, but our leadership is not exactly beloved. We don't like 'outsiders' holding Jewish relics, especially those connected to Solomon. We... may have objected to the prince adding the worm to his 'collection' last century when he did it... and I may have been sent as an envoy a couple times to demand he return the worm to the temple where it belongs..."
Nelen raises his eyebrow at that, "Son of a... I've heard of 'em, but I didn't know it was a vampire thing." he replies.
Simoni frowns a bit, "Wait... if you're part of this holy order... why did we find you in that really out of the way house in Romania next to that dinky little town?" she asks, sounding confused, "I mean... you said you'd been there for... what, fifty years?" she asks as Dawn nods, the cat flicking it's ears as it tries to stay as cat-like as possible incase they need to make a surprise escape.
Natasha sighs again, "Because that ‘dinky little town’ used to be a crossroads for crusaders going from Central Europe into Turkey, and those crusaders left a lot of relics behind in drunken stupors and such. Half of them got buried in the snow somewhere or whatever. I was there looking to be sure there weren't any more left. These artifacts could be anything from 'some knight's tabard that's really nice' to 'an ancient stone a raider found without knowing it has the power to call down an archangel's wrath’. So, you know, I don't go advertising what I'm looking for usually."
Simoni nods, still looking puzzled, "... then why did you come with us if you were looking for stuff like that?" she asks, the girl trying to wrap her head around why Natasha was willing to give up her duties to go globetrotting with a bunch of supernatural misfits.
Nelen raises his eyebrow at her, "... well, probably because we travel around so much. I did notice my collection back at Rajesh's house had been picked through a few times while I was asleep." he replies, giving Natasha a meaningful look.
Natasha chuckles at that, "If it helps I was genuinely very lonely and my staying with you is out of true friendship but... yes... a wealthy diplomat's child offering to take me as they go... lay siege to Ireland or whatever the original plan of all this was... well, there are a lot of things to find there."
Nelen rolls his eyes, "Not in my collection though. I'd have some books on demonology, but stuff concerning angels..." he smirks and holds up his hands to show the scars where Merihim's sigil used to be, "Not something I'd want to mess with." he nods firmly as Simoni nods to herself. Ireland was about as Catholic as it got, definitely a few things there that the church would have been interested in, Old Testament stuff. As she thinks on this the van pulls to a halt, the engine stopping.
Natasha chuckles, nodding to them, "Luckily my group has no interest in demonology, so I'm pretty sure I didn't take anything from you," she replies as the doors open. "And I didn't take anything from Michael either!" She snaps at the twins. Their destination turned out to be a night club, or rather, the side alley entrance to the club's kitchen area. Going by the noise and music the club was clearly open, and fairly busy even. Natasha simply sighs as she hops out. "Still holding court here? For someone who constantly talks about the Veil's importance he sure loves to hold business right next to drunken mortals."
Nelen smirks, "For a few hundred year old vampire you aren't really that good at being inconspicuous Natasha." he nods, getting out with Arja and Simoni following him, "Its loud, its noisy, no chance of being overheard and barely any chance of being paid attention to, and on the off chance someone does hear something it'll be written off as 'one too many'." he replies, "Y'know, hiding in plain sight, so the mundanes don't even consider the possibility that you're not one." he adds, giving her outfit a quick glance over. It was nice, but outside of countries where 'goth lolita' fashion was a thing she'd stick out like a sore bloodsucking thumb. He should really ask Stephy to help her do something about that...
Natasha rolls her eyes at that as they're led in the service door. "You don't know Michael if you think he has the finesse needed to dance on that knife edge," she says calmly, speaking rather casually about the prince as they're brought to an elevator in the kitchen.
Once the loading elevator reaches the top the doors open to reveal a very different place than a busy club's kitchen. It was one single room, massive and taking up the entire floor, with a raised stage area in the middle that had a high backed black wood chair with red leather padding around it serving as the throne. Occupying the chair was a young looking man with near onyx colored skin, a sharp contrast to the almost unsettlingly clean white suit he wore. There was a walking stick leaned up casually on the throne, polished white wood with a gold spiked tip and a handle in the shape of a slithering snake's body. There were other vampires milling around. Mainly other 'nobility' invited to court to socialize and politic, though a rather large, bald headed, man wearing biker leathers seems to be in charge of keeping order just in case.
"Lady Kernovich," the prince smirks as Natasha strides to his throne. "It's been, what, a century or so? I was worried after our last visit you were offended. Trust me my dear I meant nothing but respect when I suggested you roll your holy order's charter up and cram it in your ass."
Natsha simply smirks, giving the man a rather deep bow. "My prince. I assure you I was simply busy. Some of us must do actual work to keep our beloved nobility fat and happy."
Nelen raises his eyebrow at the prince's appearance, but knows enough to keep it to himself. Most vampires would be pale as the grave after death, no matter what skin color they had in life... save for one clan. Assamite, the assassins of the vampire clans. Their skin darkened after death instead, getting darker the older they got. This... complicated things. If he was that dark, he'd have to be ancient. Several hundred if not a thousand years old, and a prince would have to be powerful by default to keep a bunch of bloodthirsty undead in line. Combine that with the skills an assamite had and, yeah, that could be a problem. Dawn just stays stretched out on his shoulders, waiting for him to give her the heads up for either a distraction or an escape.
Simoni just sticks close to Arja, looking around at the other vampires and thinking 'if all else fails, Arja is fire'. No matter what clan, lineage, or whatever they were... vampires and fire did not get along.
The prince laughs softly, nodding as he idly takes his cane, tapping it on his shiny white leather shoe. "I have missed you, Kernovich, believe it or not. You always were my favorite little abomination against Caine, and one of the few leaders of your little cult who could actually have a good time. But, friends or not, rules are rules. So, I'm going to ask you once, and only once. Not as a friend, not as a rival, but as the prince of New Orleans, lord and marshal of the southern kindred, and head of the American branch of the Invictus order. My worm is gone, you have been very vocal about not liking a 'heretic' holding it. Did you or did you not take it, and if you did not, do you know who did?"
Natasha holds her ground well, not looking worried at all as she shakes her head. "My prince I did not, nor do I know who did. I want the worm returned to Solomon's faithful, but I want it returned the proper way. To steal it from a noble would make it nothing more than common theft, not fitting of a holy relic, heretic or not."
The prince looks her over at that, tapping his cane on his foot a few more times before nodding. "Like I said, you're one of the few in your cult I like. You're a true believer, as annoying as that is usually it also means you genuinely believe that bullshit you just spouted about 'proper ways' and all. Well, good, I didn't want to have to slaughter you all anyway, I'm actually having a decent night. Now the conversation changes, and now we can be a bit more friendly." he snaps his fingers, women seeming to step from the shadows around the group, offering Nelen what looks to be a very old bottle of wine with hebrew writing on it, and chairs for Arja and Simoni to sit on...
Nelen shakes his head as politely as he can, "I'm good, thanks." he replies, the two girls taking a seat. Even if he didn't have to worry about Merihim hijacking him anymore, he still didn't drink... and especially not given the circumstances. Beware vampires bearing gifts, unless the idea of waking up upside down over a large wooden tub ready to catch your blood sounded like a fun way to die.
The prince just chuckles again, nodding. "Seems we have a mutual problem, then. The worm is still gone, and now my only assumption was proven wrong, meaning it could have been anyone who took it. Mortal, vampire, werewolf, mage, anything is possible really. I'm sure our little scholar here filled you in on the power of the worm. Your group is the moral lot, you wouldn't want that kind of power out in Caine knows whose hands. We now have a mutual interest in fixing this issue, yes?"
Nelen frowns, "... hm..." he scratches at his beard idly, then asks, "Lemme ask you something. Do you think it's likely a demon might have taken it?" he asks the prince, "We had a run in with a real nasty one, managed to get rid of him, but, well... turns out he's the reason you've had hyde junkies wandering around New Orleans. I dunno if a demon would be able to use the shamir, but they do have mortal followers who could have stolen it for them."
He shakes his head. "No, as little miss faithful here can share Solomon's entire 'thing' was giving the infernal the middle finger. Near every single thing he owned that was remotely powerful was warded five ways to judgement day specifically against them. If a demon did take it he'd be entirely reliant on mortals to use it, which doesn't seem like their M.O.... but you ARE the expert."
Nelen nods, "Well, what if he didn't want to use it? If its a holy relic a demon may want to just see it destroyed." he suggests. He idly wonders if that was part of why Alagarept agreed to that nutty plan in the first place, to take out the shamir and any other holy relics that might happen to be in the city.
He seems to mull that over, looking to Natasha, who shrugs. "Maybe. Seems rather shortsighted for a demon but I could see it as a spite move. As long as it was locked up here, though, it would never be used. It was functionally 'destroyed' as far as any demon would be concerned... The Prince just likes to display things, he doesn't actually do any labor." She smirks teasingly at that, Michael laughing softly.
"I've spent far too long doing labor, little one, I do enjoy the privileges of nobility, yes. She is right though, if any demon hated that worm the 'safest' place for it was in my collection where it was an art piece rather than a tool to be used."
Nelen nods slowly, "Hm... well, probably wasn't him then." he shrugs, "Just figured if there's one entity I know who would be powerful enough to steal it, it'd be him... either way, he's out of the picture." he nods. Either he's back in Hell and planning his revenge, or he's in Arcadia with the fae of the Wild Hunt enjoying his company (whether he enjoys it or not, most likely not). "So, if it wasn't him, who the heck could it have been..."
"That is the twenty five thousand dollar question, isn't it?" He asks, waving his hands, the twins seeming to appear from behind his throne. "Perhaps you'd like to see where it was stolen from. I've had my sheriff look around but," he nods to the large man in leathers. "Bruno isn't exactly the deductive reasoning type, more the 'pull someone apart until they talk' type. Sadly as useful as that is, without someone to pull apart he's just so much window dressing."
He nods, "Guess it couldn't hurt to look, dunno how much we'll be able to find though." he replies. If they'd bled or something he could have had Merihim point right to them but, well, that wasn't an option anymore. He was certainly glad he wasn't going to Hell after all, but at the same time he hadn't realized just how much he'd come to rely on his blood magic. Simoni hops up as well, following along with the rest of the group as the prince shows them where the shamir was kept.
Natasha nods, the twins leading the group to the elevator again, pushing a button between the top and bottom floors.
This room is just as massive as the throne room, but much brighter. White floors, white walls, right roof, and bright lights combine to make an almost blinding experience. As their eyes adjusted the group would find there were display cases all around like a museum would have. The prince was quite the collector it seemed. Everything from mundane art work and historical artifacts to arcane scrolls and blessed weapons all were housed in their own sturdy looking glass case. There were even some truly bizarre things such as what seemed to be a large stuffed werewolf in 'battle' form, the dust and fangs of a vampire elder, and some kind of skeleton of what looks like a massive sea monster hanging from the roof...
Simoni sees the werewolf, suddenly very glad that they left Lupe at home. She was thinking that her nose would be useful for picking up a scent, but if she saw that thing... yeah, it wouldn't end well. "So, when did it go missing anyways?" asks Nelen, looking around at the collection as his magic sense goes ping every few minutes. Some of the relics were indeed quite powerful.
"We discovered it was missing two nights ago," the woman says as she leads the group to an empty display case. One wall of glass had a large hole cut in it, smooth and perfectly round, the only signs of entry.
He nods, "Hm..." he muses, feeling the hole with his fingertip, "Smooth... even a glass cutter will leave some rough edges." he nods to Simoni, "Hey, you can do that 'feel the wind' trick in here right? Maybe you can pick up something they left behind." he suggests.
Simoni nods, then whistles softly and closes her eyes as a faint breeze blows through the vault, the girl using her wind magic as a sort of sonar to try to feel out anything unusual... well, anything unusual AND out of place.
It'd take a moment, but she actually would feel something odd, coming from behind a display that was a large rack of very old looking weapons. Something felt... off... blocking the wind in a way that a rack like that shouldn't.
Simoni tilts her head, looking towards the rack with her eyes still closed so she could focus on the wind as she walked over towards it, "Something feels weird here..." she murmurs, opening her eyes as she gets to it. "Its a weapon rack, but it doesn't FEEL like one." she nods.
The twins look at her curiously before Arja and Natasha nod at them. "She's good at this stuff, trust her," Natasha says, the two vampires nodding as they make their way over, moving the rack aside to reveal a palm sized leather tube with a metal cap on it that falls to the floor, clearly held against the wall by the rack
Simoni immediately takes a step back from it, "Okaaaaay, any idea what that is? I don't wanna set of some sort of trap or something here." she adds, looking to Nelen, then Natasha.
Natasha looks around, there's a rather pregnant pause between the group as they look at the tube before she reaches to take it. "Hm, silver and cold iron cap. Blending metals like that makes them both too weak to KILL but enough to burn still. Less a death trap and more a 'don't touch' warning." she comments as she unscrews the cap. She turns it over to let the contents fall out, a rolled up piece of parchment paper and three small sapphire gems...
Nelen crouches down next to them, looking them over through the new silver-framed glasses he wore. His old black-rimmed ones were lost during the fight with Al, probably stomped into pieces by an errant zombie, but Aisha called her folks and got the address of a decent eye doctor in town. "Hm... I don't see any spells on them." he nods, though he hadn't had time to work any enchantment onto his new glasses, "Those gems, they mean anything to you guys?"
Natasha shrugs, picking them up and looking them over. "Sapphires are considered fairly powerful magic gems in general. They typically are associated with knowledge and such, and protection against greed... hmm…" she muses, handing the gems to Arja, the monkey girl just looking them over a bit more before shrugging and pocketing them. Natasha reaches for the parchment next, unrolling it to reveal Hebrew writing in shiny green ink. "Huh..." she murmurs, looking to the twins, "Not us, but someone Hebrew... odd." she nods as she reads aloud:
"I am fed by death, and smothered by life. Sinner and saint alike claim my power, but only heaven is my home. The magic before magic, the destroyer before war, I am eternal, I am endless"
Natasha just blinks as she finishes, looking around. "That's... ominous..." she looks about to say something else before Arja tackles her, grabbing the paper out of her hands.
"FIRE! IT'S A RIDDLE AND IT MEANS FIRE!" She says, hold it to her chest. Indeed after just another couple seconds there's a loud 'fooosh' sound as smoke comes from around Arja's chest where the paper is pressed, but she remains unharmed, the ashes of the paper simply falling down in front of her...
"That... could have been fatal for a vampire. Thank you Arja," Natasha replies, composing herself. Sudden flames always rattled the undead, there were very few that weren’t highly flammable.
Simoni yelps as the paper bursts into flames, Dawn hissing and arching her back on Nelen's shoulders, "Shit..." he mutters, "I didn't even sense that until the paper started going up. Whoever left that knows his spells." he frowns, adjusting his glasses, "So... three sapphires, someone who speaks and writes Hebrew, and a trapped scroll with a riddle designed to distract the reader long enough for the trap to activate and, possibly, immolate them..." he shakes his head, "Who the hell did this?" he asks as Simoni helps Arja dust off the ashes from her shirt.
Natasha sighs softly. "I don't know who but I know what. You didn't see the magic because it didn't exist until the words were said. This is a talisman, a Jewish talisman. It lays dormant until triggered. Shockingly Jewish mystics learned how to hide their magic well from others. We have very few proper 'sorcerers' thanks to the whole 'suffer not the sorcerer to live' thing, but there's no ban on magical items, so most Jewish mystics are more... craftsmen than anything, religious scholars who can create powerful artifacts. I believe that's Lara's style too…" she sighs, shaking her head. "This is a Jewish mystic. We're going to need her help on this, this could get very dangerous very quickly if he's especially skilled."
He sighs and nods, "Freaking figures... we're all set to go deal with the damn manticore and now this gets dropped into our lap." he nods as Dawn sniffs a bit at Arja, then glances around. Her eyes are a bit better than most, its hard to get illusions to work on a Cheshire, so she checks around to see if she can spot anything unusual.
Simoni nods at that, "Yeah. He might not even be in New Orleans anymore if he's this good..." she mutters, worried. Its been gone a couple days, and it doesn't take that long to get a bus or plane ticket if you have the money to do so.
Natasha nods. "What's worse, no matter how skilled he was, to break into a prince's private artifact collection, he had to have help. Someone involved in the community. He could well be working with vampires despite his obvious dislike of us."
The twins raise their brow together at that. "Obvious?" the male asks calmly.
"Mhm." Natasha answers. "A fire trap wasn't needed, he got in out perfectly safe, this was spite. Plus he called fire 'eternal' and 'endless' and 'fed by death'. He was mocking us. This guy has a grudge against vampires..."
Dawn, meanwhile, is able to pierce reality just a bit, seeing something was indeed hidden. Natasha's hands were covered in a thin powder, hidden magically from sight, and too fine to be noticed on dead hands...
Dawn tilts her head, then decides that they can just deal with her not being a mundane cat. She hops down off Nelen's shoulder, shapeshifting mid jump as she stretches and grows into her half-human form. "Hey, Count von Count, your hands. There's some kinda powdery stuff on 'em." she nods, carefully sniffing at the vampire's digits. "Dunno what the heck it is, but it smells like something magic." she tilts her head, her large yellow eyes taking in the undead girl's palms.
Simoni glances between her and the other vampires, looking a bit worried as to what they might say about their surprise guest, then back at Dawn, "No idea at all Dawn?" she asks her. Oh well, cats literally out of the bag now.
Natasha blinks, the twins looking unphased like always as they simply look at Dawn with raised eyebrows. "Oh?" The female one says, reaching a finger out to run along Natasha's palm slowly, scooping some of a shiny silvery powder off. "Oh dear..." she murmurs, holding it to her brother to confirm.
"I think you were right, Natasha," he says in his usual flat voice. "This mystic does have a grudge, rather specifically against us... This powder is a unique tool of our prince, something his clan cooked up. Perfectly dormant normally, but when heated up it... combusts. We use it on ghouls who need to be destroyed, or hunters or the like. Spontaneous Combustion, it seems to the outside world. This room is carefully temperature controlled, even leaving into the balmy night outside would be enough to trigger the powder on you..."
Natasha blinks, quickly taking a cloth from her blouse and wiping her hands carefully, holding them to Dawn to be inspected, thankfully clean now. "So this is unique to Michael? Then this isn't just a vampire grudge, he hates the prince... Well... that means he's likely still in town..."
Dawn nods, giving her a thumbs up, then frowns. "Hm... Jeez for once we actually could use puppers." she sighs, "She may be a dumb as a bag of rocks, but she's got the best nose out of all of us." she nods, Nelen glancing around as she does.
"Well... if we're hunting for a renegade vampire..." he sighs, "Eh, it'll get around eventually. Wake up, Cernunnos." he pokes at the side of his head before his eyes roll back, green slowly spreading out over them until the entire eyeball is a deep emerald as the scars on the side of his head open up, antlers quickly sprouting out of them as the god of the hunt takes over his body temporarily.
Cernunnos shakes his head, then pauses, then reaches up and untangles Nelen's hat from his antlers, "Dammit, gonna have to get used to that. Right, so what's going on here?" he asks, looking around and sniffing at the air. Cernunnos was much more... animal-like than Merihim was, acting almost like a large predatory beast instead of some mundane hunter. He tosses the hat to Simoni, then lets Dawn fill him in before he starts to look around, trying to find any leftover trace of whatever set the trap.
Natasha blinks, looking the new figure over slowly. It seemed this was enough to get some emotion from the twins too, both of them looking a bit wide eyed at him. Vampires, no matter how refined or sophisticated they claim to be, are predators at heart, and he certainly is the alpha predator in this room. “How can he help us hunt someone who MAY be a vampire. For all we know he's a mystic who lost someone to a vampire or the like too."
He frowns, "Kid, I was a hunter before England was even a country, if I can find a trace of who was in here, I can hunt them." he snorts. Cernunnos prowls around, occasionally dropping to all fours to look closely at something, occasionally sniffing the air in a way reminiscent of the group's werewolf companions (currently back in India). All he needs is a single trace. A drop of blood, a bit of hair, anything, and he could find them if they fled the country.
It takes a bit, but he does find a tiny clue. Over by the broken into display is a single strand of straight black hair. Not Natasha's or anyone else in the building. It must be the mystic's. It smells odd too. Very much human but... altered. Not like an undead or a shifter though, a very unique smell. On one hand, worrying, on the other hand, extremely easy to remember.
He picks it up and carefully wraps it around his finger, sniffing at it, "... crap. Okay, black hair over here. Its not from an undead... but whatever left this sure as fuck isn't a normal human." he growls, getting to his feet, "What was that thing you guys said McCall was, an 'abmortal'? Human, but not quite?" he frowns, looking it over.
Arja nods at him, "Mhm, a human but... messed up somehow. Not a 'proper' supernatural race or whatever just different somehow. Usually in a pretty rough way..."
He nods, "Right, good news is I've never smelled anything like this, so I'll recognize it if we get within spitting distance of whoever pulled this stunt. Bad news is I have no fucking clue WHAT they are, so we're going in blind." he nods, gesturing to the remaining bits of soot on Arja's shirt, "Shit like that is something anyone can learn if they work their asses off at it, but I dunno what this guy can do on the fly."
Natasha looks around at the others, "I think we need to regroup. We need to call Lara in and plan our next move carefully. Like he said this guy could be capable of anything if he's an abmortal, and a couple magic tricks aren't enough to form a picture yet." she looks to the twins as she adds, "Tell the prince everything, tell him he and his court may be in danger and, worse, may have a mole. I'll keep him updated as we work."
Cernunnos grunts in agreement, then shudders as his antlers... well... un-grow back into Nelen's scalp, his eyes returning to normal. He takes his hat back from Simoni, putting it back on his head, as Dawn shapeshifts into her animal form again, teleporting back up onto his shoulders. "Right, yeah, gonna need the cryptkeeper for this one." he nods, rolling his eyes. "We done here? I doubt Dusk was actually awake enough to tell Drusilla where we went and I don't want her breaking another hotel bed because I left her alone with the baby."
Natasha nods to him, "Nothing more we can do here." she replies to the twins, giving a short bow, "Give Michael my regards, and remind him he promised me all SIX finger bones of the lost Nephilim corpse's right hand. I know it had six because I counted them at the time. I'm waiting for my extra thumb..."