View Full Version : A Halloween Tale
11-01-2005, 06:12 AM
((OOC: This is a story that was written by me and one other person involving two of our COH characters. It was posted up on the official boards last Holloween and while I'm a little late for this Halloween but I hope you'll read it all the same. It's a bit long and of course, comments are welcome at the end. I know that it could use a lot of improvement and I would like to hear what you have to say. That is if you can make it to the end.))
Paragon City: 10:21 PM; Friday, October 24th
A cold chilling rain fell on the City of Heroes from the dark clouds that hung overhead. The normally bright lights of the city seemed only a ghostly reflection of their normal brilliance as the heavy rain continued to fall. The steady sound of the falling rain was interrupted at times by the sound of distant thunder. Out to the West of the heart of the city, the hills that held some of the wealthiest homes in Paragon seemed almost empty of light. Among the many large homes with sprawling grounds stood one house that was among the oldest of them.
Set back from the iron gates that provided entrance through the brick wall that surrounded the grounds of the estate, the large mansion was dark and foreboding. Rising up three stories, there were a few small towers that carried up another floor, with dark tiled peaked roofs. Made primarily of stone, the old structure showed signs of decay and wear. Leaves blew across the front of the home in the winds as the rain fell on a large garden that had long withered away which ran along one side of the house. Behind a low iron fence at one end of the garden was a small open area, many headstones visible among the shadowy sections of the family cemetery.
The large dark windows of the house were primarily dark voids, save for a few that faint traces of light show through. One such window was a tall window with a curved top on the third floor of the house looking out towards the garden and cemetery. The room inside was light primarily by a flickering fire that burned within the fireplace of the room, a few candles adding some additional faint light. The ceiling of the room rose up fifteen feet above the floor, the upper recess of the room lost in shadow that hid detailed crown molding that decorated the ceiling. The walls of the room were covered with tall oak bookcases, filled with old dusty tombs. Close to the wall on the side of the room opposite the fireplace was a large table covered with old maps and stacks of other papers.
Most of the floor of the room was covered by a large antique oriental rug, other antique decorations were faintly visible in the shadowy recess of the room. Just across from the fire was a old brown leather sofa and just to the right side of the fire, also slightly facing the windows sat a matching large brown leather chair. It was in this chair that the only current occupant in the room sat. Dressed in warm clothing with a old quilt over his legs, the elderly man saw with a large book on his lap, the pages showing signs of age, though he was not reading it.
Sergio D’Ascenzo didn’t need to read the book he currently had, he knew all of what it said all to well. The same was true for all the rest of the tombs contained within his study. The ninety two year old head of the D’Ascenzo family had a gaunt face with sunken eyes that glowed faintly from the fire light. He was thin and frail, his hands almost skeletal as they rested on the book on his lap. Just beside him sat a wheelchair that he had been confined to for the last ten years. His breath was slow and somewhat ragged, almost downed out by the sounds of the rain against the window and the wind that was blowing around the house.
Sergio knew that time was growing short, not only for himself, but for the D’Ascenzos as a whole. For forty years, he had spent almost the majority of his time and huge amounts of money researching the family history all the way back to the late Renaissance in Italy. But it seemed the more he learned, the more an answer alluded him. A sound at the door to the study pulled his attention from the fire as he slowly turned towards the door as his butler came into the room.
In his early seventies, Walter moved very slowly as he came across the room towards the chair Sergio was sitting in. Tall and thin, Walter was still in the suit and tie he wore for his duties despite the late hour. For over forty years Walter had worked for Sergio. Coming to a halt beside the chair, the elderly butler held out his hand holding a cordless phone. “The phone sir.”
Reaching up slowly with one hand, Sergio took the phone from the butler. “Thank you Walter.” His voice was weak and slightly raspy as he paused for a moment, looking at the man before he went on. “The time is drawing near once more Walter. Soon I am afraid you time here will be done.” The old man standing beside him seemed to stiffen slightly at the comment. “I hope that does not come to pass sir. There is still time.” With that, the elderly butler turned and started of back towards the door.
“Not enough Walter. Not enough.” Sergio said quietly as he began to slowly enter in a phone number on the phone. As he finished the number, the elderly D’Ascenzo raised the receiver to one ear as he heard the ringing on the other end. It wasn’t long before the line on the other end picked up. “Hello?” Said a male voice very familiar to Sergio, a confident voice, and more energetic than his own.
“Jonathan, it is time to gather the remaining thirteen of us.” Sergio said without introduction. There was a brief pause on the other end before Sergio heard a reply. “Yes uncle. I will begin making the arrangements.” Jonathan paused for a moment before he quickly spoke again. “I have been in touch with my friend at NYU, he mentioned that he knows someone who might be able to offer us assistance. She has some experience with the supernatural and just happens to live in Paragon City as well. He would be willing to contact her on our behalf.”
“Very well, have him contact her. This will be our last chance for salvation.” There was a long pause before Jonathan spoke again. “I know uncle. I will see you before the end of the weekend.” The line then went dead as Sergio lowered his hand back down onto his lap, turning back to look at the burning logs in the fireplace.
Paragon City: Thursday October 30th, 9:23 AM
The sky above the City of Heroes was overcast and dreary. Rain had been falling on and off during the day, and the ominous clouds seemed to indicate that might continue into the weekend. A cold wind was also blowing in from the ocean, making the rain even more chilling. But despite the dismal weather, life went on as it generally did. On the campus of Paragon University, the students went about their daily routines, though none were inclined to spend much time outside on the grounds of the campus. Instead, most remained in the common buildings, the library or their dorms, venturing out only when they had to get to class.
Inside the large room that served as the office for the teachers’ assistants in the Anthropology department of Paragon University, Lucilla Giovanni sat at her small desk near one of the windows. At the moment there was no rain falling outside, but that didn’t help prevent her from looking out the window with a slight sigh as she sat down the latest paper she was grading for a Introduction to Anthropology class she was the aid for. Lucilla was dressed warmly due to the cold, a pair of jeans and a white cardigan sweater. The lightly colored sweater strongly contrasted her olive complexion and long raven black hair. Lucilla’s dark complexion helped make her already attractive features all the more striking.
Classes were about halfway through the term and she was already starting to fee the increased workload. Not only was she having to work on a large number of papers for the two large intro classes she was an aid for, but her own classes were starting to get much more demanding. To top it off, her advisor for her doctoral dissertation was wanting the next chapter before Thanksgiving. And, of course, if all that wasn’t enough, there was trying to balance in her duties as Hollow, a member of the Knights of Paragon.
Lucilla was really looking forward to this weekend when she could try and get caught up with some of these things, but now that wasn’t looking like it was going to happen either, least not as much time as she had hoped for. One of her fellow teachers’ assistants, Omar Riyadh, had been trying to get her to go out with him for some time now, and yesterday he had asked her to go with him to a Halloween party that was being thrown at a house near the campus by a group of students. This time, Lucilla hadn’t quite been able to tell him she was too busy, and so she now needed to figure out a costume for tomorrow night and find some time to buy whatever she might need today as well.
She also wasn’t that sure about this date. Omar was a nice guy, but right now she wasn’t really looking for any sort of serious relationship. She actually found it slightly surprising he was still being so persistent, after all, being involved with the Knights of Paragon, she was often not around. Maybe tomorrow night she could make things more clear to him. A ringing sound suddenly pulled the raven haired woman from her thoughts. Quickly reaching into her purse, Lucilla pulled out her cellphone, hitting the answer button and bringing the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
As she heard the voice on the other end, Lucilla sat upright once more, a slight smile coming to her face as she replied. “It’s so wonderful to hear from you Professor Garrison. How are things up in New York?” She went silent as she listened to her former mentor at New York University reply. Professor Cliff Garrison had selected Lucilla as one of the more promising Anthropology students in his classes early in her time as an undergraduate at NYU. His interest in her lead him to inviting her to join him on an archeological dig in South American after her junior year.
It was on this dig that Lucilla had come into contact with a shadow dimension through a portal opened during an ancient ritual. Somehow she had become connected to this shadow dimension, and was able to channel mystical energy from it. It was this trip that had made her Hollow, though the price had been high. Another student who had gone with them, Mark Arnolds, had died at the temple they had been looking for. The lost was further painful for Lucilla as her and Mark had spent a night together about a week before his death, while the expedition had stopped in a small town on the Amazon. There were times where Lucilla still couldn’t help but wonder what might have happened if Mark had lived, if that night would have become something more.
Focusing back on what Professor Garrison was saying, nodding slightly as she listened to what he was saying. “It has been pretty bad weather here as well. They are saying it will likely rain most of tomorrow and the rest of the weekend. So, what is it that really has you calling me? You usually don’t call just to catch up.” As she spoke, Lucilla looked over at the other teachers aids in the room. None of them were near her, or seemed to be paying attention to her phone conversation. Suddenly, Lucilla’s eyes went slightly wide with surprise as she turned back towards the window, lowering her vice slightly.
“Well, I actually did have some plans for tomorrow night. Is this something that can’t wait?” She asked, still slightly surprised by what Professor Garrison had told her. But what he began explaining to her now caused her to start slightly as she realized that this was something that she couldn’t turn away from. Resting her hand in her free hand, her elbow resting on the stack of papers on her desk, Lucilla quietly replied. “Alright then. Let your friend know I will do what I can to help. Though this sounds like it won’t be easy by any means. When do they want me to come?”
Lucilla sat back up as she listened once more, sighing as she heard what she was afraid would be the answer. “Alight, I will be ready. I’ll call you later tonight.” Faintly hearing Professor Garrison’s reply as she moved the phone from her ear and hit “end”, Lucilla’s mind was racing with the vague information that he had given her. There were several books she was going to have to get together, and some other things she might need, not to mention having to get a hold of Omar and cancel on him for tomorrow night.
Putting the phone back in her purse, Lucilla was feeling as if this might be something that she could use some assistance with. Her fellow Knight Tenzhi would normally have been a good choice, but he had recently lost his connection with magic. As she tried to think of others she knew, Lucilla suddenly had a thought. Though she didn’t know her, Lucilla was aware of someone with some talent in magic on this very campus. She had sensed her using spells before, mainly purification rituals and small protective spells, but those types of things might prove to be very useful. Checking her watch, she figured she might as well go try her dorm room now, hopefully she wouldn’t be in class as the clock was surely ticking.
Rebecca was indeed in her dorm as Lucilla made her way across campus. In fact, she was quite busy with cleaning the place up a bit. The young woman had long black hair that swayed as she swept the floor, her jade green eyes catching the light from time to time. She wore jean shorts and a long green t-shirt that looked like it had seen better days and was chosen because she didn’t care if she got it dirty. In her hands was a long ash wood and straw broom. It looked hand made rather than store bought, which was more than a little odd in this day and age.
The young woman’s roommate was out for the moment, and she was busy doing a little cleaning up. Of course with Rebecca, there were two types of cleaning. There was the physical cleaning of picking up clothing, giving everything a good dusting and of course vacuuming the floor and there was the psychic cleaning of washing away the bad emotions and stress that often accumulated on a college campus. Today, especially in light of her roomies absence, it was the later. Even though she knew that Rebecca was a witch, it sometimes made her uneasy when she used her powers.
Letting go of the broom the young woman began searching for what she would need during the next part of the cleaning. In the meantime, the broom continued to move back and forth across the ground without her attention, never once touching the floor. The broom had long been a tool for witches through contrary to popular belief very few of them have used it to fly. Rebecca was one such exception, but that was beside the point.
After a short time of searching, the good witch found what she was looking for, her Athame. It might have looked like an ordinary black handled dagger, like the kind you would order out of a fantasy magazine, but it was really a magical tool. The edges were dull and unable to cut anything harder than butter. That would be expected though by anyone who knew of witches. The blade’s purpose had nothing to do with its ability to cut, but rather its ability to direct energy and in the act of drawing casting spells.
Rebecca was about to continue with her cleaning ritual, something she liked to do at least once a month, especially with all that commonly went on in a college dorm, when she heard a knocking at her door. She wasn’t expecting any guests, and as far as she knew, her roommate wasn’t either. Walking to the door, Athame in hand, she looked through the peephole to see who it was. To her surprise, it wasn’t another undergraduate, but rather one of the teacher’s assistants from a prior class. Quickly opening the door as her mind raced as to what would bring a graduate student to her door.
“Hello, Miss Giovanni. This is an unexpected surprise. This isn’t about your class I took is it? Please don’t tell me there was some mistake and you’re going to take away my A.” Lucilla smiled at the younger student, remembering her from the Intro to Anthropology class she had taken that Lucilla was an aide for. “No, not at all Miss Charity, you defiantly earned that A. I am here on an entirely different matter.”
“Different? Well, come on in and have a seat and you can tell me about it.” Rebecca gave a gesture that went unseen by Lucilla and commanded her broom to lean against the wall rather than moving about. “I was just doing a little bit of cleaning so please excuse the mess.”
The unseen gesture didn’t go unsensed by Lucilla, who had actually know Rebecca was home not long after leaving the Anthropology building. The cleansing spell the younger woman was using her minor, but eventually the raven haired woman had been close enough to sense it. Her dark eyes fell briefly on the broom against the wall. “Yes, I could sense the cleansing ritual from a few buildings away.” Lucilla took an empty seat by one of the desks built into the wall of the dorm room, turning to face Rebecca as she quickly went on. “I have sensed your use of Wiccan magic several times in the past Rebecca. And I know very well what that broom is for as well as the Athame in your hand. I have nothing but respect for those that follow Wiccan ways, at least those that follow the true beliefs. In fact, it is your talents with Wiccan magic that has brought me to see you today.”
“Sensed? You mean you…I never suspected. I’ve never seen you wearing a Pentacle, not that I blame you. Most people see it and immediately think of that satanic symbol.” Rebecca rolled her eyes at the thought. Most people saw a pentagram and they immediately thought it was something evil. However, when it was placed with two points up rather than one, it was a Wiccan symbol. She was very surprised though that Lucilla was a Wiccan as well. As she thought about it more, the less likley that seemed. “Or are you some other type of mage? I’m afraid I’m not too familiar with all of the types.”
“No, I am not a Wiccan, and I understand your frustration with the confusion between the Pentacle and the Pentagram. For most, when they encounter things they don’t always fully understand, they are often quick to mislabel.” Lucilla said in response. “I am indeed a different type of mage. I am more would be referred to as a channeler. The power for my magic coming from another existence that faintly touches our own. But you are at a bit of a disadvantage, not knowing anything about me, other than as a teacher’s assistant in the Anthropology department while I know quite a bit about you. I am a member of the Knights of Paragon, under the name Hollow.”
“Knights of Paragon?!” The response came out a bit louder and more excited then she wanted. Everyone in Pargaon knew who the Knights were, unless they lived under a rock or something. They were one of the premier superhero organizations and had been around longer than most. This really was the city of heroes when a teacher’s aid could turn out to be a powerful sorceress. After a short moment to regain her composure, she calmed down and lowered her voice to a normal level. “I can’t believe you are Hollow of the Knights. Then that must mean this visit is about something hero related.”
“Well…hero related to a degree.” Lucilla replied as she nodded slightly. “Before I joined the Knights I spent many years investigating the supernatural around the world, often with or on the request of my old professor at NYU, Cliff Garrison. Just a short while ago, I received a very interesting call from Professor Garrison. It seems there is a family here in Paragon City that has long suffered under a curse, a deadly curse. Tomorrow the curse is set to strike again and I have been asked to offer them what help I can. Unfortunately, Professor Garrison wasn’t able to give me any more details than I have just named, but I fully trust him, and he stressed there were lives at stake.”
Lucilla paused as she looked at the younger woman, a feeling of guilt creeping into her as she prepared to continue. “While I know very little at the moment about this curse, it sounds as if it has endured for quite some time. I know like many other students, you likely have plans for tomorrow evening, but I do think that the assistance of a Wiccan could be useful in this matter. So I have come to ask your assistance in meeting with the family tonight and seeing what we can do to free them from this deadly curse.”
“Tonight?” It took Rebecca a moment to come to her decision and only a moment. Even though she wasn’t part of a team she was still a superhero in her own right. If this family needed help and one of the Knights felt that she would be useful, who was she to say no? Besides, in a way it sounded like it would be a good learning experience. She had never dealt with a curse before. “It will be short notice, but I think I can be packed and let everyone know I’ll be gone for a time.”
Lucilla smiled as she stood back up. “Excellent. A limousine will pick us up on the Westside of the Quad at six fifteen this evening. Pack what you feel you will need, I know I have several books I need to gather for this. Thank you for giving up your time Rebecca. Now I will let you get back to your cleansing ritual.” Lucilla started back towards the door as she finished speaking.
“That’s pretty stylish.” The young woman commented in regards to the limo, not hat she would complain. It wasn’t everyday someone within her limited means got to ride in something as luxurious as a limousine. “I’ll see you later Miss Giovanni.” Lucilla smiled as she was let out. “Until later this evening Rebecca. And please, call me Lucilla.”
11-01-2005, 06:14 AM
Outside the black limousine, the rain had started to fall over Paragon City once more as Lucilla looked out the window at the city. Rebecca was sitting beside her at the back of the long vehicle. Right now Lucilla wasn’t paying much attention to the lavish means of transportation their hosts had provided for them. Her mind was more focused on what little information Professor Garrison had given her regarding what this was all about. So far what little she knew wasn’t very much, but Garrison had stressed that her presence was of utmost importance and that lives were at stake.
Normally, the West hills of the city were quite beautiful, large old trees covering the expansive grounds of the many old homes dotting the hillsides. Most of the trees were now bare, their leaves having fallen off for the winter. With the grey overcast weather and falling rain, the barren hillsides seemed almost foreboding. Noticing that they were slowing down, Lucilla looked over towards the right side of the vehicle, trying to see their destination. Over a low stone wall, she saw the large old stone home, designed in a neo-gothic style. With small towers rising up from the third floor in some sections of the house and tall peaked roofs, the house looked the part of the stereotypical Hollywood haunted house. Positioned at several corners were stone gargoyles, just adding to the Hollywood image of the home.
The limousine turned into iron gates that provided entrance through the stone wall that ringed the grounds of the estate. Not able to see the house from the back of the limousine as they headed towards the home, Lucilla sat back in her seat. Though she couldn’t see it anymore, Lucilla was able to sense the home, there were faint traces of magic permeating from the home. The traces were faint, but as she got closer, Lucilla could identify several different types of rituals, forming a mishmash of barriers.
Looking out to the right once more, she saw a large garden that appeared to be unkempt and withering. The limousine turned left as it came to a halt in front of the main entrance to the home. Standing under the covered entrance was man wearing a finely tailored dark green suit. He appeared to be in his late sixties, was slightly balding with light grey hair. Next to him was another man who appeared to be at least as old, if not older, dressed in a butler’s uniform and holding a large umbrella.
As the limousine stopped, the old butler moved slowly down the stairs to the back door of the limousine, holding the large umbrella over him as he opened the door. Lucilla stepped out first, moving slightly out of the way under the umbrella as Rebecca followed. Pulling her coat tighter around her due to the chilling wind that was blowing around the front of the house, Lucilla and Rebecca started up the stairs towards the man who was waiting under the covered area. The old butler followed, keeping the umbrella over the two young women. Lucilla could sense the faint magic more clearly now, making her wonder even more about what this family needed of her. Many of the spells she could sense were quite old, some working against each other more than anything else.
Lucilla was pulled from her thoughts as the man at the top of the stairs stepped forward with his hand extended outward. “Good evening Miss Giovanni, I hope the trip was pleasant. I am Jonathan D’Ascenzo. I would like to thank you for taking the time to come and offer us your assistance.” The man said with a polite tone in his voice. His face was one of perfect seriousness, almost as if he was talking about a business deal. “Thank you Mr. D’Ascenzo, and please, Lucilla is fine. Professor Garrison didn’t have to many details for me, but it did sound as if this was not something I couldn’t ignore.” Lucilla said as she shook Jonathan’s hand.
Turning slightly toward Rebecca, she continued. “I would like to introduce Rebecca Charity, my…assistant. I brought her in as she has several talents that could be very useful from what little information I have regarding your families situation.” Jonathan D’Ascenzo nodded. “Yes, Cliff called and informed me that you were planning to bring in assistance, what ever you feel is needed Lucilla, and please call me Jonathan.” Turning to face Rebecca fully, he continued as he held his hand towards her. “A pleasure to meet you as well Miss Charity.”
Rebecca smiled at the aging man and bowed slightly. “The pleasure is all mine Mr. D'Ascenzo though I think Lucilla might be over stating my usefulness. While I am well read when it comes to magic writings I'm afraid I don't have much experience using that knowledge. I guess you could say that I am just a wee witch at the moment.”
The young woman might have sounded like she was being modest but in reality she didn't have all that much practical experience with doing things other then knocking around criminals with her magic. There was still the possibility that they would have to do just that but something told her that wasn't going to be the case. She was getting way too many strange vibes from the house for it to be something that simple and straight forward.
From inside the front entrance of the large mansion, a woman in her late fifties wearing a navy blue skirt and matching blazer emerged. “This is my uncle’s housekeeper, Mrs.Kretch and you have already met Walter, my uncle’s butler for many years. Mrs. Kretch will make sure your things are brought up to your rooms. If you would please follow me, the rest of the family is gathered in the drawing room. We will get you introduced to the remaining members of the D’Ascenzo family and then make the reason for your presences here more clear. Dinner will also be severed shortly.”
Leading the two young women into the house, Jonathan D’Ascenzo started straight down the long entry hallway beyond the front doors. The ceiling rose up high above the three, elaborate molding and other detail work on the ceiling and walls. Lucilla felt almost as if she had stepped back into a different time. Several pieces of antique furniture and paintings were spaced about the long hallway. Several doorways lead off from the hallway near the front of the house.
The large entryway hall ended about midway into the house, a wide staircase leading up to a landing from which slightly smaller staircases turned ninety degrees to either side of the landing up to the second floor. On the landing sat a large antique grandfather clock standing just below a large window that looked down on a courtyard between the two wings of the home that branched out on either side of the house from that point. The ticking of the mechanisms of the clock faintly echoed in the hallway.
Smaller hallways continued to either side of the staircase, leading into the two back wings of the house as Jonathan lead them towards an open doorway on the right side of the hall. Several voices could be heard from within the room beyond. As they neared the doorway, the hands of the grandfather clock reached seven and a deep ringing chime sounded. Seven times it sounded, each echoing through the home, which seemed to have fallen deathly quite. Lucilla looked up at the clock for a moment before following after Jonathan as he lead them into the drawing room.
Upon entering the drawing room the two ladies found themselves looking at twelve other people, the remaining members of the D'Ascenzo family. All of them were well dressed, a testament to their family's knack for producing talented heirs. It looked like several conversations were going on, ranging from how the journey to the house had been to how business was going. It wasn't until Jonathan cleared his throat loudly to get their attention that the room fell silent and all eyes fell upon the pair.
“Now that I have your attention I would like to introduce Lucilla Giovanni and Rebecca Charity. They are the experts that I have consulted to help us with our problem.”
“Whoa, you said you had two people coming to help with this supposed curse thing but you forgot to mention they were total babes.” The words came from one of the two young men in the room. He wore a large, self-assured grin on his face as he looked the two up and down. Without even a hint of restraint he let his eyes linger over what he considered their best assets and it wasn't their faces. The outburst was met with a mix of groans and chuckles from the assembled. Even though a few did get amusement out of the statement none of them truly approved of it. They had just come to expect such a thing from the young man.
“Since you've volunteered....may I introduce you to Vincent D'Ascenzo. He is from the side of the family that traveled to California and is a shameless playboy.” Jonathan’s voice was flat and monotone, revealing that he was perhaps the biggest disapprover of the young man. That wasn't surprising though. Jonathan was much older and was born in a much more civil time, when manners were valued greatly and the whole playboy mentality was more subtle.
“You say that like it's a bad thing.” Vincent was quick to respond and even went so far as to wink at both Rebecca and Lucilla. Rebecca, to her credit, did manage to keep from smiling at all the attention, managing to keep her expression serious so as not to egg him on even worse.
“Moving on.” Jonathan was obviously not impressed and was quick to dismiss Vincent, turning his attention to his more respected family members. “This is my son, Frank D'Ascenzo, the manager of a rather large hedge fund.”
The man refereed to was tall and hard dark hair and eyes. He had the same confident appearance as Vincent though he did not have the same look in his eyes. Even though he was a handsome man in his early-thirties it was obvious that he didn't have any immediate interest in the women beyond the professional. With a friendly smile he stood up and bowed. “Ladies, a pleasure to meet you.”
Smiling at the proper use of manners Jonathan turned his head slightly to the right to look at the person next to Frank, the same person he had been talking to as the pair of mages entered. “This is my daughter, Mary Thompson. She is a senior vice-president of a major New York bank and married into the Thompson family of oil fame.”
It was obvious just from looking that the two were siblings. Not only were the physical features the same but they had that same, confident and driven expression. There was something very admirable about the two of them. Despite the fact that some curse hung over them they were determined to live to the fullest. Standing up as her brother sat down she smiled. “Good evening. I truly hope you can end our family's long curse.”
Giving another smile, Jonathan turned his head to the right again, moving on to the next person in the line of people. “This is Paul D’Ascenzo, Vincent's uncle, and the only reason that the family's movie business hasn't collapsed into ruin.” The last part was obviously a jab at the young playboy, though judging from Vincent's expression he didn't seem to notice that fact.
“Greetings.” Paul stood and offered his hand to both Lucilla and Rebecca. He seemed rather young to have a nephew Vincent’s age, appearing to be in his mid-thirties. As the two women shook his hand, he continued. “Though I'm happy to meet you, let me be the first to say that I don't believe in this curse nonsense. However, if being here puts my relative's minds at ease, then I'm willing to be here.”
Jonathan couldn't help but frown at the statement and shook his head slightly. How someone could deny the existence of the curse after all these years of their family dying mysterious deaths was beyond him. However he would remain silent as he knew there was no way to convince him otherwise. “To his right is Catherine Bradley. She is another from the California branch of our family and is a leading designer in the fashion industry.”
“Charmed I'm sure.” The woman rose and set down a long cigarette holder and the cigarette burning inside of it. To both Lucilla and Rebecca's surprise she gave them both a hug and kissed them on each cheek. This drew more chuckles from the family members. Catherine was one of their more eccentric family members and she was demonstrating why. “Tell me, do all mages dress so plainly? Never mind, no need to answer that. Just let me know and I'll be sure to design something that just screams magic for you.”
The humorous scene seemed to rejuvenate Jonathan and his smile widened as he turned his face toward the next family member. “Sitting next to her is her daughter, Jessica Bradley, who is also in the fashion industry as well as modeling and now acting.”
“Don't let my mother bother you. She's always looking for a new person to experiment on with her designs. Though if either of you are looking for a new outfit I wouldn't pass up the opportunity. Just don't let her stick you with her first creation.” Though she refrained from behaving like her mother she did look like she had the same appearance in her eyes and that if this had been back in California, she might have done just that.
“This is Stephan Giotti, my nephew. He is a partner in a prominent law firm specializing in corporate law.” The man he refereed to was a middle aged man with slicked back black hair. It wasn't very surprising that he was a lawyer, fitting the look of one to a T. However he didn't seem to be too slimy.
“Hello. I don't suppose either of you owns a business? We'll work for everyone but Crey is our motto.” He threw in the last part as a joke due to the fact that a mage in Paragon City was likely a super hero as well. No hero liked Crey and rightfully so. Baroness Crey was slick enough to make all the lawyers in the world look like decent people.
“Business later Stephan. Next is Gretchen D'Ascenzo and her brother Martin D'Ascenzo II. He is a software developer, mostly working on creating programs for the small business user.”
“Greetings.” First the man spoke. “Hello.” Was the woman response. She refused to meet either Lucilla's or Rebecca's gaze however. Martin II noticed this, having expected this kind of problem and was quick to cover for her. “Please forgive my sister for not shaking hands. She's very, careful, about who she makes contact with.
Rebecca was a bit surprised upon hearing this as all of the other family members looked quite bold and unafraid of anything. She was about to respond when she was interrupted by another voice chiming in. “What you mean is she isn't sure they aren't demons yet. Though personally, if all demons look like that then I wouldn't mind losing my soul.” Unsurprisingly it was Vincent and he wore a sarcastic smirk.
Gretchen was quick to flash the young man an annoyed glance, even though she knew what he said was true. The curse had affected her worse psychologically then anyone else. While they channeled their energies into living their short lives to the fullest, she lived her life in fear and paranoia. Still, she was sure that it was that very fact that was going to let her survive the curse. “Vincent, could you be quiet for at least a few minutes?”
While Gretchen and the young man continued to settle their differences with angry stares, Jonathan moved on to the last person in the room. “Next is Martin D'Ascenzo III. He is still in college and working toward a doctorate in molecular biology.” Jonathan did not attempt to hide his pride in regards to this fact. Most of the D'Ascenzo family hurried through college in order to get out into the business world while there was still time.
The young man rubbed his shaggy goatee as he stood and offered his hand to the two. He looked like a wealthy college student, slightly unkempt and uncaring about his grooming but still wearing nice designer clothing. “I share some of Paul's concerns about this gathering but you haven't tried fleecing my relatives yet so I guess you have only everyone's best interest in mind.”
Beside the younger Martin was another man who appeared to be in his early forties. He had the dark hair of many of the other D’Ascenzos, but his was lightly greying. “This is Leonard D’Ascenzo, the head of a large steel company here in Paragon that has been in the family for many generations.” Leonard smiled at both women as well as he also gave a slight bow. “A great pleasure ladies.”
As Jonathan moved them past Leonard, he brought them to the last family member in the room, who also turned out to be the eldest. Seated in a wheelchair near the fireplace was a gaunt skeletal man who looked like he was somewhere in his nineties. His sunken eyes were dark and piercing as he looked at the two young women. “And finally, this is the head of the family, my uncle, Sergio D’Ascenzo.” Jonathan said as he indicated the elderly man.
Sergio’s dark eyes moved from Rebecca to settle onto Lucilla as he spoke in Italian, his voice tired and rasping. ~“Lucilla Giovanni, a good Italian name. Are you indeed the light for my family as your name indicates?”~ Lucilla smiled slightly before she replied in Italian. ~“That remains to be seen Signore, but I will endeavor to do what I can.”~
Nodding, he old man in the wheel chair gestured to the various sofas and chairs, speaking in English this time. “Now that you have been introduced please make yourselves comfortable.”
Lucilla took a seat in one of the sofas in the room, the cushions of the old piece of furniture were much stiffer than those of a more modern sofa. As Rebecca sat down as well, Jonathan moved over near the fireplace that his uncle was positioned beside in his wheelchair. The rest of the family members all faced the two oldest members of the family, some seeming very tense and almost as if they were dreading what might come next. Some of the others seemed bored and inpatient. Clearing his throat slightly, Jonathan managed to get everyone’s attention focused back on him. “Now, I am sure you two young ladies are wondering why this family could possibly have need of your assistance.”
“The reason runs back into the past, just over four hundred and eighty years to be exact. At that time the D’Ascenzos were a wealthy family of the minor nobility in the province of Venezia in Italy. They were prosperous and the family held many positions of power with in the province. One such was Lazzaro D’Ascenzo, the Magistrate for the province. Lazzaro, his sons and a few other relatives owned a good deal of land in the area, but there was some very rich areas of land that were owned by some other families. These other families refused to sell the land to the family, so they decided to make it theirs another way. Lazzaro used his position to get thirteen members of the families condemned for heresy. Along with this, their lands were confiscated by the church, much of it being gifted to the D’Ascenzos for their part in reveling the alleged heresy.”
Jonathan paused at this moment, a slight look of shame seeming to be on his face as he recounted the dark chapter of his families history. “As if the actions of the D’Ascenzos then were not enough, there was more to follow. As some of the family members oversaw the removal of the surviving family members from the confiscated lands, one of Lazzaro’s sons, Emilio D’Ascenzo spied a beautiful maiden among the dispossessed. She was the daughter of one of the men condemned to death by Emilio’s father. Emilio was as of yet unmarried and desired this woman to be his. So he had some of the soldiers overseeing the removal of the families to go and arrest her and bring her back to the D’Ascenzo villa so he could make her his wife.”
Lucilla was sitting rather impassively during the story. While she found the tale to be rather distasteful, it wasn’t anything overly surprising to her. There were hundreds of tales such as this in human history, and many others far worse. She simply waited to see where this tale was taking them, as it seemed a strange place to start having taken place so many centuries ago. Jonathan continued, keeping most of his attention on Lucilla and Rebecca as he spoke.
“Now when Emilio went back to the family villa to make the maiden his, it was October 31st of 1523. Though when he went to her, he encountered something completely different than what he had been expecting. The girl had slit her wrists and was bleeding on the floor of the bedroom. As he entered the room, she looked up at him and with her last breaths uttered a curse up on him and his family for the crimes they had committed. Somehow this girl’s words found power and a blight fell upon the D’Ascenzo family. Over the next thirteen hours, a member of the family died each hour, including Lazzaro himself. Emilio lived that day, but was changed by what had happened.”
“The family went on, and even Emilio eventually married and had children. But, forty years after this first series of unusual deaths, another thirteen members of the D’Ascenzos died over a thirteen hour period on October 31st. That began a marked decline in the family, their position of power starting to erode as tales of a curse upon them spread. Their wealth began to vanish, and it wasn’t long before the family was a shadow of what it once was.”
As Jonathan paused briefly, Vincent spoke up, his face showing the obvious annoyance he was feeling. “That’s a wonderful history lesson old man, but what does it have to do with us now? So what if we are all descended from Lazzaro or his immediate relatives? So far this is seeming to be a complete waste of my time, other than getting to meet these two babes.” Before Jonathan could respond to the interruption, Sergio spoke up, his rasping voice harsh, yet somehow clearly audible to all in the room. “Watch what you say boy, for your death is fast approaching. Unless these two young women can help us, your days of wasting away your father’s money are gone. Now please finish Jonathan.”
Jonathan turned and gave his uncle a slight nod before facing back towards the others. “Of course uncle. Now, as the D’Ascenzos began to decline in power, the curse continued to work it’s vengeance every forty years, killing thirteen of the family members seemingly at random. None of the bloodline were spared, the old, the vibrant, even the newborn, all have died from the curse on October 31st over the last nearly five centuries. In the early part of the Nineteenth Century, around 1819, three brothers of what was left of the D’Ascenzos decided to try and find a new start and hopefully a means of escaping the curse, so they left Italy and move to the United States.”
“With determination in them and drive to see the family live on, they made themselves somewhat successful lives here, marrying and starting families, hoping that they had left the curse behind. October 31st of 1823 arrived and there were two deaths of members of the American branch of the family, leading those here to feel they might have indeed escaped the curse. Of course, the Italian branch of the family was still suffering greatly under the curse, as it continued to wither away. The American D’Ascenzos continued to build on their successes, soon building large fortunes.”
“But, in 1883, with the number of D’Ascenzos in Italy having dwindled so, the American branch of the family came to realize that they hadn’t left the curse behind after all, as over half a dozen of them died that October 31st. And so it continued into the Twentieth Century, the World Wars in Europe further reducing the bloodline members of the Italian branch of the D’Ascenzos. That brings us to today, the day before October 31st, Halloween, 2003. The last of the Italian D’Ascenzos died in 1963, the American branch of the family has withered as well since that year, the last time the curse struck. The thirteen of us you see here are the last of the bloodline of Lazzaro and Emilio D’Ascenzo. Unless something can be done to halt the curse this year, starting at noon tomorrow, we will start to die off one by one and the D’Ascenzo family will cease to be.”
Around her, Lucilla could feel several of the family members shift uncomfortably, Gretchen was as white as a ghost, seemingly terrified at the approaching doom. But not all the family seemed to believe what was being said. “You have got to be kidding me!” Vincent stated, his frustration obvious as he shook his head. He didn’t seem to be the only one doubting the validity of the curse, they were just not willing to be as disrespectful as Vincent as to so blatantly scoff at the tale. Frank stepped forward slightly from where he had been standing, to look Vincent face to face. “Look here Vincent. Just because you want to throw your life away and not make something of yourself with all the opportunities your birth has given you is your business, but don’t think I am going to sit here while you play the fool and ridicule what lies in store for us all tomorrow.”
11-01-2005, 06:16 AM
Vincent’s uncle Paul stepped forward, an angry look on his face when suddenly the loud sound of someone slapping their hand on a table top caught everyone’s attention and caused them to look over to where Sergio was sitting, his hand now resting on the marble topped end table he had just slapped. “All of you stop this bickering!” He scolded in a loud rasping voice. “I have lived through two instances of the curse, in 1963 I lost my son, my brother and his daughter my niece as well as other members of the family.” A painful look seemed to cross Jonathan’s face as Sergio recounted some of the losses from forty years ago. “If you do not believe in the curse, just take a walk into the cemetery near the garden and see for yourself how many members of this family have died on October 31st of the same year. Now we have two who might be able to help us in preventing the curse from ending our family line, one of whom has traveled the world examining and investigating supernatural occurrences if I understand correctly.”
The old man’s gaze fell over onto Lucilla and Rebecca, his sunken eyes seeming to almost bore into them as he went silent save for the heavy sound of his labored breathing. Lucilla met his gaze unblinkingly, as she shifted slightly before she replied. “Yes, I have. Nearly five centuries, that is a long time for a curse to be continuing, it sounds very potent. I would be interested to see any research material you might have on the family history and the curse, but needless to say, this will not be an easy task.” She paused for a brief moment before she continued. “But the story of this curse explains much that I have already noticed since my arrival at this home. This place is crisscrossed with old rituals, protection spells cast to try and keep out something. I can sense so many of them, and of so many different practices. From Christian blessings to Satanic rituals.”
“Satanic rituals?” Gretchen said in a worried voice as Lucilla went on. “And all other manner of rites.” A thin smile came to Sergio’s face as he nodded. “You are very observant young one. Indeed many of our ancestors have tried all they could to protect this hose and purge the family of the curse, including the Satanic rites you speak of. Those were likely performed by one of my uncles at the end of the Nineteenth Century.” Lucilla nodded as she spoke once more. “They are all so varied and opposing that for the most part they really only serve to cancel each other out, all losing any effectiveness they might have had. The very first thing that will have to be done is to cleanse this house of all of them so new wards can be placed.”
“That seems like it could be a lot of work, do you have enough time?” The question came from Frank, his tone one of concern, but was not doubting or sarcastic. Lucilla looked over at him as she smiled faintly. “It should not take much time at all to cleanse the house, setting new wards…that could take a bit longer. For the cleansing, a simple matter of briefly preparing each area that has an enchantment on it and then one massive cleansing ritual. With both myself and Rebecca setting new wards, the work should go much quicker.”
“How do we know we can trust you? That you won’t do anything to further harm us?” Asked Gretchen, a fearful look in her eyes as she clutched the cross she wore around her neck. Lucilla faced the older woman, her face calm, showing no signs of being insulted. “First off, many of these wards have been here longer than Signore Sergio has been alive, so if they haven’t worked yet, they likely won’t now, so removing them will matter little. As to why trust us, neither of us have anything to gain by harming your family, not to mention I am a member of the Knights of Paragon, and it is my duty to protect those in need.”
Some of the others in the room looked as if they were about to speak when Jonathan stepped forward. “Now everyone, I know there are concerns, but Miss Giovanni comes very well recommended by someone I have known for many years. And if she vouches for Miss Charity, then we have to accept that. Now our guests hare here to help us, and we are being poor hosts by not offering them a meal before they need to get to matters at hand.” Gesturing off towards the other door that lead from the drawing room, Jonathan looked to Lucilla and Rebecca. “Ladies, my uncle’s cook has prepared a splendid meal. If you would please join us in the formal dinning room, I am sure you will both need your strength for the work ahead tonight.”
After being invited to dinner the two mages were lead into the main dinning room. Upon entering Rebecca was immediately taken aback by just how grand the room was. The ceilings were high, about twenty feet by her estimate, and was intricately carved with a verity of patterns. Dominating the center of the room was a long, dark oak table that looked like it could easily seat over thirty people. Obviously it went back to a time when the family was much more populous. At one time this had probably been one of the happiest rooms in the house, full of talking and joyful people. Now however it looked far too empty and lonely.
At one end of the table were several chairs, each made of the same deep colored oak wood as the table and possessing a high back. Even with all the people present the chairs didn't even take up half of the space the table afforded. Spread out across the table were a number of food laded silver platters, wine bottles, and of course silverware all recently set out by the servants. The D'Ascenzos had spared no expense on what might be the last dinner of their lives, even if some of them didn't believe it. Walking quickly into the room the young witch picked out a chair about mid-way down on the table and had a seat, the others in the room doing the same.
"Hey babe, hope you doing mind me taking this spot." Vincent had already sat down to her right by the time he finished speaking, making it rather hard to politely decline.
"No. Go right ahead." Rebecca was really beginning to realize what Jonathan meant when he said that Vincent was a playboy. It was also very apparent that even after all that had been said he didn't believe in the curse.
"Didn't think so. Not very many ladies would." He gave a self-confident smile as he settled into the seat, grabbing his napkin and draping it across his lap. Rebecca was at least glad that he wasn't totally lacking in manners, though he defiantly needed to learn how to treat women a little better.
"You're so full of yourself Vince. Can't you tell she's not interested in all your posturing?" Turning to her left Rebecca saw Jessica sitting on her other side. The young woman was smiling at her verbal jab. Apparently, since they both lived in California, they had been doing this for some time.
"Yeah really. What's the matter, miss all those girls you left behind in California? At the last family get together you were bragging about all of them." The young witch's attention was now drawn straight ahead to Martin III who had just taken the seat opposite of her. Again it appeared that the other young people in the family enjoyed taking swipes at Vincent.
"At least I have girls waiting for me unlike you Mr. Bookworm. I'm sure all the ladies are impressed with your knowledge of mollecular biology in the clubs." From the look on the young man's face it appeared he was digging in for a long siege and was preparing to give as good as he got.
Raising a hand out in front of her, effectively in the middle of the triangle of young people, she broke their focus on each other. "No more of this please. This is not the time to start a fight. Lets talk about something a bit more pleasant." The last thing she wanted to experience was being caught in the center of a heated argument. She could only imagine the things that would be said about each of them, especially Vincent who obviously had lead a very colorful life.
"I couldn't agree more." Jessica spoke up. "So what is Paragon like? I hear just about every hero could be a model if they didn't devote their lives to crime fighting."
It was the most commonly asked question by people who didn't live in Paragon and one that Rebecca was quite used to. "Not all of them but an unusually large amount to be sure. In fact there are a few famous people from Hollywood that are also super heroes. I don't know how they can do it though. I have enough trouble with just school and crime fighting, much less a high stress job." The young witch really had to admire people that could do that. No matter how hard she tried there never seemed to be enough time to do full time school and full time crime fighting.
"Wait you mean you're a hero?" Martin III sounded a bit surprised by this and again, Rebecca was quite used to that. She looked and acted too ordinary to be a witch, much less be an actual super hero. Yet that was exactly the case.
"On occasion. It's really not a full time thing but I chip in when I can. Like what I'm doing now. When I know people might get hurt, I try and prevent it. That's why I agreed to help Lucilla." Rebecca said with a smile.
"I'm guessing one of your powers is being super sexy, cause I know if I was robbing a place and you showed up I'd be stunned." Vincent butted into the conversation, trying to turn it so that he was once again the center of attention.
"Actually, I have some control over the wind as well as plenty of protective magics. Witchcraft isn't exactly designed for hurting people which is why I focus mostly on protection and healing. Besides, there are more then enough people that can throw around energy blasts and precious few who can prevent it." She didn't want to sound too preachy but that was how she felt on the matter. Most anyone could tear something down but to build something up again took real talent.
"That's a noble pursuit." Martin III answered with a smile. Rebecca could tell that he was honestly impressed and if she wasn't mistaken she could see in his eyes that he too would have liked to live that kind of life.
"Thanks. That's what it means to be a hero in my mind, though I will admit that being able to blow stuff up is necessary. It just can't be the only thing." She gave him a smile of her own. Their conversation continued as they ate their meal with Vincent trying to break in repeatedly. Fortunately she and the other two were able to mostly ignore him. After all the less fuel you gave to a person like him, the less annoying he would be.
At the head of the table, Sergio sat in his wheelchair eating a simple bowl of minestrone soup and a glass of red wine. His dark sunken eyes watching everyone around the table as they engaged in their conversations. Looking over at Lucilla who was seated to his right, the ancient D’Ascenzo spoke in his weak rasping voice. “Will we be able to watch you perform the cleansing spell Lucilla?”
Putting her fork down on her plate, the raven haired woman looked over at the D’Ascenzo elder. “Yes, in fact having everyone, including all house servants, in the room for the ceremony is essential.” Just beside her, Jonathan sat down his wineglass as he looked over. “Why is that necessary?”
Looking over at Sergio’s nephew beside her, Lucilla calmly replied. “It’s much harder to control the energies of all the occupants of the house if they are spread all over the place. By having everyone in the room with Rebecca and myself, we can take the various energies of everyone into account while casting the spell.”
From across from Lucilla Catherine spoke up as she looked at the raven haired woman. “So how exactly does one become a mage, or what ever it is you refer to yourself as.” Smiling at the older woman, Lucilla wasted no time answering. “Like anything else, there are many different paths that lead to becoming a mage, sorceress, witch or what ever other name for a use of magic one chooses. For myself, it was more being the sacrifice for an ancient ritual that established a connection between myself and another dimension. But regardless if a person is born to magical talent or acquires it later, study and practice are required to develop ones talent to it’s fullest.”
Frank had looked over towards the conversation as Lucilla had been speaking, a slightly shocked look on his face. “I am not sure I understand, you said you were the sacrifice in a ritual?” Lucilla smiled faintly as she looked over at him. “Yes, the intent of the sacrifice was to use my life to appease and ancient moon goddess. Things didn’t quite work out as the shaman overseeing the ritual intended.”
“You speak fluent Italian, and definitely have the look of Southern Italy. How far removed are you?” Came the rasping voice to her side, causing Lucilla to look back over at the old man. Lucilla smiled warmly as she replied.
Catherine immediately spoke up once more. “I have heard Naples is a bit of a bore, but many friends have told me that the island of Capri is supposed to be wonderful. Were you able to make it out to there?” Lucilla looked back over at the older woman, the smile gone from her face as she replied in a much cooler voice. “Yes, I did get out to Capri.”
If Catherine noticed the change in Lucilla’s temperament, she didn’t show it, as she continued talking about what she had heard about the island of Capri before moving on to talk about Sicily and then some of the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea. Lucilla add some comments about the places she had been in Greece and Turkey, seemingly glad to be done talking about Capri.
After dinner, Lucilla and Rebecca were show to their rooms on the second floor so they could get themselves situated. The upstairs of the home was as finely decorated as the rest of the house. The carpeted hallways contained several high quality paintings as well as some antiques, including a few suits of armor. Their rooms were right next to one another at the Northeast corner of the house. As Mrs. Kretch started off to take care of her other duties, Lucilla opened the door to her room, looking over at Rebecca. “Come inside for a moment Rebecca. We should talk some before getting ready to go back down to start preparing for the cleansing ritual.”
Lucilla walked into the room, leaving the door open for the younger woman to follow after her. The room was quite large for a guest room, a large full sized bed with full poster frame against the wall to the right. Just to the right of the door was a small table with a chair and on the left was a dresser and armoire. Lucilla’s bags were set out in front of the dresser and armoire for her to unpack at her convenience.
As Rebecca shut the door behind her, Lucilla turned towards the younger woman, a serious look on her face. “First off I would like to thank you for being so willing to give up your personal time on a night like tomorrow evening to help with this matter. But with that said, I am offering you the chance to leave Rebecca. I was unfortunately unaware of the full extent of the situation here. Now that I know, I feel badly for having brought you into this. This is a complex and likely very dangerous situation. If you feel this might be more than you are comfortable with, I fully understand and wouldn’t think any less of you.”
“I’ll be the first to admit all the talk about the curse had me on edge. But curses and the means to protect against them have been part of witchery since its beginning. I can’t expect to improve my abilities if I’m too afraid to face a challenge. Besides, you heard as well as I did that if this isn’t reversed their entire family will disappear. If that happens, and my help would have made a difference, then I don’ think I would forgive myself.” Any sane person might have turned and fled from there, but after having dinner with these people, she couldn’t just turn and run. Even Vincent, despite his less than sterling behavior, deserved a chance to live out the rest of his life. He might even turn out to be a decent person one day.
Lucilla nodded, proud of the younger woman. “Very well Rebecca. I just had to offer you the chance. It is time to prepare now. We are somewhat short on time, so be as quick as you can. I am going to change. Though they all know my real face, I just feel more comfortable using my magic in my Hollow costume. We have this entire house to cleanse, so it will likely take a lot of power. I am going to need you to help me channel that and put it to use as I will likely be very focused on drawing the power we will need from the shadow plane.” “I understand. I’ll bring both my broom and Athame to use as focus. It shouldn’t take me long to make the preparations.”
After Rebecca left for her own room to prepare for the cleansing, Lucilla sighed slightly. She had felt that it was slightly insulting to Rebecca to tell her she could just walk away from this if she had chosen too, but Lucilla wouldn’t have felt right either if she hadn’t given Rebecca the chance. Turning away from the door, Lucilla moved over towards her bags. One contained several old books, filled with information and spells. She knew exactly which one she would need for this ritual, now she just had to change.
Opening her other bag, which contained a few changes of clothes, Lucilla removed her Hollow costume, lying the midnight blue leather outfit with long black cloak down on the bed. This felt a little odd for her, since joining the Knights of Paragon, she hadn’t really had to investigate any supernatural events as she had spent several years doing alone before joining the Knights. Shaking her head slightly, Lucilla reached up and pulled her sweater over her head to begin undressing.
A short while later she emerged from her room, dressed in her costume as Hollow. He form fitting midnight blue leather covered her entire body up to her neck. She also wore midnight blue gloves and high midnight blue leather boots with four inch heels. Over her shoulders was a long black cloak, the hood of which she didn’t have bother to put up. The cloak was held in place by a silver clasp, shaped in the form of a crescent moon. Under one arm she was carrying a thick old book that was very faded with age. Moving over towards the door towards Rebecca’s room, she knocked to see if the younger woman was ready.
While Lucilla was busy dressing Rebecca was occupied with some preparations of her own. Upon entering her room the young woman quickly surveyed her surroundings, spotting her broom and the two bags she had brought. Walking over to them she picked up the smaller one and then placed it on the bed. Unzipping it she quickly began looking over everything to make sure nothing had broken during the trip. While most of it was non-breakable she had brought quite a few glass bottles containing oils, powders, and other things she used in her ceremonial magic spells.
Once the young woman was satisfied everything was intact she moved on to her preparations. She too had brought a special change of clothing, her witch's robe to be exact. It wasn't anything too spectacular. Just a thick robe woven out of wool and dyed a deep black color. It was charmed against evil intent of course. No witch worth her salt would pass up on opportunity to sanctify the clothing that they were going to wear. She also had a steepled witch's hat to go with it though she had left it at home. It, unlike the robes, was just for show when she went crime fighting. Since her hero name was Witch Girl she figured she should look the part.
Slipping the robe over her head the young woman cinched it at the waist with a black leather belt, fastening the silver buckle so that the loose garment wouldn't get in the way. Giving her head a shake she pulled her hair out from under the robe and let it fall free again. Returning her attention back to the bag she began looking over the other objects she had brought. Taking the Athame from her bag she slipped it between the belt and robe. Since it wasn't sharp she didn't have to worry about a scabbard and it certainty made her look a little more intimidating.
Reaching inside of her bag again Rebecca began searching for something. This time it was for something that all witches had, a Book of Shadows. Even though every witch had a Book of Shadows they were all just a little different from one another. For starters they were all hand copied by their owners from another witch's Book of Shadows, giving them all a personal appearance. On top of that, witchery wasn't an exact science, meaning that in a specific spell one witch might find ginger to be most effective while another witch might have more luck with something else.
When she heard the knocking on her door she tucked the book under one arm and zipped the bag closed. There had to be some kind of spell, charm, or ritual to protect against evil curses in the book. Unfortunately she had never actually used anything like that meaning she would have to search through a lot of pages to try and find it. Fortunately she had brought a little of everything in her bag, especially the harder to come by ingredients, so it was likely that she would have whatever was called for. Making a gesture toward her broom it stood up from leaning against the wall and floated over to her waiting hand. She then walked over to the door and opened it.
11-01-2005, 06:18 AM
"Now that's the costume of a professional hero." Lucilla grinned slightly at the younger woman as she gave a little shrug. “Perhaps, but you look fine as you are. Very fitting, this just allows for a bit more freedom of movement than a robe would.”
Rebecca looked down at her robe and then shrugged as well. "If you say so but it dosn't really fit in with the hero crowd. I guess that's ok though since I don't really fight crime that often." Lucilla smiled as the two started towards the stairway. “There is nothing wrong with starting out small. After I first gained my powers I mainly focused on searching for lost artifacts and dealing with small supernatural problems. Started to work up from there.”
The two young women made their way back down into the drawing room where the family was again gathered, all the conversations that had been taking place coming to a halt as they regarded the two women almost as if they were seeing them for the first time. As before, it was Vincent that chose to break the silence as Lucilla moved to the center of the room, her heels clicking on the floor as she walked. “So where are your whips and chains Lucilla?”
Several of the family members shot Vincent annoyed looks as Lucilla ignored his statements as she focused her attention on Sergio and Jonathan. “Have you determined where you want to gather everyone for this ceremony?” Jonathan nodded as he spoke. “Yes, there is a small ballroom in the West wing of the house. That should easily hold all the family members and the servants. I have all the candles that Professor Garrison said you might need, there are a lot of them, what are they for?”
Lucilla nodded as she moved over towards the table near the two elder members of the family. On it were several boxes of candles, just plain white ones. “Good. They are focuses we will be placing in each room of the house to help focus the energy for the ritual, as well as part of the ritual itself. While Rebecca and I are preparing the rest of the house, I will need some of you to set up some things for the ceremony.” Setting down one of the books she was carrying, she opened it to a worn page that contained writing that neither Jonathan or Sergio recognized along with a hand drawn diagram. “I will need the room prepared as indicated on this diagram. I will go with you all to the ballroom to start the preparation before I start with preparing rooms in the house. I will be handling the basement areas, as well as the third floor. Rebecca will be handling the first floor and second floor.”
Sergio nodded in understanding before speaking in his rasping voice. “The rooms where my uncle performed his satanic rituals are off from the wine cellar, behind hidden doors. Frank can show you the entrance to those rooms.” Frank looked over at Lucilla with a smile as he nodded. “Will be my pleasure.” Lucilla gave a slight nod before she turned to look at all those gathered around. “Alright, lets make our way towards the ballroom. Jonathan, if you would be so kind as to gather the staff there, I will get things started setting up there and then leave the rest to some of you.”
While Hollow moved down to the below ground areas, Rebecca busied herself with the above ground. To purify a house was normally a very simple thing. Even a person with no magical talent what so ever could do it and in fact many did though it wasn't always though witchery. All that was required was a bit of belief that what you were doing was going to be effective. Holy water from a local church, a prayer said in faith, or a ritual performed to drive out evil spirits. They were all good for clearing the minor psychic garbage that might be left behind by previous owners.
Of course, a house of this size posed its own problems and the ritual they were going to perform wasn't merely to remove minor things. They were going to drive out all magics both good and bad so that they could start with a fresh slate. That would require a good bit more then just belief. It would require energy, which was why they needed to make preparations. Calling forth that much energy wasn't always a safe thing and precautions had to be made to make sure that the energy wouldn't go wild and destroy parts of the house.
That was where the candles came in. Though it might have seemed like an unlikely focus the candle had a long standing history in magic ritual. When lit and placed at a window, door, or other portal it formed a sort of spiritual barrier. If they did everything properly then the candles should control the energy and make sure that it went only toward the purpose that they wanted it to. As Rebecca moved from room to room placing and lighting candles she heard a set of footsteps behind her. Turning around she found the very person she was expecting, especially after the way he had been fawning over her earlier.
"Hey babe. Getting down to that voodoo that you do hu?" Vincent smirked at his own comment, obviously finding himself quite clever. His eyes traveled up and down her robed figure though to his disappointment they were not nearly as flattering as her previous attire.
"It's not voodoo it's witchcraft and yes that's exactly what I'm doing." Rebecca was clearly unimpressed. She had a lot of rooms to cover and not a lot of time to do it in.
"Close enough. So you really believe in this curse stuff." He dropped the smirk and walked over to where the young witch was, watching her as she went back to placing a candle on a window sill. She then took her athame and began carving a pentacle on its surface, the dull metal blade easily drawing on the soft wax.
"I've seen more then enough to believe it. You're living in a time of mutants, cyborgs, and aliens. Don't you think it could be possible?" It was a no brainier to her, especially since she lived in the city of heroes. To not believe in a curse seemed rather foolish, especially after that story from his family's history.
"So if I'm going to die tomorrow, how about you come by my room tonight and we forget all this curse junk for awhile." At those words Rebecca took the black handled dagger and dug the tip into the painted windowsill. She couldn't believe that he was already going at it again. Turning toward him she gave him a look of disbelief.
"Does that line actually work in California? Honestly, I could be smashed drunk and not go along with that." Her voice was becoming more and more flat as the conversation went on. It was obvious that Vincent was not making any headway and in fact was building up a deficit with the woman.
"Hey, can't blame a guy for trying. Don't suppose it would make a difference if I mentioned just how rich I am." Rebecca just narrowed her eyes at him, not dignifying that with a spoken responce. "Alright alright, I'm going."
The young woman sighed when Vincent finally left. She didn't hate the guy, he was too cute for that but he had the personality of a rutting buck. It was her impression that he had gotten his way with everything in the past thanks to his money and looks. That lead to a very shallow personality and there was no way she was going to get involved with someone spur of the moment like that, much less someone who had no substance. Shrugging Rebecca resumed her placing, carving, and lightning of candles.
After Lucilla had left the ballroom along with Leonard and Frank to start preparing the parts of the house she was responsible, most of the other family members gathered around one section of the dim room as several of the servants set up chairs for everyone to sit in during the ceremony. The two maids were helping Mary set up the one hundred candles according to the diagram in the book Lucilla had left with them. Stephan and Gretchen were standing where they could watch the preparations, Stephan’s face showing what seemed to be hope, while Gretchen seemed full of anxiety. “What do you think of all this? Seems like a big production to me.” The two looked to their side to see Paul come up beside them, looking over at the preparations with a look of amusement on his face.
Stephan frowned slightly as he looked over at his distant cousin. “I am sure you know a lot about productions, but this is a serious matter.” Paul looked over at Stephan with a smirk as he replied. “Serious if you believe all that curse rubbish.”
Gretchen looked over at Paul with a shocked look. “How can you not believe in the threat that we are facing?” From the look on her face, it was evident that she believed that they were all facing their deaths tomorrow. “Even if you don’t believe in the curse you have to see that this entire ceremony is a danger, how do we know if we can trust these two?” Paul’s smirk stayed in place as he looked at Gretchen. “Is there no one you trust? Or is it only your brother because he keeps you from living on the streets. No wonder your husband left you.”
Gretchen’s face went red as if she was about to explode when Stephan stepped in front of her squarely facing Paul, his face slightly showing anger. “That was rather low Paul. I don’t see where you can judge other’s relationships. Your on your what, third wife?” Behind him Gretchen spoke in a tight angry voice. “Don’t waste your breath on him Stephan. Like the rest of the family from California he is self centered and obnoxious.” With that she turned and stormed away towards another part of the room.
Paul watched her leave for a moment before looking back at Stephan, his face emotionless now. “I may have had some trouble finding a good woman in the past, but at least I don’t try to hide away from the world. But what ever the case. I don’t know why I am letting Sergio and the rest of you waste my time like this. If nothing else it should be good for a laugh later.” The movie executive then moved away from Stephan, taking a seat in one of the chairs as he glanced at his watch with an annoyed look. Stephan sighed slightly before he made his way over towards where Mary and the two maids were working to see if he could lend a hand.
In another part of the room, Martin III moved over to where his father was looking out one of the large windows of the ballroom at dark rain filled night. “Dad, I think we need to talk about some things.” The young man's voice sounded calm and collected as usual.
“Yes son?” Martin II didn't bother to turn away from the window as he answered. Instead he continued to stare outside of the window and into the sky above. There was a lot on his mind this day but he always had time to talk with his son.
Martin III plucked at his goatee for a moment, a little nervous to bring up the subject. However the silence didn't last long. “I'm glad to be with the family and all but you don't really expect me to take this curse stuff seriously do you?”
Martin II frowned, though it couldn't be seen with his face pointed out the window. “I knew you would ask and the answer is yes I do. Because of your age I'm not surprised by your doubt but everything that has been said here is true.” He knew it wasn't what his son wanted to hear but it was his belief and he was going to stick with it.
“Just because our ancestors have traditionally died young doesn’t mean there is some curse causing it all. Every one of them had a natural explanation." If there had been some kind of evidence, any evidence at all, then he could believe it. However while there had been many deaths in the family none of them could be linked to some unusual curse. In fact, he was sure that the true reason for the decline in their number could be traced back to the high mortality rate during WWII and the many other wars through Europe's history.
The older man sighed and shook his head. “That's because humans generally refuse to believe what they can't touch with their own two hands, just like you are right now.” This was not the kind of argument he wanted to deal with this late. The time of the curse was almost upon them and thirteen people were supposed to die. Who would be first was uncertain but one thing was for sure, those that weren't alert would be much easier targets then those that held a healthy fear of the curse.
For a moment the young man thought though it didn't take him long to reach a conclusion. “I'm sorry dad but I just can't believe it. You're almost as bad as Aunt Gretchen.” It was sort of a low blow, comparing him with his sister. However one thing that wasn't in doubt was his believe in the curse. His father might not have had the strange obsessive compulsive behaviors but he was a staunch believer in the existence of the curse.
He nodded his head and finally looked away from the window and toward his son. In him he could see the future of the D'Ascenzo family. If even just he survived then their name would continue on and the curse would be defeated. “Then at least promise me one thing. When the time comes you will be extra careful. Just because something looks like an accident doesn't mean that it is. This curse seems to have a life of its own and there is no set way for it to kill.”
Martin III shrugged in response. Since he didn't believe that anything could happen he didn't really feel the same sense of dread that his father did. “Alright, for you I'll be careful but when the first person doesn't die when they are supposed to will you drop this whole curse thing?” The older man smiled slightly. “Gladly. I pray that one day I'm able to do that.”
As Stephan came over to where Mary and the two maids were setting up the candles, Mary looked over at her first cousin with a smile. “What can I do to help?” Stephan asked as he gave Mary a faint smile in return. The middle aged woman gestured over towards the box of candles that was nearby. “Grab some of those and line them up in a fourth row that lines up with the candles the rest of us are setting up in our rows.”
Stephan nodded as he went over to the box and took out a handful of candles and moved over near Jackie, one of the maids as he studied how she had been placing the candles and began to line his row up with them. Mary had finished up with her row and went over to the box, picking it up and bringing it over to Stephan as her cousin was just finishing with the candles he had taken out. “There has to be twenty five in each row.” She said as she held out the box for Stephan to get more to add for his row. Looking over, she saw that the two maids were done with their rows. After scrutinizing the rows for a moment to ensure they were properly aligned, she looked at the two maids with a smile. “Thank you Jackie, Pam. You can go help Walter and Mrs. Kretch with setting up the chairs.”
The two maids nodded before they turned and started over towards where the chairs were being set up. Stephan looked at his cousin for a moment before he went back to setting up his candles as he asked. “So what do you think Mary? You think this will work?” Looking back down at her cousin, Mary hesitated before she finally responded. “I don’t know Stephan, I really don’t know. My father and Uncle Sergio are putting great stock in this succeeding. If it doesn’t we are all doomed.” Stephan nodded grimly as he continued to set out his candles.
Lucilla peered into the dark room at the bottom of stairs that lead to this section of the basement. The pitch black of the room hid nothing from her, her eyes able to see perfectly. Frank came to a stop right behind her on the stairs. “Sorry, seems the bulb has gone out down here.” He said, flicking a switch beside them. Lucilla smiled in the dark as she started forward. “That’s alright, I can see the wine cellar just fine.”
Looking about the room, Lucilla could see the many racks filled with wine bottles. Many were covered with considerable amounts of dust. Ahead of her, she could sense the magic that had been cast over a century ago, but couldn’t see a means of getting to where the spells were cast. “Where exactly is the passageway to the other rooms?”
“It’s the third rack from the right wall, pull the bottle in the upper left corner.” Frank said from the stairs as flame flickered behind Lucilla as Leonard lit one of the candles he and Frank were carrying. Lucilla make her way to the indicated wine rack, reaching up and pulling on the upper left corner bottle. The bottle moved slightly, but then stopped as there was a click and the hidden door swung back with a nerve wracking screech. As it opened, the door reveled a short stone hallway that lead into another chamber.
As Frank and Leonard came up beside her, Lucilla started down the hallway, walking into the small stone room beyond. She scanned around the room, noting the passageway opposite the one she was standing in. Though the stones showed no physical trace of anything, Lucilla could “see” the traces of the magic that clung to where the Pentagram had been traced on the floor of the room. “So it this one of the rooms?” Frank asked as he moved up beside Lucilla, the faint candlelight casting their shadows over across the room on to the stone walls.
“Yes, the Pentagram covered most of the floor in this chamber. But I can sense more up ahead as well.” Lucilla said as she took a candle from Frank. Kneeling down in the center of the room, Lucilla sat the candle down in front of her before she sat upright, closing her eyes. Opening the channel to the shadow plane, she let the chilling mystical energy flow into her as she opened her eyes once more, focusing on the wick of the candle. Uttering a few words of a magical spell, her voice was no longer it’s normal pleasant sounding tone, instead it had a hollow echo to it, a side effect of having the connection to the shadow plane open. Both Frank and Leonard shifted slightly uncomfortably as they heard the changes to Lucilla’s voice. As she completed the simple spell, the candle ignited with a blue flame that started burning on the wick, but produced no heat.
Standing back up, Lucilla turned and looked towards the two as she spoke again in her cold echoing voice. “Lets move on and prepare the rest of the rooms.” Turning towards the other passageway out of the first chamber, Lucilla started forward, her black cloak billowing behind her in the dim candlelight. There were two other rooms beyond the first, each of which had been used in Satanic rituals. Lucilla prepared each room as she had the first, placing one of the candles and using the spell to ignite it with a focus of magic.
Once she had finished with that section of the basement, Lucilla lead Frank and Leonard back upstairs and to the top floor of the house, as they started to move other areas that had had spells cast in and on them. Lucilla could sense the preparation that Rebecca was doing on the first and second floors. The raven haired woman was still somewhat amazed at the number of enchantments that had been placed on this house over the years. Drawing enough power to cleanse this house was likely going to be very tiring for her. Thankfully she would have a night to rest before the curse was to strike again.
As they made their way through the rooms on the upper floor, Leonard broke the silence that seemed to have fallen over the group. “Tell me Lucilla, what do you think are your chances of actually being able to stop this curse?” Lucilla wasn’t sure, but she thought she detected a faint trace of doubt in his voice, and wasn’t sure if it was doubt in her or doubt that the curse even existed. Choosing not to bring up the matter, she focused on trying to answer his question as best she could. “I would say that it is hard to give a definitive answer to that. On one hand, I know that the wards that will be placed later tonight and tomorrow morning will be much stronger than those on this house now, in large part due to the fact that they will server to reinforce each other as opposed to canceling each outer out. But there is also the fact that this curse has plagued your family for close to five centuries. Something that old and enduring is not to be underestimated.”
Both Leonard and Frank still seemed a little unsettled by her cold hollow voice, but it couldn’t be helped. Now that she had begun the spells preparing the rooms for the cleansing ritual, she had to keep the connection with the shadow plane open to keep the spells powered. “Umm, so your saying you aren’t sure how well this will work?” Leonard said, somewhat nervously. Lucilla smiled faintly as she replied, the three entering into a room where a Christian blessing had been done many years ago. “Unfortunately no. But, unlike many of the instances that seem to have taken place in the past here. Rebecca and I just won’t cast our wards and leave. We will remain to see how effective they are and do what we can to improve them as needed should they not be effective.”
11-01-2005, 06:20 AM
“Though one of us might needed to die before you know how effective they are?” Frank asked, his voice rather neutral. Lucilla looked over at him as she took one of the candles. “That may sadly be the case, but believe me, I intend to do all that I can to ensure that such will not be the case to show us if our preparations are insufficient.” Placing the candle down in the middle of the room, Lucilla knelt in front of it and again cast her small spell to ignite the focus. Standing back up, the three continued to work their way around the top floor, preparing each room for the ritual.
Once they had finished, the three made their way back down to the first floor once more, moving towards the left side of the entry hallway and into the ballroom of the house. The large open room looked like it hadn’t been used for much of anything in many years. Dust covering the few antique furnishings that were in the room as well as the large crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling. The room was lit by close to one hundred candles that had been set up in four rows of twenty five, a large space between the second and third rows, making a small path between the candles.
These candles were burning with normal fire, and behind one of the sets of rows were several chairs, set up for the family members and staff who were all now gathered in the room. At each end of the rows of candles, were two circles that Lucilla had drawn earlier on the floor in white chalk, several arcane symbols spaced along the outside of the circles. Rebecca and the family members who had been helping were back as well. The young woman was still holding her Athame, preparing to use it to channel magical energy.
Leonard and Frank started over towards where the other family members were loosely gathered, some obviously less than happy about having to be present for this ritual. Lucilla started forward as well, her heeled boots clicking on the wood floor and echoing slightly in the room. Just then, the chimes of the grandfather clock could be heard as it reached nine in the evening. Nine times the chimes sounded, echoing through the house and into the ballroom as Hollow came to a halt in front of the gathered family members and house servants.
As the ninth chime sounded, Sergio looked over at the midnight blue clad woman, his eyes reflecting the flickering light of the candles. “We are ready for you to begin your ritual Knight Hollow.” Lucilla almost laughed at the use of her name as a Knight of Paragon, but simply let a faint smile come to her face. “If you would all be seated, we will begin.” The reaction to her cold echoing voice was about what she had expected, most of the family had a shocked look on their faces. Gretchen quickly made a sign of the cross in front of her as she backed away slightly. While he looked somewhat surprised, Vincent quickly reasserted his laid back self-confidence with a snide comment. “What the hell happened to your voice?”
Lucilla turned to look at him, no longer feeling very amused. “I have explained that I am a channeler. I have a…unique connection to a plane of shadow.” Looking to her left, Lucilla made a simple gesture, forming a small cloud of darkness over the closest two rows of candles, completely covering them in darkness that didn’t let the faintest ray of light escape. Looking back at the young Californian D’Ascenzo, she continued. “When ever I have the connection open, a side effect is the changes you hear in my voice.”
A slight gesture with her left hand and the cloud of darkness began to dissipate into small wisps of darkness before it was gone. “Now if everyone would please take their seats.” She said once more as she turned and moved towards one end of the path between the two sets of candle rows with Rebecca at the other end. This time everyone moved to take their seats, many still somewhat nervous about being here. Sergio was in his wheelchair at one end of the rows of seats, his gaze fixed on the two young women before them.
Moving into the center of the circle at her end of the rows of candles, Lucilla sat down cross-legged as she closed her eyes and began to prepare. The channel to the shadow plane was already filling her with the chilling mystical energy she tapped into from the plane, but for this she would need much more. Casting a simple spell, she started to float up into the air until she was about three feet above the ground. Opening her eyes, she looked over to where Rebecca was standing in the opposite circle. “Are you ready Rebecca?” She asked, her hollow voice echoing in the large open room.
"I'm ready." The young woman nodded to Lucilla and took a deep breath, letting it out in a slow exhale. This was both an exciting and terrifying moment for her and something that would test the limits of her skills. With the amount of energy they would be handling any mistakes could possibly have catastrophic effects.
At the younger woman’s indication she was prepared, Lucilla closed her eyes once more, opening the channel to the shadow plane even further. As she began drawing more energy from the plane, she focused on focusing it on the connection that the circles and candles around her and Rebecca established. Around Lucilla, a thin layer of darkness formed on the ground, spreading quickly along the floor in the path between the rows of candles to fill the circle Rebecca was standing in as well.
Lucilla continued to draw more power as she prepared to jointly cast the cleansing spell with Rebecca. The corners of the ballroom began to cloud over as tendrils of darkness began to spread along the walls. Lucilla could faintly hear worried muttering from some of the family and house servants, but she ignored that as she focused on controlling the flow of mystical energy that she was bringing in. Despite being chilled to the bone by the energy, Lucilla’s flesh felt hot, and sweat was starting to run down her forehead. Hopefully Rebecca would be able to adjust to the feeling of this different type of energy as Lucilla opened her eyes once more and looked over towards the young witch once more as she was set to begin the casting.
The rush of dark shadow energy was unsettling to say the least. It was cold and sliced through clothing to chill all the way down to the bone like a cold wind blowing at midnight. Even being locked in a meat locker would have been preferable to the unnatural cold of the shadow plane. It was almost enough to make the novice witch forget the spell and curl up to try and keep warm. Fortunately, she knew what was at stake and fought with her natural reactions to maintain her concentration.
At the very core of witchcraft was the concept of balance. Earth, fire, wind, and water. The four elements governed almost everything and constantly kept themselves in balance. It was those four things that Rebecca concentrated on, keeping her mind in balance and able to control the influx of energy.
Those seated in the room watched and listened as the two young women began casting, Lucilla’s cold hollow voice in sharp contrast to Rebecca’s voice as both echoed in the ballroom. Outside the sound of heavy wind could be heard, as well as the pattering of rain against the panes of the large windows in the room at points when both voices paused before they continued casting their spell. The reactions of the various witnesses were many. Some watched with rapt interest, Sergio among them. Others showed signs of nervousness or disbelief, Gretchen showing the most visible signs of nervousness as she clutched the cross around her neck and was glancing about the room.
She was the first to notice what the others began to realize, that the shadowy corners of the room were growing ever darker, the shadow visibly spreading along the walls, floor and ceiling as the two women continued their casting. As the shadows continued to spread, the sounds of wind and rain started to become more and more distant. Elsewhere in the house, the many candles that Rebecca and Lucilla had placed for focusing their spell were surrounded with dark shadow, the light they had been giving off gone behind the darkness. After a few moments, the darkness spread out from the candle, eventually encompassing the entire room, spreading beyond at times to cover the entire area that had been effected by magic.
Sweat continued to run down Lucilla’s face as she continued channeling power for the spell, feeding it into the conduit for Rebecca and adding her own casting to the cleansing. She could feel the previous wards and other enchantments that had been place over the last century and a half fading. Finally, she felt them all wash away as almost the entire house was covered in darkness created by the casting. Opening her dark eyes, Lucilla looked across from her at Rebecca, the young woman was handling the chilling magic of the shadow plane quite well. Nodding towards the younger woman, Lucilla began ending the spell.
Rebecca kept her eyes closed as the magic casting started to wind down. Like Lucilla she too could feel that all surrounding spells had been cleansed from the house along with any left over psychic garbage from any previous deaths caused by the curse. The house itself seemed to sigh in relief and the young woman was sure that it would have smiled if it were possible. No longer would memories of people long past darken its hallways. It was a clean slate once more and ready to receive all new memories. Hopefully this time all of them would be of the happy variety.
Just as the shadow energy had spread out across the house it began to fade and withdraw back into the center of the casting circle. First it pulled back from the windows, allowing the light from the candles to once again illuminate the rooms. Like a liquid the inky darkness slithered down the walls and to the floor, returning the furniture back to the visible spectrum. Down the stairs it flowed like a waterfall, sliding across the ground and into the secret chamber. Finally the family and the two mages themselves were revealed, the final wisps of shadow energy disappearing.
With no further need to concentrate Rebecca immediately crossed her arms in front of her and began rubbing her arms in an effort to warm herself up. "I..I don't t..think I've e...ever been as c...c..cold as this b..before." Most everyone in the family felt similarly, even the most doubting members of the family looked shocked at what they had just experienced. Gretchen and a few of the others were shivering as well.
Lucilla’s feet touched back on the ground as she brushed the sweat from her forehead, feeling physically exhausted as she closed her channel to the shadow plane. When she replied to the young witch, her voice was once again normal. “You get somewhat used to it over time.” The raven haired woman could still remember the first time she had come in contact with the mystical energy of the shadow plane. Of course, she had been pulled into the shadow plane when that had happened, so it had been rather different.
“You get used to it? How on earth could you ever get used to that?” Asked Vincent, the young man obviously trying to regain his confident composure as he stood up from his seat, pacing around some. Regarding him with a cool look, Lucilla simply replied. “You do eventually.” Turning to look at Sergio, who seemed only slightly bothered by the ritual. “We have cleansed the house. Tomorrow morning we will place new wards over the house, for right now I am far to exhausted to channel much energy anymore.”
The old man nodded understandingly. “I am sure you will wish to rest then. I thank you for all you have done so far.” Lucilla smiled as she walked over towards where the old man sat. “No, not quite yet. Though I am tired, I would very much like to look at what research you have done on the family and the curse.” Most of the rest of the family had gotten up as well, many leaving for their rooms. The staff was also up, Mrs. Kretch talking with the two maids who seemed rather shaken by the ritual. Sergio grinned as he turned his wheelchair towards the door out of the ballroom. “Of course. There is a good deal indeed that you may look at. If you will just follow me.”
Rebecca looked up at Lucilla and Sergio from her position on the floor as they started to leave the room. Going to the library sounded like a pretty good idea. After all of this excitement she wasn't going to be getting to sleep anytime soon. With all of the magical rituals that had been performed in the house there was bound to be a few interesting books on magic there. Even if they hadn't been successful originally they might give more insight into what had already been tried and help with what not to do when the wards were placed in the morning.
"I...I think I should go along t..too. At least untill I w..warm up a little bit. Besides, I'm the assisstant and if y..you find out something t..then I should be there. It might help w..with placing the wards tomorrow." The young woman kept her arms close to her in an effort to get warmed up, rubbing her shoulders rapidly. With any luck the library would have a nice fireplace that could be brought to life in order to help dispel the unnatural cold.
Jonathan opened the door for the study, allowing Lucilla and Rebecca to step into the large room first, followed closely behind by Sergio and Frank. The raven haired woman scanned the tall bookshelves and table covered with maps and papers. Jonathan and Frank followed behind as Lucilla and Rebecca moved more into the center of the room. Sergio rolled forward some before stopping and speaking in his rasping voice. “This is the history of the D’Ascenzo’s and everything else I could find over my long lifetime regarding our family or the general history the region over the last five hundred years.”
Lucilla couldn’t believe all the information that Sergio had been able to collect, as she turned and faced the old man. “This is a very impressive collection to be sure. I guess I will just try to focus on information from the time of Lazzaro and Emilio.” Walking over towards the large leather chairs near the fireplace, Lucilla reached up and undid the clasp holding her black cloak in place. Draping the cloak over the back of the chair, she turned to look back at Sergio as he rolled forward some in his wheelchair.
"Definatly." The young witch twirled around to look at the wall to wall books. Silently she wondered if her own family had this rich of a family tree. No doubt Sergio had spent a lifetime gathering all of this information.
“There are still much information covering that period.” Sergio said as he indicated one of the bookshelves along the wall. “That bookshelf will cover that period of the family history.” He came to a halt in front of the fireplace as Frank began getting to work starting a fire. Jonathan made his way to the indicated bookshelf with Lucilla, helping her pick out some of the more important books from those many present. “Many of those are in Italian, so I hope you are as good at reading it as speaking it.” Sergio said with a faint smile.
Lucilla smiled back as she took an armload of books, making her way over towards the large brown leather chair her cloak was draped over, setting the stack of books beside the chair before she sat down and opened the first of them. “I Shouldn’t have much of a problem.” She replied as Jonathan and Frank both sat down on the large brown leather couch, sitting quietly as she began reading.
"That'll be a little problem for me but if there's anything that's in English I'll work on that while Lucilla focuses on the Italian ones." Sergio nodded to Rebecca as she spoke.
Reading through the first book, going over the portions that Sergio identified as the ones more important to the story of the curse, Lucilla sat it down in a new stack as she picked up a new book. “What exactly are you hoping to find?” Asked Frank, who was over near the large window of the room now, the sound of rain evident as it hit the window. “My great uncle and father have been reading these books for decades, yet still don’t know what the family history can do to help deal with the curse.”
Looking up from her new book, Lucilla regarded the handsome man who was looking over at her from the dark window. Unlike some of the other family members, Vincent being the more vocal of them, Frank wasn’t asking the question to be confrontational or doubting. He seemed very interested in learning what Lucilla felt she could do to help them. “All curses are different, while there may be similarities in their effects, the means of finding a way to lift them are often very much rooted in their creation. The more I know about the events surrounding these events of four hundred and eighty years ago, the better the chances Rebecca and I will have of finding a way to stop this tomorrow.”
Frank nodded understandingly before he turned to look back out at the storming weather outside as Lucilla looked back down and began reading once more. The hours continued to grow late as Lucilla studied some of the family history, questioning Sergio and Jonathan about things to better fill in the gaps in what she was reading. The amount of work that had gone into family tree of the D’Ascenzo’s was impressive, the fact that the family had great wealth likely making the pursuit somewhat easier.
For all of Rebecca's enthusiasm in helping, she was mostly useless when it came to research. As Sergio indicated, many of the books were written in Italian which severely limited her ability to help. Closing the book she had in her lap she set it down on the table in front of her. "I think I'm going to get some sleep now. Good night everyone." Lucilla looked up from the book in her lap at the young witch with a smile. “Good night Rebecca. Sleep well, we have much to do in the morning.” The gathered D’Ascenzo men all said their good nights as well as the young woman made her way out of the study and down towards her guest room.
Focusing back on her reading, time seemed to flow by for Lucilla when, the faint sound of the grandfather clock on the main stairwell suddenly pulled Lucilla from her thoughts as the clock marked the arrival of midnight, the start of Halloween. Rubbing her eyes as she looked around, Lucilla saw that Sergio was still very much awake in his wheelchair by the dying fire. Frank was seated once more, both he and his father showing signs of the sleepiness that she was feeling. “Well, I think I have learned all I can for the evening, I think I am going to retire. Still much to be done in the morning to prepare.”
Setting down the book she had been reading in the stack of books she had reviewed, Lucilla stood up, stretching slightly as she did so. Frank stood up from where he had been sitting, yawning as he did so. Jonathan also stood up as he looked over at Sergio. “Are you ready to turn in for the evening Uncle?” Sergio looked over at his nephew as he slowly shook his head. “Not just yet.” Jonathan nodded as he looked over at Frank and Lucilla. “Well, I will remain here for now then. You should get some sleep Frank. Thank you for everything you have done so far Lucilla. We will see you in the morning.”
Lucilla nodded to the two elderly men, before picking her cloak off of the back of her chair and starting towards the door along with Frank. The two made their way down the stairway towards the second floor, reaching the landing where the hallway branched to both the left and the right towards parts of the house. Lucilla stooped and looked at Frank with a smile. “Well, good night.” Smiling back at her, Frank nodded as he replied. “Good night. Thank you again for all you are doing. Until the morning.” Hesitating for a moment, Frank then turned and started towards the section of the house that his room was in. Lucilla watched for a moment before she turned and made her way down the opposite side of the hall towards her room.
11-01-2005, 06:22 AM
Halloween Day, October 31st
As the sun rose on the morning of All Hallow’s Eve, Lucilla was up quickly, showering and getting dressed once more in her costume as Hollow. There was still much to be done before noon, and she wanted to be able to have rested some before the time of the curse arrived. Once dressed, Lucilla made her way downstairs, passing by the large grandfather clock as it marked the arrival of a new hour, the chimes sounding seven times, each one echoing through the large entry hall. The last chime sounded as Lucilla reached the bottom of the stairs, making her way towards the back rooms of the house, hearing some voices from the drawing room.
As she neared the door, Paul appeared as he left the room. Stopping, he smiled faintly at her. “I see your dressed for more of you little magic ceremonies. I think you and Rebecca are wasting your time here. Sergio and Jonathan may have been able to scare the rest of their side of the family into believing all this, but I don’t accept that there is some curse that is going to kill us all today. You two should be off to some Halloween party tonight or something, not wasting time here with an old man’s delusions.”
Lucilla seemed unaffected by his comments as she calmly replied. “Perhaps, but it can be no harm in trying to do what we can to protect this house and those inside from any malevolent supernatural forces. In any event, we should have a better idea of what the truth is in a few hours.” The Hollywood executive seemed to scoff slightly as he went around her and down the hallway. Sighing slightly, Lucilla continued on into the room.
Inside were several of the D’Ascenzo family members, sitting in small groups and talking quietly amongst themselves. Along a long table in front of the windows on the far wall, a buffet had been set up for morning breakfast. The drapes on the windows were open, revealing a dark sky with heavy rain falling. As she entered the room, the conversations stopped as everyone regarded her. Lucilla smiled as she started over towards the buffet, the conversations starting up once more. Jonathan was over near the buffet, smiling at Lucilla as she neared. “Good morning Lucilla, I trust you were able to get some rest?”
Lucilla nodded as she took a plate and began putting some pieces of sliced fruit and cheese on it. “Yes, I did. Your uncle has very comfortable guestrooms. I hope everyone is ready, there is much to be done today.” Jonathan’s face seemed a bit tired as he looked around the room for a moment before focusing back on Lucilla. “Well, as prepared as some can be. What exactly are the preparations for this morning?”
Before Lucilla could reply, a familiar voice came from behind her. “I think the best thing about your costume is that there is nothing left to the imagination.” Lucilla turned slightly to see Vincent come up near her, a grin on his face. “You really should add a lesson in dressing the part of a sexy heroine to what other lessons you are giving Rebecca.” Lucilla regarded him with a somewhat cold expression. “How someone dresses is a mater of personal choice, not something that one needs to be taught. I think Rebecca’s choice of dress is very appropriate.” Turning away from Vincent, Lucilla made her way over towards where Jonathan was standing near Mary and Frank as she began to explain some of what her and Rebecca would be doing this morning.
Meanwhile back in the guestroom Rebecca had been assigned to, the young woman was diligently praying. She was still wearing her nightshirt and kneeling on the ground, the pentacle medal she wore clutched between her hands. While it might have seemed odd to some to see a pagan praying it was only a sign of their ignorance. Just because she was a witch didn't mean she wasn't a very spiritual person. She just didn't place her beliefs in quite the same place. Where many religions believed in one all powerful God as the sole source of the supernatural, Rebecca could find the same thing everywhere.
“Goddess bless us all and this house.” The young woman finished her prayer out loud and rose to her feet. She then walked to her belongings, taking out her mage's robes and walking to the bathroom for a shower. This was something that she was looking forward to. The previous day had been a long one as was the night, making this morning especially difficult to get going. She could still feel the cold chill of Lucilla's magic on her skin. A nice hot shower was just what she needed to clear the cobwebs out of her mind and relax her for the tasks ahead.
After a brief shower and a change of clothing Rebecca felt refreshed and ready to take on the day. Returning to her room she placed her worn clothing back into her bag and then opened one of the side compartments. Inside were all of the herbs and oils that she had brought with her. They would be necessary for the wards she would set up this morning, hopefully making the entire house immune to the effects of the curse. Many of them were fairly common and could be found in many kitchens, such as fresh ginger and salt. However few people these days knew just how potent something so simple could be.
Taking her reagents she closed her bag and walked out of the room. A single chime from the old grandfather clock indicated that it was half past the hour and the morning was passing peacefully. Walking down the hall Rebecca's nose was tempted and teased by the smell of breakfast being served somewhere in the house. Still not to familiar with the layout of the house the young woman only had her sense of smell to guide her toward the source. After about ten minutes her search was finally rewarded when she opened the door to the drawing room.
“Good morning everyone.” The young witch smiled and moved toward the provided buffet.
“Good morning Rebecca. Lucilla was just explaining a little more about what is on the agenda today.” Jonathan took a step to the side to allow the young woman a place in their conversation.
“Yes we'll have to get started right away to make sure all the preparations are in place. All the doorways must be charmed against unwelcome guests. I might know a few charms for individual people as well.” Rebecca picked up a piece of buttered toast and took a bite, chewing slowly as she thought more on the rituals.
Lucilla smiled as Rebecca seemed ready to set about the long task of placing new wards over the house. There was a good deal riding on how well they prepared things. And without much knowledge of what they faced, their task would be even harder.
It was then that Sergio entered the room, Leonard pushing his wheelchair. The old man motioned towards where Lucilla was standing with Rebecca, Jonathan, Frank and Mary. As they drew closer, the old D’Asecnzo spoke in his rasping voice. “Good morning, I hope the night was restful, for the start of the final hours of this family is drawing near. That is, without some assistance by you two lovely ladies.” Leonard seemed to flinch slightly as Sergio mentioned the curse, though Lucilla wasn’t sure it was because of fear. “You will be placing wards soon?” The old man continued, looking from Lucilla to Rebecca as he asked the question.
“Yes, we will be.” Lucilla answered as she sat down the small plate that had held the food she had taken from the buffet. “In fact, if you are ready Rebecca, I say we get started now. We will take the same areas as we prepared for the cleansing last night.”
Rebecca looked down at her half eaten plate of food and was a little reluctant to set it down. It smelled so good and she hadn't eaten that much yet. Still, Lucilla was right to want to hurry up with the laying of wards. It was possible to eat an early lunch or even brunch but for the D'Ascenzos this might be the last day they were alive. “Of course I'm ready. That's what I'm here for.” She set her plate down and smiled.
“Good, good. That is excellent news. I'll leave you to your work then.” The old man turned away slowly in his wheelchair to start a conversation with some of the others nearby.
In the meantime Rebecca and Lucilla separated, the experienced mage going to her assigned rooms and the young witch to her own. This was why she made sure to grab her ingredients before coming out for breakfast. Walking into the same room she started with when she was putting out the candles for the cleansing ritual, the young witch started setting out her reagents. Next to them she set an empty bottle which she would be using to contain the prepared mixture.
Reaching to the first bottle, one filled with amber colored oil, she filled the empty bottle half full. She then set the bottle down and picked up the next container, adding a pinch of the sage inside. Once finished with that she moved on to the final ingredient, a healthy dose of wormwood. Corking the potion she shook it vigorously, mixing the contents well. After that was complete she removed the cork and dipped the tip of her athame into it, coating the dull blade liberally before drawing a circle near the entrance of the room.
“Thrice around and thrice repeat, all evil does this circle defeat.” She chanted the words as she finished the circle. Rebecca then recited it again, once more drawing a circle with the liquid. Finally she drew the circle and chanted the words a third time, envisioning a shield in her mind as she finished the final circle. With the last word spoken the circle flashed a light blue before fading from view. With a smile she gathered up all of her ingredients and walked to the next room. Soon the entire area would be warded, keeping the occupants safe and sound.
While Rebecca was making her way through her floors, Lucilla had made her way down into the basement areas of the mansion first. Retracing her steps through the areas she had prepared last night was to be much slower this time, each room needed to receive individual warding, and each spell took a few minutes to complete. The shadow mage knew it would take a few hours to ward the entire house, a process that required her to maintain her link to the shadow plane the entire time, a less than pleasant experience to look forward too. She would need time to rest before noon arrived, as she had no way of knowing how long she would need the channel open at that time.
Focusing back on the present, Lucilla looked around the dark room she was currently in. As the only one in the basement this time, she didn’t need any external light source, the darkness was home for her in a way. Lucilla finished the incantation she was performing, her hands finishing the final gestures as she felt some of the cold mystical energy flowing through her explode outward in the spell. A wave of darkness seemed to almost sweep through the room as the ward took effect.
Lucilla looked around the room yet again, sensing the ward she had just placed blending with the one in the previous room. Satisfied, the raven haired woman turned and continued onward, there were still several more rooms to ward.
As the two mages went about their work, the family was gathered in the drawing room, along with the servants, to be out of the way as the wards were placed. Several members of the family, primarily those from California, were highly annoyed to having their movement restricted once again within a twelve hour period. “I can’t believe that girl’s nerve.” Catherine was saying to Paul as the two stood near one of the room’s windows, noting the worsening storm outside. “To say that we would be in the way! Just because she is a Knight of Paragon, she thinks…”
“She is the expert in these maters.” Sergio interrupted from near the fireplace, his rasping voice halting all the other conversations in the room. “What ever instructions she gives us. We will carry out.” Paul grunted slightly from beside Catherine, who seemed intimidated by the venerable head of the family. “What do we know about her anyway? Other than she is a member of the Knights of Paragon?”
Jonathan laughed slightly, shaking his head before he focused on Paul. “As if that is not enough? But, to further answer your question…she comes highly recommended by a professor at NYU who is a leading authority on the occult and the supernatural. Lucilla was one of his students, and received both her bachelors and master’s degrees in Anthropology from NYU. My friend says she has saved his life on more than a few occasions, and has traveled the world for him investigating the supernatural. Now that she is here in Paragon with the Knights, she is finishing her doctorate at Paragon University.”
Paul was silent for a moment, before he spoke up again. “Well, that’s wonderful and all, but what about this girl Rebecca?” Several of the family members rolled their eyes at his stubbornness, and it was Mary who responded. “Just give it a rest Paul. Lucilla feels she can help, she’s the expert, so we just have to accept that.”
“Is there anything that they can really do to help us though?” Stephan asked as he walked across the room. “I mean, others in the family have tried things, I am sure our ancestors in Italy tried what ever they could as well. But nothing seems to have helped.” Sergio regarded his great-nephew for a moment, before he calmly replied in his rasping voice. “It is true that nothing has managed to save a D’Ascenzo in the past, but we have nothing to lose if allow them to try and help us. Perhaps this time will be different.”
Paul made a slight grunt, causing most in the room to look over towards him. “All this talk of a curse, just a family ghost story if you ask me. Let those two babes roam around the house blessing it or what ever their doing. When we have a nice quite Halloween, you will all realize how ridiculous all this is.” Vincent nodded in agreement, and Catherine, Jessica and Martin III seemed to share the sentiment as well.
Jonathan looked at the Hollywood executive as he shook his head slightly. “If you had lived though the Halloween of forty years ago, you wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the curse. Even though it claimed your grandfather’s life, and that of Catherine’s grandfather, you still only want to believe it is all coincidence. Well, twelve arrivals of the curse and one hundred and fifty six dead members of the D’Ascenzo family on those twelve Halloweens over the last four hundred and eighty years tells me that it is no mere coincidence.”
Paul remained silent as he gave Jonathan a hard look for a few moments before he turned away. The rest of the family had remained quite as well, watching the scene before they went back to quite conversations amongst themselves. Jonathan stood near his uncle as Sergio looked into the fireplace, the flames of the fire flickering in his dark sunken eyes.
As the noon hour approached, the family was gathered in the drawing room that Rebecca and Lucilla had first been introduced to them in. The looks on the faces of some of the family was one of frightened anticipation. Others, primarily those from California, had looks of bored annoyance. Gretchen had perhaps the most frightened expression on her face. She was seated near her brother who was trying to reassure her some. Martin III was standing behind her, somewhat concerned about her, but also as doubting as the California members of the family.
Lucilla was standing near the fireplace in the room, her black cloak hanging down behind her. The cold chill of the shadow plane was flowing through her as she had a channel open. Outside her ravens were spaced out along the grounds in the many tall trees that had grown there for decades. The weather was beyond dreary, heavy rain falling from the dark grey clouds that filled the sky. So far, they had not seen anything out of the ordinary, and she felt there was little chance of them actually spying anything at all.
The house and the grounds around radiated with the magics that her and Rebecca had laid earlier in the morning. There were no gaps in the protections they had put in place, making the house more protected than it had likely ever been. Though they still didn’t know how effective they would be as there was no way of knowing exactly what they were dealing with. Looking at the small antique clock sitting on the mantle, she knew they were only a short while from finding out how effective their wards were.
Rebecca was over by the window casually using her broom as a leaning post as she looked out into the storm, though she was anything but relaxed. Time was ticking away and soon all of their preparations would be put to the test. Normally she was glad to see if her abilities were up to a challenge but not this time. Lives were hanging in the balance and she didn't wish for this kind of pressure to be put upon her. However wishing wasn't going to change the situation, leaving only the option to keep alert and prepare for whatever was to come.
In the main hallway, the grandfather clock standing on the landing of the grand staircase reached noon, the chimes sounding as both hands pointed straight up. In the drawing room, several people started slightly as the chimes sounded. Gretchen gave out a little squeal, clutching her cross so tightly her knuckles went white. Jonathan glanced over towards Lucilla and Rebecca, nervousness obvious on his face. The chimes continued as the ancient clock counted out the twelve o’clock hour.
Lucilla stepped forward a few feet as she focused on the wards in place throughout the house. Nothing unusual seemed to be happening as the last few chimes sounded. The room remained silent as the last chime echoed through the house. Sergio’s wheelchair was next to one of the sofas with Mary sitting beside him. The venerable D’Ascenzo sat with his hands up in front of his face, fingertips together as he sat with his eyes closed. After a few moments, the old man opened them once more, looking over at Lucilla.
Each chime of the old clock grated on the young Rebecca's nerves and made her heart leap up into her throat. She didn't know what to expect. If the curse was going to strike then what direction would it come from and in what form? Casting a quick glance over her shoulder she did not know if she should keep watching for an attack from outside or to focus on the occupants of the room. If only they knew more about this curse then perhaps they could be sure what they were doing was going to work or not.
Vincent and Paul looked over at each other, both smirking as most everyone appeared to still be on edge. After a few minutes, Catherine was the first to break the silence that hung over the room. “Well, nothing seems to be happening.” She seemed much calmer now, smiling as she looked around. Sergio placed his hands in his lap as his piercing gaze shifted over towards Catherine. “It is far to soon to say if we are safe yet or not. Do not expect one of us to just drop dead at the turn of the hour.”
“Oh drop it old man.” Paul said suddenly as he walked over near Catherine. “I don’t know what you are trying to accomplish with all this, but I am tired of it all.” Turning away from the wheelchair bound old man, he started towards the door. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am going to see about trying to get a flight out of here and back to LA in time for a Halloween party.”
Frank moved in front of the Hollywood executive. “Are you mad? Look at the weather out there. Even if any planes are flying, we still have to wait here until we are sure we are safe from the curse.” Paul paused for a moment as he looked at Frank. “My god Frank. You run a nearly billion dollar hedge fund. I would expect you to be able to think on your own some.” With a look of disgust on his face, the Hollywood executive pushed his way past Frank with Vincent following after him as the two made their way out of the drawing room.
Lucilla watched the departure with a slight sigh, still not feeling anything unusual within the house. Jonathan glanced over at Sergio who nodded slightly. The sixty nine year old man started after the two Californian D’Ascenzos, Frank turning to follow along with his father. Lucilla looked over at Rebecca as she said. “Stay here with the others.” She then started after Jonathan and Frank, a slight feeling of anxiety grating her.
Up ahead of her, she heard Jonathan call out. “Paul, Vincent, don’t be rash.” The two men had reached the stairs, both starting up as they ignored their distant cousin. Jonathan followed up after them with Frank, still able to climb the stairs with relative ease as Lucilla came to the bottom of the stairs. There was a feeling of uneasiness in the air that had her slightly on edge as she glanced about, unable to pinpoint what it was exactly.
Jonathan had managed to reach the second flight of stairs leading up from the landing the grandfather clock sat on as Paul and Vincent reached the second floor. “You can at least wait and be sure that nothing is going to happen, we are only concerned about the safety of all the members of the family.” The two Californian’s stopped and turned back to look at Jonathan who stopped about halfway up the stairway. “What do I have to say to get through to you old man?” Paul said. “We don’t buy your rubbish story that so many of the others seem to have bought so easily, must be because you and Sergio have been hammering it into their heads since they were little. We don’t want any part of this madness, so just leave us out of it.”
Jonathan hesitated, about to say something when suddenly one of the large paintings hanging on the wall above the flight of stairs came off the wall. Frank saw this from where he stood on the landing and started to try and shout out a warning. “Lookout..” The warning stuck in his throat as the large picture hit Jonathan, knocking the old man off balance. “Jonathan!” Paul yelled out as he started to move back down the stairs towards the old man. For Lucilla, there was a flash of something around the painting as it fell as she watched helplessly as Jonathan D’Ascenzo fell back down the stairs towards his son.
Jonathan hit the stairs hard as he fell, a nerve grating crack sounding as he rolled the rest of the way down to come to a stop at Frank’s feet, his body twisted at odd angles as his eyes stared vacantly up at the ceiling. Frank just stood frozen looking down at his father as Lucilla rushed up the stairs to the landing. Paul and Vincent both looked down at the landing, shock on their faces. “Is he?” Paul asked with a shaky voice as Lucilla knelt down beside Jonathan as she put her fingers to his neck. After a few moments, she lifted her eyes towards Frank, a sad look on her face. “I’m sorry Frank.”
11-01-2005, 06:24 AM
Paul moved down to the landing slowly as Vincent moved down a few steps. “Sh*t.” The younger man said, still looking at the body of the elderly man with shock. Paul looked over at his distant cousin, hesitating a moment before placing his hand on his shoulder. “Look Frank, I’m sorry.” Frank lifted his head up from his father’s body, looking at Paul, his face still one of shock.
“It’s not your fault Paul.” Was all that he was able to say.
The family was gathered back in the drawing room, Walter had been sent to cover Jonathan’s body with a white sheet where it still lay on the landing with the grandfather clock. Most of the family was distraught, Mary was sobbing on one of the sofas, Catherine and Jessica trying to comfort her. Sergio also seemed to be greatly effected by the loss as well likely due to how much he had come to count on his nephew over the years. Leonard was standing beside his grandfather, a worried look on his face as he looked down at the old man.
“We need to call the police.” Martin III said, breaking the silence in the room. “It was a terrible accident, but they still need to be called.” The young man focused primarily on Sergio as he spoke, the old man suddenly focusing back on what was going on around him. Over on one side of the room, Paul was nodding in agreement with Martin’s comments.
Speaking in his normal rasping voice, Sergio was still able to be heard by all in the room, drawing everyone’s attention. “Unless I am very mistaken, Lucilla’s position as a member of the Knights of Paragon provides her status as a law enforcement official.” As he finished, Sergio focused his piercing gaze on Lucilla, everyone in the room following suit. The raven haired woman didn’t flinch under the scrutiny, meeting Sergio’s gaze with confidence. “Yes, it does.” She confirmed, her voice normal now, as she had released her connection with the shadow plane for the moment. “But, I think Martin is correct, the regular authorities should be contacted. I know I felt something when the painting fell from the wall. What ever it was, the police won’t be able to help stop it, but they should still investigate Jonathan’s death.”
Vincent scoffed as he came up beside his uncle. “You say you felt something, but there were another three of us there, and we didn’t feel a thing. I think this curse thing is nothing more than a story.” The young man fixed his gaze on Lucilla, a slight smug smile on his face. “How can you be so stupid?” Came Gretchen’s voice, the older woman standing up from where she had been sitting. “Of course you didn’t feel anything, you are not in tune with the supernatural like she is! This is all pointless! There is nothing these two can do to save us!”
“That's not true. We have been working on saving you.” To say that Gretchen's comment annoyed her was putting it mildly. Rebecca couldn't believe how little faith she had in them. “Besides, I hate to be blunt but you don't have much of a choice. If you're so sure you're going to die then you've got nothing to lose by letting us stay and everything to gain. So I suggest you stop complaining.”
Lucilla remained calm as she looked first at Vincent and then over to Gretchen, who bristled slightly at Rebecca’s retort. “It remains to be seen what we will be able to do. Whatever caused this, it was able to bypass our wards, so Rebecca and I need to strengthen them and add some new ones.” Turning back towards Sergio, she continued. “I advise calling the police while we go about our task.” Turning away, the raven haired mage started towards the hallway.
Rebecca quickly turned to follow the older mage, her robe swishing back and forth with the quick pace. Slowing down as she came up next to Lucilla she looked up and to the side. She seemed to have a plan to further combat the curse and that gave Rebecca comfort. Perhaps she knew just what kind of adjustments to make that would solve their problems. "Lucilla, what do you think went wrong with our wards?"
Lucilla looked at the young witch as she sighed slightly. “I am afraid I am not exactly sure. More than likely it is one of two things, and possibly both. First, the wards could just be to weak, we don’t really know how powerful this force is. It didn’t have to do much to lead to Jonathan’s death, just cause a painting to fall from the wall at the right moment. So it could have used most of it’s strength to push through our wards. The other possibility is that our wards are not the right type to be effective against this force, also a distinct possibility as we are still unsure exactly what we are dealing with. This time, you cover the floors I had this morning, I will cover yours. With each of us building on the other, we should be able to equally strengthen every warded area.” She said as she came to a halt near the bottom of the stairs, the white sheet on the landing a grim reminder of their earlier failure.
Rebecca's hope sank just as fast as it had written. Lucilla was just as much in the dark as she was. At least what she said made sense. What one had failed to guard against might be covered by the other. Hopefully their magics would be compatible. She had never worked with shadow magic before this day. With any luck it wouldn't involve being chilled to the bone like with the cleansing ritual. "Alright. I hope it is just as simple as that."
As the two magic users left the room, Paul smiled somewhat triumphantly as he took his cellphone from his pocket. “That is the most sensible thing I have heard from those two yet.” Flipping open his phone, the Hollywood executive looked down at the display, a look of surprise that quickly turned to frustration, coming to his face as he moved around the room some. “What the hell?”
“What’s the matter?” Frank asked as he stood and moved over towards Paul. The Hollywood executive looked over at his relative as he replied. “There’s no service! This never happens! I pay a lot for the best service available.”
Almost on queue, the rest of the D’Ascenzos took out their cellphones, all turning them on. After a few moments, they looked up at each other, shaking their heads. “I can’t believe this!” Paul stated an annoyed voice. “So much for modern technology.” Sergio looked over towards the door where Walter was standing, nodding towards his butler slightly. The old butler nodded in return and then vanished into the hallway as conversations began about the lack of cellular phones, Paul’s cursing carrying over most other voices. After about a minute, Walter returned to the doorway, speaking over the din of conversations and speculation, he announced. “I am sorry to say that the regular phone lines are not functioning at this time as well.” All the conversations in the room halted as everyone turned to look at the butler.
Rebecca walked slowly into the first hallway on a long list of rooms that Hollow had protected with her wards. There was nobody inside and the air was still. Antique furniture lined one side of the long passage and windows the other. Outside the storm still raged and was showing no signs of calming down. Given what else was going on the young witch wouldn't be surprised if that too was somehow the work of the curse. Then again, with the nature of Jonathan's death, anything could be the work of the curse.
Turning toward the first door leading out of the hall she opened it and walked inside of a small study. Rebecca figured she would take care of each of the side rooms first and then ward the hallway itself. There were two high backed padded chairs situated on opposite ends of a low book table. The far end of the room was dominated by a single set of bookshelves, a wood step stool at the base for reaching the uppermost shelves. The walls were fairly close together, giving the room a more cozy feeling but not so close to cause claustrophobia. It was the perfect place to read a book or have a nice discussion.
Unfortunately, there was no time for either of those as she had a lot of ground to cover and under an hour to do it in. Because of the time constraint the young woman didn't have time to analyze Lucilla's previous wards. Instead she would have to shoot from the hip so to speak. Taking the small vial from her previous ward creations she set it down on the table. Rebecca then took her athame and dipped the tip into the mixture of oils and herbs. Sitting down on the ground she began drawing a circle on the floor and then drew a five pointed star inside of it.
Once the pentacle was completed the young witch placed the athame back in her belt and began to chant slowly. It was a quiet prayer, asking that all that were unwelcome in the room to be repulsed. Just like before the drawing began to glow a light purple, giving off a soothing and calming light. As Rebecca's prayer drew to a close the drawing faded from view, the mixture consumed in the process of the casting. Standing up she grabbed the bottle and sighed. Normally casting a spell was something to be celebrated. However, with so many more to go this was going to be tiresome.
Lucilla had just finished casting a ward for a section of the house when Frank and Leonard appeared at the door to the room she was in. “Are the police on their way?” She asked as she started towards the doorway. Leonard shook his head as he replied. “No, all cellphone service seems to be out, and the regular phone lines are down as well.” Lucilla frowned as she stopped in front of the two D’Ascenzos. “That is a rather unusual coincidence that all phone communication is cut off.”
Reaching down to her belt, Lucilla retrieved the communicator used by the Knights which was clipped there. “CITADEL, this is Hollow, can you read me?” There was a few moments pause before the three heard a reply that had some static. “Yes Knight Hollow, though your transmission is somewhat weak. How may I assist you?”
“CITADEL, I am at the home of Sergio D’Ascenzo just outside the city. It’s a long story, but there has been a death here and we need the police to be notified and sent to the scene. The phone lines are down, and it seems the storm is interfering with cellular phones.” The raven haired mage said as she moved out into the hallway and started towards the next room, Frank and Leonard following along side her.
There was another brief pause before CITADEL responded. “Yes Knight Hollow, it seems several cellular towers have been damaged by the storm, creating several dead zones across the city. The storm has in fact caused a great deal of damage, to hear the phones in that area are out is not surprising. The police and emergency crews are busy through at the city. Do you wish for me to contact them to have an officer come to your location?”
Lucilla frowned for a moment after hearing the situation out in the rest of the city. From how bad the strom sounded, it didn’t seem like pulling police away from more immediate problems was a good idea. “No CITADEL, there is no need for that at this time. I will contact you again if the situation changes.” She said before turning off the communicator and looking at the two men who were with her. “It looks as if we are on our own for the moment.”
One o'clock was quickly approaching and the family moved into the drawing room once more. Unlike before the mood within the room was much more somber and a stronger sense of dread hung in the air. The death of Jonathan still weighed heavily on their minds and even the staunchest opponent of the curse had to wonder if it might possibly be true. To add to this nervousness, two of their family weren't yet in the room. Paul had decided now was a good time to leave and Sergio had gone to convince him otherwise.
Lucilla was standing near the doorway to the room, hoping that Sergio would be able to calm his distant relative. Her dark eyes swept over the room as she regarded the gathered D’Ascenzos. Mary’s face was still red from crying after her father’s death. Catherine was beside her, trying to act confident and encouraging. Most of the other family members were spread through the room, their moods and expressions varying greatly.
“Please Paul. We don't have much more time before the clock chimes.” Sergio said in his raspy voice. The old man was sitting in his wheelchair, as always, in the doorway to Paul's room. He could not let the young man leave for he knew the curse would strike an easy target over a hard one. Their chances were slim inside of the mansion and even less outside of it.
“I've humored this nonsense long enough. Jonathan's death was an accident and nothing more. I'm sure hundreds of people across the nation die to falls each year. Besides it would probably be good if someone went to alert the authorities as to what happened.” Paul snapped the lid of his suitcase shut and locked it. Giving a slight jerk he pulled the piece of luggage off of the dresser and began walking to the door.
“If nobody dies or there are no attempts on someone's life this hour and I'm proven wrong then you can go back home without further protest and I won't bother you ever again.” Sergio felt safe in this bet as he knew he would be proven right, though he hope the mages would be able to stop things this time around.
Paul looked like he was about to continue to leave when a lightning bolt flashed outside, reminding the man of the miserable weather outside. “Alright. I didn't want to drive in this weather anyway.” Sighing he shook his head and put the suitcase on the ground.
“Good. We should hurry before it's too late.” The old man smiled as Paul walked over beside him and the two made their way to the drawing room.
The two of them arrived just in time, a single dooming chime from the ancient grandfather clock heralding their arrival to the drawing room. While their presence did calm some fears that they would be the next to die it did signal the beginning of another waiting game. Those in the drawing room stared in silence at one another, nobody daring to move after what happened before. The only sound was that of the maelstrom outside. Minutes ticked by and the rain continued to beat down on the roof of the house like a drum, the wind howling along, and the occasional crack of thunder sounding as well.
Rebecca passed the time by standing at the door that lead into the room, leaning most of her weight onto her broom while she waited. She was hoping, if it was at all possible, that she would be able to feel the curse as it entered to wreck its havoc. Perhaps then she would be able to save the life of its intended victim. Gently she thumped her fingers across the handle of the broom, her nails making slight tapping sounds as they beat against the wood.
As the hour struck, Lucilla focused on the wards in place around the house. They had proven ineffective before, but her and Rebecca had spent some of the last hour strengthening them as well as adding new ones. Now they would be tested once more, and hopefully this time they would not be left wanting. No one in the room seemed ready to tempt fate once more as everyone remained in place and tense. Rebecca stood across from her, the younger woman’s nervousness obvious as she tapped her fingers on her broom.
“How long do we have to wait here like this?” Martin III said, finally breaking the uneasy silence.
“As long as it takes.” Martin II put his hand on his son's shoulder in an effort to calm the young man down.
At that there were several groans and the sounds of people shifting in their seats uncomfortably. The old saying 'A watched pot never boils.' applied perfectly to this situation. One of the most difficult things for a person to do was to sit quietly and wait for something to happen. Jessica and Leonard both stood up at the same time and stretched before slowly walking around the room, trying to fight off the mind numbing boredom.
Walking over to one of two large windows in the room Jessica stared out into the dark storm. She could scarcely see farther then five feet out into the gloom. The cloudy sky choked out any and all light, making it seem far later then it actually was. Just as she was about to step back from the window and sit back down a flash of lightning suddenly pierced the pitch black storm and revealed a thick tree limb flying toward the window. Before she could react the tree limb slammed into the window, shattering the panes of glass with ease.
Literally thousands of tiny shards were created, each razor sharp. A sudden gale from the storm pressed inward through the broken window and into the mansion, catching the shards and driving them forward like little missiles. Jessica couldn't even attempt to defend herself as she was riddled with the shards, slicing open her arms, chest, and throat. The branch itself smashed into her face with a sickening crack. She was dead before she even hit the ground, her blood staining the carpet as her body twitched a few more times and then fell still.
As the tree branch had blown free from the old tree in the yard, Lucilla had again felt a tinge of something outside in the storm, this time stronger than before. But before she could react, the tree branch had hit the window, turning the glass into lethal projectiles as it continued on to hit Jessica. As the young woman’s body fell to the ground, her mother let out a bloodcurdling scream. “Jessica!” Catherine watched in horror as her daughter’s bloody body fell to the floor.
The rest of the family watched in stunned horror as well, frozen for a moment, seemingly unable to move. After the brief moment, several of the family rushed towards Jessica, Vincent being one of the first ones there, dropping down to his knees beside his cousin. “Jessica? Jessica, move your hand or something if you can hear me!” The young man asked as he looked down at the bloody form beside him. Martin III was at the other side of the young woman, his fingers place up against her throat as he looked a her chest, riddled with glass shards, to look for breathing. After a moment, he looked back over his shoulder towards his father and Sergio, shaking his head sadly.
Catherine saw Martin’s look, as she stood near where she had been seated, fear on her face. As Martin indicated the young woman was dead, Catherine wailed, dropping to her knees, tears running down her face. Mary knelt down beside her distant cousin, huggin her as new tears ran down her face as well. Sergio watched the scene, a tried, sad look on his face.
The drawing room was closed off now, Jessica’s body wrapped in a sheet and moved to another part of the room. The family had gone to other parts of the house, each dealing with the lose in their own way. Lucilla and Rebecca were in Sergio’s study with Sergio, Frank, Leonard and Martin II. Lucilla stood in front of the fire, peering into the flickering flames. Leonard looked over at his gathered relatives. “Look, both of these deaths are tragic, but we have no proof that this is because of some curse. Grandfather, you need to stop scarring everyone with this talk and let us go home and grieve.”
Sergio was looking at his grandson with a disappointed expression as he listened. “I would think you would have more appreciation of your family’s history, particularly as your father was taken from us forty years ago by the curse.” Leonard was quite a moment as looked at his grandfather. “I just chose to think for myself while you and Jonathan tried to brainwash me.” With that, he turned and walked briskly out of the room.
Sergio watched as his grandson left, a pained look on his face. After a moment, he looked over at Lucilla, who had turned away from the fire when the discussion had begun. “The curse is proving quite resilient, as I feared it might. I am sorry to have brought you here to face so unbeatable a foe.” Lucilla shook her head slightly. “I do not know if that is quite the case. Yes we have failed to prevent either of the deaths thus far, but I wonder about Jessica’s.” “What do you mean?” The older Martin asked as he moved over from one of the bookcases, closer towards the center of the room and the conversation.
Turning slightly to face Martin, Lucilla replied. “Well, we strengthened our wards in the house, so look how this death was triggered, from outside. Once it had effected the physical, in this case the tree branch, the chain of events was unstoppable with the amount of time we had to react.”
Frank had also moved in closer as the conversation progressed and interjected. “Is there a way you can protect against these physical objects the curse has been effecting?” Lucilla looked over at him, shaking her head slightly. “Not against an attack like the one it made on Jessica. There are some spells that could be used, but they would require a great deal of energy to generate and keep in place. And as they would need to be cast on each of you individually, it would be impossible for just Rebecca and myself to keep that many spells up. If we had some means of identifying the target for the hour, that would be an option, but who is to say the curse might not change to an unprotected target.”
11-01-2005, 06:26 AM
Frank sighed as his slight feeling of hope sunk. Sergio also sighed as he fixed his gaze on the raven haired mage. “What can be done then?” Lucilla focused back on the venerable D’Ascenzo as she replied. “We will try to strengthen the wards some more, and when the next hour comes, we need to keep everyone away from a location where any external objects could be manipulated to cause them harm.”
In the gaming room not far off the ballroom, Paul was standing at the pool table on one side of the room, playing a game of pool with Vincent, though neither were particularly focusing on the game at the moment. After a missed shot what should have been a fairly simple corner shot, Paul grunted in disgust as he stood up over the table and moved back along the wall as his nephew moved up for his shot. “Not particularly into the game either?” Vincent asked as he looked at the table, seeing a few possible shots, but his lack of motivation making it hard to determine the best one.
Paul nodded slightly as he replied. “There have been two tragic deaths here and we are all stuck thanks to this storm. Can’t even get any calls out to the authorities, though they likely couldn’t get out here either even if we could get through. God I can’t believe I let Jonathan talk me into coming here, let alone bringing you with me to this nuthouse.”
Vincent shrugged as he took his shot, managing to put the eleven ball into the side pocket. “Well, hasn’t been a complete waste. I got to meet that sexy babe Rebecca after all.” Paul let out a laugh as the younger man moved around for another shot. “And she won’t give you the time of day. No Vincent, this was a complete waste of time. Much better we had stayed in LA, bet we could have arranged a few deals at some Halloween parties there for the studio, maybe even gotten Jessica a part for some upcoming movie.” The Hollywood executive went quite for a moment before he continued. “But that won’t be happening now. Such a shame.”
Inside Catherine’s room, the fashion designer was still crying as she sat on the edge of her bed with Mary. “Why?” She asked as she tried to dry her eyes, but with little success. “Why Jessica? She was so young, so full of promise. Such a long a full life lay ahead of her.” Mary deeply felt for her distant cousin, though she had her own grief over her father’s death just an hour before, she could at least be content with the knowledge that Jonathan D’Ascenzo had led a long and rewarding life, longer than was typical for their family.
Catherine’s daughter had still been near the start of her life. Not the youngest D’Ascenzo to fall victim to the curse to be sure, but still to young to have fully experienced life. “I am sorry Catherine. I truly am. Jessica was so full of promise, she would have succeeded at what ever she set out to do.” As she spoke, Mary squeezed the older woman’s hands, trying to comfort her as best she could. In the back of her mind however, Mary knew full well that this was the very reason she had never had any children. The thought of bringing them into the world, only to possibly see them die young had been to painful to want to have to live though.
In the hallway outside Catherine’s room, Gretchen stood near the door, listening for a moment to the sounds of the other two women inside. A creak caused her to start as she turned around to see her brother standing in the hallway near her. “You should go in and help comfort Catherine some. I am sure she could use it.”
Gretchen shook her head as she backed away from the door to the other woman’s room. “No, I don’t think so. We are all doomed Martin. It has come for us, just like I have feared for so long. Nothing maters anymore, for there is nothing that anyone can do to help us.” With that, she turned and started off down the hall towards her room at a brisk pace, leaving her brother to watch with a somewhat surprised look on his face.
As the time drew close to the two o’clock hour, Sergio had the family gather in the front living room of the house, no one wanting to go back into the drawing room after Jessica’s death there. Looking about the room, Lucilla could see that many of family were obviously on edge. Frustration and fear were evident on many, most particularly Gretchen. Lucilla herself was feeling very frustrated. So far nothing her and Rebecca had tried seemed to be halting what ever was behind this. After Jessica’s death, she was now certain there was a supernatural force causing these events, but so far was unable to detect it before it acted, let alone find a way to keep it from manifesting.
Catherine was still distraught, tears running down her cheeks as she nervously waited for the arrival of the next hour. Mary was sitting next to her distant cousin, holding her hand, the pain of the loose of her father still evident on her face as well. Frank was standing behind the two, with Stephan beside him. Sergio was near the fireplace of the room, the flames of the fire not seeming to warm him as he looked about the room at the gathered family. Leonard was next to his grandfather, his face showing signs of stress. Both Martins were standing near where Gretchen was sitting, talking in low voices, the conversation seeming to be about the younger Martin’s continued disbelief in the curse. Paul was off to one side of the room, purposely not standing near any of the windows. Vincent was seated in a chair near one of the doors in the room, his foot tapping impatiently as he kept his gaze fixed on Rebecca.
Then, the chimes of the grandfather clock rang out, echoing though the house as the ancient timepiece rang twice making the arrival of the hour. All the family members except Sergio started slightly at the sound of the chimes, many glancing about nervously as the echo of the last chime faded. A few moments after that, Vincent broke the silence in the room. “God I am starting to hate that clock.” A few of the family members smiled despite themselves, but most still seemed anxious and tense. Lucilla was scanning around the room, as she moved slowly along the walls of the room, hoping to sense what she had during the two previous deaths in time to do something to stop it.
Rebecca tightened and relaxed her grip on her broom repeatedly as she listened to the chimes. These were the times that were most trying for a young hero. Rebecca possessed powers that gave her abilities far above the average human and yet, despite that there was absolutely nothing she could do against her current enemy. It was a sense of powerlessness that she hadn't felt in a very long time and she wondered if it was even possible to change the fate of the D'Ascenzo family. Casting a glance over at Lucilla she knew that this curse even eluded her so far and she was a much more experienced mage. If there was nothing her wards could do then how could someone with lesser skill hope to protect the family?
The minutes continued to tick by, no one seeming to want to leave, though both Vincent and Paul were growing more and more inpatient with the passage of time. Finally, fifteen minutes had passed and Paul moved over towards the center of the room. “This is ridiculous, its been fifteen minutes. If some ‘curse’ was going to strike one of us down, I would think it would have done so by now.” Mary looked over at the Hollywood executive as she scowled. “You planning on running out of the room again so someone else follows you and is put in a position to be killed by the curse?”
Paul looked at her with a flash of anger and seemed about to reply with something when Frank reached over the back of the sofa to put his hands on his sister’s shoulders. “Mary, that was uncalled for. We can’t blame anyone for what happened.” Martin III then joined in the discussion as he moved forward. “That is the most sensible thing I have heard from you in awhile Frank. These have been two terrible accidents, but that’s all they are, accidents.”
“Do not be so quick to apply your scientific mind to quantifying today’s events Martin. There is much in this world that cannot be explained by science.” Sergio replied as he looked over at the young man. “That the curse has not struck yet is not surprising. It will strike when it is ready to do so, but do not doubt, it will try to take another of us before this hour is done.”
The young man seemed about to argue his point, but decided against it as he moved back over near his father. Gretchen was still glancing about nervously as if she was expecting something to happen at any moment. Lucilla still hadn’t felt anything, but was very much on guard for even the faintest indication that something was happening. The minutes continued to count down when finally Paul stood up form the sofa he had sat down on. “Look I don’t care if I do get struck down, I am sick of this waiting around.” With that, he started towards the door to the main hallway, Vincent hesitating a moment, but then standing to follow.
Everyone else in the room sat still, unsure what to do for a moment, when Martin III started towards the door as well. “Their right, this is ridiculous, we are scaring ourselves over some tragic accidents. I’m getting something to eat.” “I think I’ll join you.” Leonard replied, as he moved to follow after the younger man. As the two made their way out of the room, the remaining family members looked about as Lucilla let out a slight sigh. With people scattering about the house, she knew it wouldn’t be easy to try and protect them.
“You can't go. You're just asking to get killed.” Rebecca's voice was just short of pleading. She had no desire to see another person die today.
“We're going to the kitchen for lunch. What can this so called curse do to us there? Is the refrigerator going to eat us? A bad case of food poisoning?” Leonard snickered as did Martin III. Neither of them planned to go near any windows and they weren't going to be near any stairs where they could trip and fall. They were perfectly safe and when they returned with some sandwiches then maybe everyone would stop acting like a bunch of fools.
Rebecca was a little put off by their comments and gave them a look that was a mix of having been hurt and insulted at the same time. Couldn't they see she was trying to save their lives? She wasn't their enemy. Their expressions gave the impression that they didn't see or they didn't care that she was trying to protect them. Not paying any further attention to the young witch the two young men turned from the room and began walking away. Sighing the woman turned her attention toward Lucilla, not really
knowing what to do.
Leonard and Martin III entered the large kitchen of the mansion, both feeling a bit more relaxed after leaving the living room. Martin didn’t believe in the curse and couldn’t believe so many in his family accepted it so easily. He had been somewhat surprised with Leonard, Sergio’s grandson, had been willing to leave the “safety” of Lucilla and Rebecca’s presence. Martin would have figured Leonard would have been completely brainwashed with the curse since before he could walk by his grandfather. “So are you having doubts about this curse Sergio believes in so strongly?” The younger man asked as he moved over towards the refrigerator.
Leonard looked at Martin for a moment before he replied. “I have always had some doubts. And while there have been some coincidences today, I believe that’s all they are, coincidences. Terrible to be sure, but I don’t know if I can accept them as the work of some curse.” Outside, the rain was falling hard as the occasional distant sound of thunder could be heard.
Martin nodded in agreement to what he had been trying to argue all along. “Well, some people just don’t want to face that tragic things can happen, they want to find something to blame.” Taking out some sandwhich meat, lettuce and tomato, Martin brought them over and sat them on the counter near Leonard before he made his way towards the pantry to find some bread.
Leonard took the tomato first, grabbing a sharp knife from the knife rack on the counter and began slicing it on the cutting board. He had only made a couple of cuts when his left thumb got to close to the blade and cut. “Oww!” He cried out as he dropped the knife and lifted his hand up to see the small cut as blood started to flow out of it. “What happened?” Martin asked with a worried tone as he looked back over at the older man.
Back in the living room, Lucilla was pacing some when suddenly she caught a slight flash of something towards the back of the house. “Did you sense that?” She asked Rebecca as she started towards the door with a quick pace. “I don't know. I think I felt a cold chill but I'm not really good at sensing these things yet.” Rebecca might not have been sure in her abilities but if Lucilla was sure, that was good enough for her. She quickly fell in behind the more experienced mage, hoping that they wouldn't be too late to do some good.
“It’s nothing to bad, just got careless and cut my thumb.” Leonard replied as he moved over towards the faucet and turned on the water. Placing his injured thumb under the flowing water, Leonard watched as blood joined with the water to run down the drain. Just then, a bolt of lightning shot down from above, hitting the side of the house near the faucet. The electrical discharge from the bolt traveled through the old pipes in the house and into the water as Leonard received a massive electrical shock.
As Leonard screamed out in pain briefly as Martin was knocked back by the sudden by the sudden surge of electricity in the room. Then Leonard collapsed onto the floor as the surge of electricity stopped, smoke rising from him as Martin pushed him self up and quickly moved over to his cousin’s body. There were several black marks on Leonard where the electricity had burned his skin, his eyes were locked open, gazing up at the ceiling above and his chest wasn’t moving.
Lucilla flashed Rebecca a glance as they heard the scream. In unison they both broke out into an all out run. They quickly reached their destination and came upon the grisly scene. Rebecca saw the running water and recognized the thick scent of ozone in the air, the smell that always accompanied a lightning strike, and instantly knew what happened. Rushing over to the fallen man she dropped to her knees and placed a hand on his neck to check his pulse. Just like his lungs his heart had stopped as well and was no longer pumping blood.
For all intents and purposes he was dead but there was still hope, no matter how slim. Placing one hand on his forehead and the other on his chin she opened his mouth and blew into it, filling his lungs with a breath of air. She then let go and placed both of her hands on his chest, pressing down five times to mimic the beat of his heart before returning to breath another breath into his lungs. Unlike a broken neck or massive lacerations, a stopped heart could be restarted again if they were lucky.
As Rebecca began trying to resuscitate Leonard, Martin III reached over to gently grab her arms as she finished the start of CPR. “Rebecca, its no good, he’s gone.” They young Martin said, tears running down the side of his face. “Look at the burns on him. Enough electricity went through him to damage most of his internal organs. Even if the heart was undamaged and we could restart it, I don’t think he would like long past that.”
“No....I can't give up that easily. There's still a chance. There's always a chance.” The young woman pulled herself free from Martin III's grasp and resumed her CPR efforts. What if it wasn't like he said? People had survived lightning strikes before. If she just quit when there was still a chance that he might survive then that was as good as killing him herself.
Lucilla was standing a short distance behind Rebecca, a look of sadness in her eyes as she gazed down on the latest victim they had been unable to save. Behind her the door swung open as she heard Mary’s voice ask. “What is it? Who…” Her voice trailed off as she looked down at the body on the floor beside Rrebecca and Martin III. “Oh no, Leonard.” Lucilla nodded solemnly as she turned away as Sergio’s wheelchair came through the door, Frank pushing him, several of the other family members visible right behind him, Martin II the most anxious to get through the door to check on his son.
Sergio’s eyes fell on his grandson’s body, his old features showing once more a look of sadness as he watched yet another of his family being claimed by the curse. ~“I am sorry Sergio.”~ Lucilla said in Italian as she looked at the venerable D’Ascenzo. Looking up at her with his dark sunken eyes, the old man nodded slightly as he replied. ~“The curse is old and powerful, you both are doing all you can. Unfortunately I expected deaths before some solution could be found, there is just no way of knowing who would be victims first, not that I would want any of my family to die to this horror. Would that it come for me soon.”~
“Don’t say that.” Mary said, as she used one hand to brush at the tears that were running down her cheeks, her other hand going to rest on Sergio’s shoulder. The old man reached up with one of his frail hands, placing it over hers as he watched Rebecca continue to try and revive Leonard.
At the door to the kitchen, Frank was trying to keep the others from piling into the kitchen and over crowding the place. “What happened? Who is it?” Stephan asked as even Paul and Vincent had made their way back to investigate. “It’s Leonard, it seems a lightning strike got to him somehow.” Frank stated to the family members gathered in the hallway. “I think we should all make our way back to the living room. There’s nothing we can do at the moment. They will come let us know more soon I am sure.”
Several of the family members protested some, but soon they were all on their way back to the living room with Frank. Back in the kitchen, everyone was watching as Rebecca continued CPR. After a few minutes, Martin III again touched her shoulder. “Rebecca, it’s been several minutes, paramedics can’t get here because of the storm. You just have to face the fact we can’t help him.”
Rebecca didn't want to admit it. Who would? She was supposed to be protecting these people and so far she hadn't been able to do anything of use. This curse, whatever it was, could strike at any time and with any force even those belonging to nature. How could she possibly defend against something like that. In this case the thing didn't even have to come inside of the house. The young woman felt helpless and frustrated. After one final chest compression she balled her hands into fists and hit the ground. “I...I know...”
The rest of the family members had moved back into the living room, their expressions showing that some were starting to doubt that a third death in three hours could be just coincidence. Gretchen sat off by herself, her cross out as she could be faintly heard uttering prayers. Paul and Vincent were near her, both standing near the fireplace, but neither paying the woman much attention.
“I tell you, someone has to get out there and tell the authorities, we can’t just sit up here and act as if nothing is happening.” Paul said to Vincent in a voice loud enough to be heard by the others in the room. Frank looked over from where he was standing in the doorway, shaking his head slightly as he couldn’t believe the Hollywood executive’s stubbornness. This time it was Stephan who spoke up. “In this weather? Who ever left would be lucky to get a few miles. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the roads up here are flooded out.”
Paul frowned as he looked over at the corporate attorney. “We won’t know if we don’t try. This is insane. Three people are dead, and we are standing around as if nothing has happened.” Frank took this opportunity to speak up. “That is not true Paul. We have two individuals, one of whom is a member of the Knights of Paragon don’t forget, who are seeking to find a way to stop these deaths. What would the police be able to do? Not much. Besides, anyone who is away from the house when the next hour arrives will be a very likely target for the curse.”
“If there is even a curse.” Paul said flatly. “How do you get anything done with your movie company?” Gretchen suddenly said, looking up from her prayers. “As dumb as you are acting I would have expected you to run the business into the ground years ago.” Paul’s head snapped around as he glared at Gretchen. “That’s a big insult coming from someone who can’t even support herself. Your are so hopelessly pathetic..”
“That’s enough!” Sergio called out from the doorway as Mary wheeled him into the room, for once, his voice wasn’t weak and rasping, the strength and authority within instantly ending the discussion in the room as everyone turned to regard the venerable head of the family. Lucilla followed just behind him, with Rebecca and Martin III following. “This bickering and insulting is growing extremely tiresome. With the situation as dire as it is one would think we be able to pull together as a family and face this. But you would rather continue to belittle one another and think only of yourselves.”
11-01-2005, 06:28 AM
The room remained quite as Sergio’s gaze swept over those gathered there. After a few moments, he continued. “Three of us have fallen victim to the curse thus far, and two of those are directly tied to individuals going off away from the rest. Lucilla and Rebecca cannot effectively defend us if we refuse to stay as a group. When the next hour arrives, we will all be here once more, and this time, none of use shall leave the room for any reason! Do I make myself clear?”
With the three o’clock hour approaching, the mood of those gathered at the D’Ascenzo family home was very grim. Over the past three hours, a family member had died each hour, their deaths the result of what appeared to be bizarre accidents, but the timing with the arrival of each hour was lending more and more support to the existence of the curse. As before, Lucilla and Rebecca had tried to strengthen the wards around the home, but they had also gotten agreement from the family members to remain with them during the next hour. Of course, there were some who were reluctant to agree to that, but with the number of deaths growing, they had given in.
Gathered in the living room once more, the family members sat quietly, everyone seeming to be on edge as the watched the small clock that rest on the mantle over the fireplace. A warm fire burned in the large stone fireplace, the heat from the fire spreading through much of the fire, but seeming to do little to truly warm any of the room’s occupants at the moment. Lucilla was standing near the doorway to the room, wanting to be in place to remind anyone who sought to leave this time of their agreement to remain in the room for the next hour. The cold chill of the mystical energy of the shadow plane was flowing through her as she looked about the room.
Rebecca slowly clenched and unclenched her fists as she often did when nervous. Before today she hadn't ever personally seen a dead body much less actually witnessing three deaths. Even though she played the part of hero in Paragon City she had always been successful in saving lives. Failing like this was new to her and something she wasn't likely to forget no matter how hard she wanted to. Looking over at Lucilla, Rebecca wondered if she was used to this kind of thing or if it was affecting her as well.
When the first chime of the hour sounded, several in the room started, Gretchen could be heard uttering a quite prayer as she clutched her cross tightly. Even those who still did not admit the existence of a curse watched nervously as the ancient grandfather clock sounded three times to mark the new hour. The room was deathly quite as the third and final chime’s echo faded away. The silence remained for several long minutes as the sound of the burning wood and the faint ticking of the clock resting on the mantle could just be heard of over the howling wind outside.
Lucilla kept her eye on those within the room, noting that more than once Paul or Vincent seemed about to say something or stand up, but thought the better of it as they looked over at the stern and serious faces of Sergio and some of their other relatives. At the same time, the raven haired mage was focusing on the house and the area around it, trying to detect any sense of the curse at work yet again.
The minutes continued to tick away, as the D’Ascenzos sat still and quite, most them looking about the room at each other at times. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Lucilla, but that had often been the case in the hours before and then the curse would strike suddenly and with lethal results. A few quite conversations began within the room finally, but the tension level was still quite high.
Suddenly, Lucilla felt something within the house, up somewhere on the floor above them. It was hard to pinpoint, it wasn’t quite in the normal areas that her and Rebecca had warded, making her think it that the curse was somehow effecting something on the outside of the house. Lucilla had a distant look as she tied into one of the ravens that was sitting outside the front of the home. The large black bird turned and looked towards the front of the house, scanning the general area that she felt the presence. Again, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, causing Lucilla to frown slightly.
It was then she noticed the smell of smoke in the air as others in the room started to notice it as well. “Is something burning?” Stephan asked as other members of the family began to look about the room, some coughing. As everyone’s attention focused on the fireplace in the room, thick black smoke began to billow out from it, instantly causing those nearby to cough more violently. Sergio was one of those closest to the fireplace, his weak coughs could be heard as smoke began to billow around him. “We have to get out of here!” Paul yelled before coughing and putting a handkerchief over his mouth and nose.
As everyone was quickly on their feet and starting towards the door, Frank moved into the smoke to grab Sergio’s wheelchair. The room continued to fill with smoke as everyone pilled out into the main hallway. Paul and Vincent moved over towards the front door, opening it, which let in an immediate gust of cold wind blew in along with some rain. Everyone spread out in the hallway, coughing and trying to catch their breath, many with teary eyes.
Rebecca too received a lung full of smoke as the room was flooded by the miasma. That was quickly put to an end though as the young witch conjured a gentle breeze around her, creating a zone of fresh air. A few deep breaths and the coughing subsided, allowing her to walk out of the room with relative ease. As she exited the room she dispersed the air around herself and move it to the door itself, effectively blocking the smoke and keeping any more of it from escaping into the rest of the house.
Lucilla was coughing as well for a few moments once she had moved away from the door to the living room. Looking up, she began to check that everyone had made it out of the smoke filled room. She spotted Sergio to one side with Frank. The old man seemed to be somewhat weak, but he was still moving and breathing. She looked over at the door to see several standing near the fresh air with Paul and Vincent. Finishing her sweep of those gathered in the hall, she realized someone was missing. “Has anyone seen Stephan?” She asked in a loud voice, quickly drawing everyone’s attention.
Everyone looked around quickly as Gretchen answered. “I though he was in front of me leaving the room.” She said, looking around confused. Lucilla looked back towards the room, fear that the curse had managed to take another victim with the thick smoke that was trying to billow out of the room, only to be kept back by wind that Rebecca was creating. “Rebecca!” Lucilla shouted. “Can you use your wind to try and push your way into the room and see if Stephan is in there somewhere?”
“I think I can do a little better then that. Hold the front door open as wide as possible.” As Paul and Vincent did as she asked the wind witch pointed a finger at the smoke filled room and began to twirl it in the air. A vortex appeared in the doorway and traveled lengthwise toward the front door. The swirling winds created a vacuum, sucking in the thick smoke and funneling it out through the open door into the storm outside. If Stephan was inside they would know it in a short while.
While the two mages were trying to find if Stephan was trapped in the smoke filled living room, the corporate attorney was making his way up the stairway from the second floor to the third. He was walking slowly, almost as if he was in a dream state as he saw the house as it had been in his childhood. Somewhere in the seemingly endless hallways of the large house, Leonard and little Mary were hiding, waiting for him to find them. Stephan came to a stop at a narrow stairwell that lead up to the room at the top of one of the towers of the mansion.
Looking up the dark stairway, Stephan felt a feeling of fear that he had felt as a child in parts of the house. The narrow dark stairways that lead to the towers of the mansion had always frightened Stephan, for reasons he did not fully understand. But so far he hadn’t seen any sigh of his two cousins, and he knew Leonard wasn’t afraid of the towers, so that was very likely place for him to be hiding. Taking a deep breath, Stephan started to climbed the narrow stairwell, the old steps creaking slightly under his weight.
Downstairs in the entryway, Lucilla frowned at Rebecca’s shouted indication that she saw no sign of Stephan. Where could he be? She wondered when suddenly she went slightly ridged as her eyes seemed to focus on nothing ahead of her. “Lucilla? Are you alright?” Mary asked with a worried voice as she looked at the shadow mage. “I know where Stephan is.” She replied as she quickly surrounded herself with a cloud of darkness that instantly collapsed in upon itself leaving the space she had just been occupying empty. Mary and Catherine both jumped back slightly in surprise as Lucilla teleported away, both wondering where she had gone off too.
In the upper room of one of the towers, Lucilla stepped out of the cloud of darkness that formed, wisps of shadow trailing from her as she looked over at the open window of the room, the wind blowing in causing her long cloak to billow behind her. “Stephan, what are you doing?” She yelled over the howling wind as she started towards the window that the attorney was climbing out off onto the roof. She only made if a few steps before an ottoman slid into her path, tripping her as she tried to quickly catch up with the hallucinating Stephan.
As the raven haired mage fell to the floor, Stephan walked out on the slippery edge of the peaked roof below the tower window. Rain was falling hard on him, drenching him in moments, but the corporate attorney didn’t even notice the rain, or the chilling wind as he walked out further onto the roof. Pushing herself back up off the ground, Lucilla could see what was going on outside, one of her ravens having moved over to sit on one of the gargoyles on the top of the roof after having spotted the window opening before. She couldn’t risk teleporting out onto the ledge, with the rain and heavy winds, she could easily fall, so she rushed over to the window to follow after Stephan.
Reaching the window, she felt the cold rain blowing against her as she looked out to see Stephan reach the end of the edge as he suddenly seemed to snap out of his daze. “Where am I?” He cried in panic as he tried to grab onto to something to right himself, but missed as his foot slipped on wet rooftop. Falling backward, Stephan yelled in panic as he rolled off the roof, falling towards the ground at front entrance to the house as Lucilla could only watch helplessly.
Stephan’s body landed on the pavement in front of the mansion, causing Paul and those still standing at the open doorway with him to look out into the heavy rain as they spotted his body on the pavement. Vincent called back into the house as the others moved over towards Stephan’s body, despite the heavy rain from the storm. Lucilla appeared out of a cloud of darkness near Stephan’s body, causing Paul and Martin III to jump back slightly as the saw her. The raven haired mage knelt down next to Stephan, putting her fingers to his neck as she looked for any signs of breathing. After a few moments, she stood and shook her head, walking back into the house out of the rain.
The family had gathered once more, as the four o’clock hour approached. Tensions were extremely high among the gathered members of the D’Ascenzos. Gretchen was very visibly shaken, her cross never seeming to leave her hands and she was glancing about almost constantly. Paul was standing off to one side, his stance very guarded, his arms crossed in front of him as he glared at most everyone else in the room. Sergio was sitting in front of the fire, a tired expression on his face. Mary looked very nervous as well as she sat near Catherine, who seemed very on edge, on one of the sofas. Vincent was pacing as he had often before, but his expression was more one of fear and anxiety now, not impatience.
Lucilla stood at the opposite side of the fireplace across from Sergio, as she looked around the room, her feeling of frustration was quite strong. So far, nothing her or Rebecca had done had been able to stop the killings. She could sense what ever was causing these deaths, but it struck so quickly, she had not had any chance to do anything to stop it. If she and Rebecca could keep everyone together for the next hour, then they stood a good chance of stopping another death. Though Jessica had died while everyone was together, the remaining family members were now being much more cautious of anything that could accidentally cause them harm. Suddenly, the silence in the room was broken by Paul’s voice. “What are we waiting here for? These two have not been able to do anything that can help us! I say we need to get the hell away from this house! What ever is going on, I bet if we get out of this place, we will be safe.”
Lucilla turned towards Paul, but it was Sergio who spoke first. “Stop being a fool! Leaving here will not save anyone. As for these two young ladies, they are here to help us, and have been doing their best to try and accomplish just that. To think that this curse would be so easily defeated is overly optimistic. It has endured centuries, and many, many different attempts have been made to lift it. Perhaps there is no means of saving us, but, as D’Asecnzos, we will continue to struggle against this bane for as long as we draw breath, not run and hide while waiting for death to find us.”
Rebecca looked a little embarrassed by the argument and took a step back to get out of the way. Family exchanges like this was never fun to be in regardless if you were a member of the family or not. Paul had been the belligerent one from the beginning and even with all the death he couldn't manage to keep his mouth closed. Silently she wondered if perhaps the curse was letting him live simply because of the trouble he was causing.
Paul had been quieted for a moment, his body language hesitant, before a look of anger crossed his face and he moved over towards Sergio. “I’m tired of your heavy handedness! One would almost thing you want all of us around so that you might be less of a target for this.” Paul was stopped before he could get to Sergio, Frank moving to intercept him, a look of anger on Frank’s face. “You just don’t get it do you? No matter where you were, the curse would find you. Our best chance is together so that something might be done to help us all.” Paul looked about ready to respond to Frank when suddenly there was the loud sound of a hand being slammed down and all eyes focused back on Sergio.
“You think I wouldn’t trade myself for any who have died so far? I have lived full life, far longer than I should have. Twice I have seen the curse claim family and have suffered with each death so far this time. I would gladly give my life so that another of you might live another hour while Lucilla and Rebecca continue to seek a means of saving the rest of you.” Sergio kept his piercing gaze on Paul as he spoke, his voice stern and strong. As he spoke, Lucilla felt a now somewhat familiar feeling from around the elderly D’Ascenzo.
“Rebecca! It’s here!” She shouted as she began to prepare a protective spell. As soon as she had shouted the warning, Sergio’s body went ridged as his eyes widened in surprise as he seemed to be having trouble breathing. Lucilla could sense the force around Sergio, obviously doing something to the old man. Her hands came up in a few quick gestures as she completed her spell, her hands glowing with a dark light. As she completed the spell, she could sense the force move quickly away from Sergio, who sunk back into his wheelchair, clutching at his chest, his eyes still wide. Catherine and Mary both screamed, Paul jumping back in fright while Frank moved towards his great uncle.
Suddenly, Lucilla sense a strong flash of something from behind her as a large vase that had been sitting on a nearby stand flew off, hitting the raven haired woman in the back and knocking her to the ground. Pain shot up Lucilla’s spine as she lost her concentration on her spell pushing herself up on the ground as she heard Frank yell some warning as he moved over near Sergio, who was looking weaker and weaker. Not having much time to see what he might have been yelling about, Lucilla triggered the magical bracelet she wore on one wrist, a faint mystical forcefield springing up around her as another object flew into her, this one she only faintly felt as the forecfield absorbed most of the impact.
Rebecca quickly ducked a plate as it flew by her head, the decorative china spinning like a discus, and drew her anthame. The entire room looked like a scene out of an evil Disney movie. All of the furniture ranging from the largest chairs to the smallest decorations appeared to have a life of their own. Even all of the drawers flew open as the curse sent their contents flying, all of them targeted for either Rebecca or Lucilla. Worse yet it seemed to the young witch that it was all for one purpose. To keep them away from Sergio.
Without any regard for her own safety she ran toward the stricken man to see if she could render any aid. A series of plates, the sisters of the one that tried to take her head off moments before, came whirling out of the air intent on doing what the other had failed to do. Raising the blunt dagger the young witch sent a jet of air upward. The moment the plates hit the approaching air they were deflected at an upward angle and shattering on the ceiling.
She was just about to the now still Sergio when all of a sudden she felt her feet fly up from under her. Rebecca went nearly horizontal as she fell to the ground, catching sight of the cause of her sudden fall. The rug that was on the floor had yanked itself out from under her. Not only that but it wasn't through yet. It quickly slipped under her as she fell, catching her before she hit the ground. This action was not out of kindness though as it coiled itself around the witch, binding her arms up close to her body.
More objects struck against Lucilla’s forcefield as she got back to her feet. Everyone was trying to rush out of the room in panic, which would have bothered the raven haired mage but that she knew the curse had chosen Sergio this hour. Even while controlling so many objects around them, she could sense it move around the old man once more as he went ridged again, Frank and Mary trying to help him as they were pelted by smaller flying objects.
As the antique rug that had covered a portion of the floor wrapped itself around Rebecca, Lucilla gritted her teeth as her arms went out to either side as she cast a spell. She could feel the pulse of magical energy that shoot outward from her in all directions, sweeping through the room like a shockwave, but likely most of the others still in the room would only feel a slight chill from the shadow magic. As she cast her spell, the force animating the various objects was forced out of the room, everything dropping back to the floor, the rug around Rebecca going slack as it no longer squeezed tightly around her.
The family members that were still in the room stood back up, many having had to get onto the ground to avoid the flying objects as they looked around them at the chaos that had ripped through the room. Martin III moved over and helped Rebecca unravel herself from the rug as Lucilla turned to look over at where Sergio’s wheelchair sat, the old man lying still in it. Beside him, Mary had one of his hands in her’s, tears running down her cheeks as she looked at the frail old man. Frank was holding his other wrist as he looked over to Lucilla shaking his head. “He’s gone. I think it was a stroke.” Everyone in the room looked over at the body of the head of the family in shock as Frank reached down with one hand and shut the old man’s eyes.
Walter and Frank had taken Sergio’s body up to his room, placing him in his bed until the authorities were able make their way out to the mansion, which would be sometime after the storm passed. The mood of the family had sunk about as low as it could get. Everyone was scattered about the house as another hour drew ever closer. As he started back down towards the main floor, Frank heard Martin II’s voice echoing down the hallway. Making his way towards the older man, Frank cold hear him speaking. “Gretchen, please come out. I know things are looking bad, but we need to keep up hope.”
The faint sound of Gretchen’s voice could be heard yelling from inside her room as Frank came up beside Martin. “No! We are doomed! Those two can’t save us, so there’s no point in trying!” Martin let out a sigh as he looked over at Frank.
“She isn’t coming out any time soon is she?” Frank asked quietly as Martin started back down the hallway with him. The older man nodded slowly as he glanced back at Gretchen’s door. “No, I don’t think she will be. The curse has always terrified Gretchen, as you well know. Now that it is here, she has been pushed over the edge I am afraid.” Frank nodded in understanding as they reached the stairs and started down them. The landing holding the grandfather clock was empty save for the ancient timepiece now. Jonathan’s body had been moved to the drawing room, along with Jessica’s, Leonard’s and Stephan’s, though Frank could still clearly remember his father falling down the stairs and coming to a halt at his feet. Pushing the memory back, he looked over at Martin. “I think everyone is on edge now, some more so than others. After what happened with Sergio, I doubt anyone is skeptical of the curse any longer. Unfortunately, that won’t help us any.”
11-01-2005, 06:29 AM
“I wonder if anything can help us.” Martin said in a tired voice. “I almost believe that our ancestors’ crimes have doomed us.” Frank was silent for a moment before he replied. “I don’t believe that, there has to be a way of stopping this. Hopefully Lucilla and Rebecca will come up with something soon.”
Elsewhere in the house, Catherine and Mary were in the dinning room, the large room very empty as they sat around the long narrow table. The two women were sharing a carton of ice cream as they waited for the coming of the next hour. They would have been in the kitchen, save that the smell of burned flesh still lingered in the room after Leonard’s death there. Though they were both still emotionally distraught from the events of the previous five hours, primarily from the more personal losses for each, but the deaths of the other family members as well. But now they were trying to focus past that, a lteast for the moment. “This was a good idea Mary.” Catherine said, her cheeks still red from tears. She had removed any makeup she had put on in the morning as well, the tears only having ruined it anyway. “If we’re going to die, might as well enjoy our last few hours.”
Mary looked about as bad off as her distant cousin, as she took another spoon full of ice cream. “Well, I am still hoping that we will both regret this tomorrow.” Catherine frowned as she looked at Mary. “I’m not counting on that. So far those two girls have not been able to prevent a single death. They have only been giving us false hope.”
“That’s not fair to them Catherine. They have been doing the best they can. This curse is obviously very powerful.” Mary replied, though she could understand Catherine’s frustration, having watched her daughter being struck down in the prime of her life in such a brutal way. “Or their just incompetent.” Catherine replied flatly.
Mary let out a little sigh as she stood up and picked up the empty ice cream carton. “No, I would say they are anything but that. This has been painful for all of us, but we can’t give up hope.” She then made her way towards the kitchen to dispose of the empty carton.
In the game room once again, Paul and Vincent were playing a game of pool with Martin III, all three looking somewhat haggard by the events of the last several hours. Paul was sitting back waiting his turn in the game of cutthroat. “This is insane. We are just waiting here for whatever is behind all this to just pick us off one by one. We need to get away from this place.”
Vincent looked up from his shot for a moment, but said nothing before he focused back on the cueball and his ball further down the table. Martin also looked over at the older man, but didn’t feel inclined to keep his opinions to himself. “All of this defies any scientific explanation that I can come up with, so the theory of a curse killing us makes as much sense as anything else. If that truly is the case, then leaving here is no guarantee of escaping.”
Paul frowned, having expected a bit more agreement from the two in the room with him regarding his suggestion. “Maybe, but staying here seems to be deadly with as much as those two girls have managed to do in terms of saving anyone. Better to be out there where you can run than waiting around here to die.”
Vincent took his shot, the seven ball bouncing off the edge of corner pocket, causing him to frown before he turned to look over at his uncle. “I don’t know about that. Look at the weather out there. I doubt anyone would get very far in this storm. Likely end up somewhere that it would be easy for this curse to take you out, falling tree, lightning strike again, or just flash flood. Me, I think I would rather stay here were there are at least some cute girls trying to help us.”
Martin laughed as he moved over to the table for his turn. “You just don’t give up do you Vincent? Rebecca doesn’t seem like the type to be easily impressed by money or good looks.” The twenty year old smiled back at his distant relative as he replied. “There are times when I like a challenge Martin.”
There they were, gathered yet again for the turning of the hour. They had some successes but mostly failures when it came to protecting the lives of the family. However their best chance of saving any of them was still to have them all in one place. The curse only took one every hour, meaning it was unable to wipe them all out. Looking around from face to face the young woman suddenly remembered that Gretchen had gone to her room and locked herself in after Sergio's death. A look of horror spread over her face as she realized that she would make the perfect target for the curse's wrath. “Lucilla, stay with the rest of the family incase it goes after them. I'm going to get Gretchen.”
Without another moment wasted the young woman dashed off toward the stairs, her broom in hand. In mid-stride Rebecca jumped up and landed on the broom, the magical object easily supporting her and speeding up the stairs faster then she could run. Her long hair fluttered haphazardly behind her as she picked up speed. Up to the second floor she flew, hanging on tight as the broom made the turn from the stairs and into the hall. The doors whooshed by in a blur as she quickly covered the ground to Gretchen's room.
Lucilla had nodded when Rebecca had sped out of the living room, making her way towards the stairs to bring Gretchen back down. The overall mood of the rest of the family was low, with the death of Sergio, many seemed to have given up on hope. Even Vincent and Paul were now more sedate, seeming to accept that something was going with the growing death toll. So far the curse had all but ignored their wards, seeming almost an unstoppable force. But Lucilla could sense it when it struck, a very distinct feeling that seemed be growing stronger. As she waited, she suddenly sensed something from upstairs, though the hour had not struck yet. She wanted to go, but Rebecca was already up there, and if she left as well, the rest of the family would be unguarded.
The young woman was almost to her destination when she suddenly felt the collar of her robe press into her neck as she was jerked off her broom. Rebecca landed on her back with a thud. It took a few seconds for her to her wind back but when she did she wasn't any happier. She could hear a strange rattling noise coming from straight ahead. Sitting up she saw that it was coming from a suit of antique armor, armed with a shield and axe. As her mind tried to put two and two together the axe suddenly wrenched its way free from the armor and began hovering in the air.
“What in the name of all that is good is going on here?!” Rebecca quickly scrambled to her feet as the axe began spinning in the air, increasing in speed until it looked like a giant buzz saw blade. The young woman soon found herself in a very deadly situation.
The axe's only response was to fly toward the young woman. It seemed with every passing moment the curse was growing more powerful or perhaps it was just exerting more of the power it already had. If the young woman had any doubts before she was now sure that Gretchen was the next target. Fortunately Rebecca didn't have long to wait for a rescue as her broom flipped itself around in mid-air and sped toward the animated axe. Striking the whirling blade from the side the broom deflected the weapon off course and caused it to slice into the wall.
As the battle went on the old grandfather clock, which had become a herald of doom, began to chime once again. Its resonating tones echoed through the entire house, sending shivers down the spines of the living. Gretchen was no exception and she sat huddled in her room, her arms crossed in front of her and pulling her knees into her chest. Her eyes darted from side to side, waiting for what impending doom would come for her.
Unfortunately her fears were realized in a way that was far worse then she expected. Instead of the accidents that claimed the others a grey mist began to form in her room. It started off as just a shapeless form but quickly it began to gain detail and definition. It had no legs, instead seeming to float on a cloud of grey, but it did have two arms. The head resembled a round ball with wisps of mist trailing from it and eyes of bright red. There was no mouth that could be seen yet even in its expressionless state Gretchen could tell that it meant her harm. The woman's eyes widened in fear though there was nowhere to run. Instead she did the only thing she could, pray.
“Our father, who art in heaven. Hallowed by thy name.” It was the Lord's prayer and the only one that Gretchen could think of in her panicked state. Keeping up with her prayer was the clock's chimes, ticking down the moments until the end.
The grey manifestation slowly moved across the ground, never actually taking steps but rather floating. It had no need to be subtle now. There were no witnesses to its presence and with neither of the mages around there was nothing that could harm it. Misty tails turned and twisted in the air behind it, disappearing and appearing at random like waves on the ocean. It crossed the room at a slow but determined pace, like someone who was sure of the outcome but wishing to savor every passing moment.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Gretchen continued to pray, her body beginning to quiver as it drew ever closer.
Back outside Rebecca thrust her hand out and sent a stream of wind toward the axe, lifting it into the air and out of a second story window. Having dealt with her enemy the young hero turned back to the door and drew her athame from her belt. Pressing the point directly at the center of the door she began chanting. The wind began to flow down her arm and over the blunt dagger, focusing onto the one point in the door. Each second that past the wind gathered strength and soon it would be too much for the locked barrier to withstand.
“Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Gretchen continued to pray ardently, never taking her eyes off her executioner as it approached. Her cross was clutched and held out in front of her in the hopes of creating some kind of barrier. The clock continued to chimes, only one left before it was finished.
The shadowy form was now standing before Gretchen, a malicious glint in its eye that could only be produced by a creature of evil. It was completely unfazed by the presence of the cross and the words did nothing to stop it. Countless times in the past the D'Ascenzos had prayed for protection and just like now it was to no avail. With lightning speed it raised a shadowy hand, five claws extending out from it, and opened its maw to reveal a series of teeth. It looked like it was grinning, a horrible and twisted grin that would put fear even into the most stout of people.
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.” Gretchen closed her eyes as she finished the prayer and lowered her head. A few tears managed to squeeze their way free and travel down her cheeks, falling from them down to the floor. The clock rang its last chime of the hour.
Rebecca suddenly burst the locked door asunder with a gust of wind, nearly tearing the obstruction from its hinges. Launching herself inside she prepared to fight with the creature once again. However her eyes could find nothing out of place save for one thing, Gretchen was gone. Unlike the other deaths there was no body nor was there any blood or other sign of death. The woman had simply vanished into the air. Rebecca was beginning to wonder if she even had the right room when a glint of light caught her eye. Walking further into the room she found all the proof she needed. It was Gretchen's cross.
Picking up the discarded object she walked out of the room with her head held low. If only she had been a little faster then perhaps she could have saved the woman. Rebecca's step was now slow, the adrenaline that had fueled her sprint having vanished. She felt weary and didn't want to continue but unlike a video game there was no reset button. Her only choice was to keep going and to hope that they could find out some way to stop the killings.
As Rebecca stepped out of Gretchen’s bedroom, a cloud of darkness appeared near her, Lucilla stepping out of it as wisps of darkness trailed behind her. The raven haired mage already knew that the curse had struck, having felt the powerful manifestation of it from downstairs. Looking at the cross in Rebecca’s hand, a look of sadness crossed her face. “The entity behind these deaths is becoming more and more bold in it’s attacks. I could feel it, though as I tried to teleport up here, it prevented me from entering the room directly. But it has made a mistake now, I have learned much more about it than I knew from its previous minor manifestations. We should have a good chance of thwarting it before anymore of the family dies.”
“Yeah.” She squeezed the cross slightly, intending to take it down to the rest of the family so that they at least had something to remember her by. “I think my presence was forcing it to rush. It tried to kill me with an axe from one of the suits of armor. I don't think there was anything in her room for it to use to kill her either. Unlike the others it had to take the direct approach.”
The result of Gretchen’s disappearance was profound on the remaining D’Ascenzos. There were definitely no longer any words denying the existence of the curse, but, of course, the opinions on what to do about it were varied. “I’m telling you, its this d*mn house! If we can get away from it, we will be fine!” Paul said to those gathered in the living room, still convinced that leaving was the best thing to do. Most of the rest of the family shook their heads in frustration with his stubbornness on the subject.
“Why do you think that will make any difference?” Martin II said, taking something of a more prominent roll as the oldest remaining family member. “You forget that our ancestors were dying in Italy for centuries! If it followed the family to America, it will follow us anywhere we go.” The Hollywood executive rolled his eyes, but didn’t respond.
“Regardless of what you all may feel, staying here is not anymore dangerous than going elsewhere, and could be somewhat safer in fact.” Lucilla began, her voice echoing with the cold hollow of the shadow plane. “Safer? So far you haven’t prevented one death!” Vincent interrupted, drawing angry glances from some, but agreeing nods from others. Lucilla faced Vincent as she responded. “That is sadly true, but there is also the fact hat both Rebecca and I have been attacked in two most recent deaths, by objects under control of the force behind the curse. If we are truly completely useless, there would be no reason for attacking us, as we could not change the course of events. We are getting close, I am sure I was effecting it when it attacked Sergio, and thus it is trying to get rid of us as well now.”
“It is very obvious that leaving the house is not a solution.” Frank stated as he joined in the discussion. “As for Lucilla and Rebecca, having their assistance isn’t causing more problems, so we should be thankful they are willing to continue to try despite the horrors they have witnessed this evening. We cannot give up hope, our families very existence is at stake here, the family will end here with us tonight if we cannot overcome this, and I for one am not about to give up trying.” Turning to look at Lucilla and Rebecca, he continued. “What else haven’t you tried yet that might be helpful?”
Lucilla wasted little time answering Frank’s question. “So far we have placed numerous protective wards around the house, but they haven’t been all that effective. I am thinking that perhaps the dormant nature of the wards is what is making them less effective against this force. An active ward, with myself and Rebecca continually weaving it through the hour. That should prevent the force from directly reaching any of you, and keep most physical objects it tries to manifest against any of you at bay as well.”
“What do we have to do?” Asked Martin II, as he came over to stand near Frank, Mary looking very interested in hearing what the plan was as well. Though they seemed slightly skeptical, Vincent and Paul were listening as well. Lucilla pointed towards the middle of the room. “We need the space cleared and you all to sit in a circle, Rebecca and I will trace a circle around you and begin the casting, we need to hurry, it is fast approaching the six o’ clock hour.”
The members of the family wasted no time reacting to what Lucilla said, all of them working quickly to clear a space in the middle of the room, furniture being moved aside for what they hoped would be a means of saving them. Once the space was clear, the family members quickly sat down in a circle, facing each other as Lucilla and Rebecca traced a circle around them, placing a few candles as focal points around the circumference of the circle. Just as they finished preparing the circle, the first chime of the grandfather clock sounded, the herald of doom causing each of the seated family members to cringe. Lucilla looked up at Rebecca as she began speaking the arcane words for the protective circle as the second chime sounded.
The young witch returned the glance and answered with her own chanting. All of a sudden the line that formed the circle suddenly began to glow, resembling neon lights connecting the different candles. The two mage's voices reached an almost frenzied pace as they hastily constructed their barrier. A third chime rang out from the great grandfather clock, signaling half of their time to erect the barrier was gone. Rebecca scarcely had time to think about the words before she spoke them, reciting completely from memory and praying she wouldn't accidentally skip a phrase.
The chimes continued to sound, echoing through the house with almost increasing volume with each successive chime, the last few clearly audible, even over the sounds of howling wind and rain from the storm outside. Lucilla continued her chanting, her arms gesturing slightly as she continued to channel more and more of the magical energy of the shadow plane. She could almost see the mystical bubble that her and Rebecca had placed around the surviving family members. The mystical barrier that was around the family members was strong enough to repel most supernatural forces that Lucilla had ever encountered. There were a few that it probably wouldn’t stop, she could only hope the force behind this curse.
As the last chime sounded, the barrier was in place, though none within the circle could see it. They were all holding hands in the circle, some with their eyes closed, saying silent prayers as they hoped that this new tactic would work. Minutes continued to pass, painfully slowly, as Lucilla and Rebecca continued to weave the protective barrier around the family. The raven haired mage was really starting to feel the chilling effects of the shadow magic, she had been using it so much today, but she couldn’t allow it to disrupt her concentration, she would likely need it quite a bit more before the day was done.
Rebecca could see the discomfort on the more experienced mage's face but there was little she could do to help. She had her own hands full with trying to keep her half of the barrier up and running. Since their enemy was constantly trying to seek the weakness in their defense she had to constantly keep things shifting, denying even the smallest of holes for the curse to enter through. This also made it an active defense thus it required constant maintenance, like trying to keep a snowman from falling apart even though the sun was melting it.
Ten minutes had dragged past the hour, and so far Lucilla had not really detected any activity by what ever was causing these deaths. Then she noted a slight feeling, coming from one of the upper levels. As she felt the presence, a faint haunting voice could be heard. “Mom…help me mom. I am trapped.” It was Jessica’s voice, just faintly audible over the howling wind outside. The sound of the voice caused Catherine to look up, a look of surprise on her face. The rest of the family members looked up as well, many equally shocked, but also somewhat skeptical. “Jessica?”
“Catherine, it’s not Jessica! It’s a trick to draw you away!” Lucilla called out in warring as she fixed her gaze on the older woman. She shouted the warring, Lucilla continued to weave the magic of the protective circle, hoping this attempt at deception was a sign that the force couldn’t strike directly at any of the family. “Help me mom…I’m in pain..” The weak voice said again, causing Catherine to release the hands of those beside her. “She’s alive, I need to help her.”
11-01-2005, 06:31 AM
She started to stand as Paul and Frank both quickly stood and grabbed hold of her. “Don’t Catherine, it isn’t Jessica. There is no way she could have survived, it’s a trick like Lucilla said!” There was a painful expression on Paul’s face as he helped to hold back his cousin. “No, I have to help her!” Catherine pleaded as she tried to struggle against the two men.
Lucilla could still sense the presence in the upper floors of the house, faint, but something she could pinpoint. Paul and Frank seemed to have Catherine under control, so she was unlikely to be leaving the circle anytime soon. Glancing over at Rebecca, the shadow mage was confident the young witch could keep the protective circle in place now that it had been established. “Rebecca, I am going to find what ever is behind this! You can keep the circle in place! I will be back as soon as I can.”
“I'll try!” The young woman answered though her tone of voice was less then confident as she felt the weight of maintaining the barrier slide solely on her shoulders. Rebecca suddenly felt like she was playing Tetris at the max difficulty level. Everything seemed to need her attention and neglecting any part of the barrier might give the curse a way inside. For all she knew, this was some kind of trick to lure one of them off so that it could penetrate the shield.
Surrounding herself with a cloud of darkness, Lucilla teleported away, a few moments later stepping out of another cloud of darkness on the upper floor of one of the towers. The room was almost pitch black, a state that did not bother her in the least. As she looked about the small crowded room, piles of furniture and boxes showing that this was now used for storage, Lucilla couldn’t see anything that seemed out of the ordinary, but she could still sense the presence.
Suddenly a large old wardrobe tilted towards her, Lucilla diving to one side as she didn’t feel like testing her mystical forcefield against something trying to crush her. The wardrobe hit the wood floor with a loud crash, some of the boards breaking as Lucilla felt the presence suddenly vanish from the room. Pushing herself back up to her feet, she felt a feeling of panic come over her as she knew where it would be making its way too most likely.
Down in the living room, Catherine was still struggling to get free from Frank and Paul, Mary having stood up in front of her, trying to calm the woman down. Suddenly, the dying fire that burned in the room’s fireplace erupted to life, a jet of flame shooting forth towards Rebecca. The young witch gasped out of reflex and shut her eyes. However she never felt the heat of the burning fire. When she opened her eyes again she watched as the flame made contact with the invisible barrier. It was like watching a blowtorch at work. The white-hot flame pressed against the shield and then flared outward in a circular pattern as it was denied entrance. Slowly it became to move across the field, searching, trying to find a weak spot. Rebecca was not going to let it in that easily and matched its moves, making sure to keep the shield strong.
That, unfortunately, was exactly what the curse expected. As the witch turned away from the fireplace to follow the first flame as it traced its way around, a second stream of fire shot forward and slammed into the barrier. It was dividing her attention and attempting to crush her under the strain of deflecting multiple attacks. While the first flame made littler progress the second one began to push forward, the invisible magic shield dimpling in and starting to give way.
“Do something quick! It looks like the shield is starting to buckle over here!” Frank became a little more concerned for his own safety and less concerned about holding onto Catherine as the concentrated flame tried to force its way through the barrier.
“Despite what you might think......this is not as easy....” She kept her left hand pointed toward the first jet of flame and then directed her right hand toward the new one. “....as it looks.” The headway that the second tongue of flame had made reversed itself until eventually there was no sign of its success.
“I know you can do it babe. I have faith in you.” For once Vincent said something that wasn't outright offensive or trying to impress her. If it wasn't for his normal jerky behavior he might actually be a nice person to have around.
“Thanks, but it's not like you have a choice.” Sweat was now beginning to form on the young woman's brow as she struggled to keep the protective field in place. Looking over her shoulder she noticed what appeared to be a third tendril of flame forming and silently she wished Lucilla would get back soon.
A cloud of darkness formed in one corner of the room, as Lucilla teleported back down from the upper floor of the house, the shadow mage quickly assessing the situation in the living room. The third tendril of flame that had been forming shot out towards the raven haired woman, causing her to dive to one side as the jet of flame scorched the wall behind her. Rolling back up to one knee, Lucilla’s hands came up quickly as she cast a spell as the jet of flame started to double back towards her. Her hands glowed with dark energy as she cast her spell at the fireplace.
The result was almost instant, the force that had been effecting the fire was gone, the jets of flame vanishing as the fire went back to it’s normal level. Taking a moment to see if she could sense where the supernatural force behind the curse might have gone next, Lucilla stood back up. She then looked over at Rebecca and the D’Ascenzos inside the circle of protection. “Good job Rebecca.” The older mage said as she began adding her magic to the circle once more, moving in closer.
“Thank you.” The young witch sighed and used the sleeve of her robe to dab the sweat off her forehead.
Catherine was no longer trying to leave, looking around somewhat confused as Frank and Paul loosened their grip on her. “What happened?” Paul looked at her somewhat surprised as he replied. “You were trying to leave the circle and get yourself killed.” The Californian woman gave her cousin a puzzled look as Lucilla spoke up. “The curse was trying to draw you out of the circle where you would be an easier target. Once that failed, it tired a more direct approach. For now I have managed to drive it away, but it could return.” Looking over at Rebecca, the raven haired mage indicated the fire still burning in the fireplace. “Rebecca, could you put that out please? No sense in giving the supernatural force a weapon to use against us again.”
Rebecca nodded in response and walked out of the room to fetch a pitcher of water from the kitchen. After what she just went through she was going to make sure to drown out every last ember. A short while later she returned with the glass container and approached the fireplace, keeping her guard up just incase Lucilla was mistaken about having driven off the curse. Fortunately, nothing happened and with a flick of her wrist she sent the contents of the pitcher onto the burning wood. The fire hissed angrily in response but its protests fell on deaf ears as it was extinguished.
Inside the circle of protection, the members of the D’Ascenzos seemed to still be on edge as they looked around them, trying to keep themselves calm. As Rebecca put out the fire, Paul looked over at Lucilla as he asked. “So that’s it? You have beaten this thing?” There was hope in his voice as he asked the question. Lucilla looked over at him, not displaying any visible emotion as inside she was amazed at his lack of understanding in regards to how dangerous the situation still was. “That is not what I said. I managed to drive it off, most likely only temporary. It is far to soon for us to assume that our small success here has ended the danger.”
Paul didn’t seem to pleased with Lucilla’s answer, but for the moment he didn’t question her statements again. Catherine was seated once more in the middle of the circle as she looked up at the two mages. “I don’t care how long we have to wait to be sure. Just as long as you two keep up what ever you have been doing now, I will design you both entire new wardrobes.”
Rebecca looked at the woman, a little surprised by how well she was taking the situation. It was true that everyone dealt with stress differently but it seemed that she should be much more upset. Then again maybe she was just being extra grateful for their help. Figuring she should at least play along she smiled and responded. “I don't know about replacing my robe but I would love to have an entire designer wardrobe.”
The antique grandfather clock on the landing of the main stairwell was counting down the minutes towards the seven o’clock hour. In the living room, the remaining D’Asecnzos were still gathered in the circle in the middle of the room. They were still nervous, but there was now also some sense of hope among them now. IN the last hour, the curse had tried to lure Catherine away, and then directly tried to attack as well, but Lucilla and Rebecca had managed to protect her and the rest of the family and prevent any deaths. Not wanting to risk anything, the family was still seated in the area where Rebecca and Lucilla had placed the circle of protection. The circle was still in place around the family, but the two mages were currently not actively strengthening it. Both were seated near the family, trying to rest some before they were needed to actively protect them once more.
“So, are we going to have to sit her like this all night?” Vincent asked, his voice sounding slightly more like his typical self-assured tone once more. “Be nice if we could have a campfire if that’s the case.” He glanced over at the now dead logs within the fireplace, scorch marks visible on the rug, halting at the edge of the circle of protection from the jets of flame that had shot out from the fire earlier. “Don’t be stupid.” Mary said as she shot Vincent a nasty look. “After what happened earlier in the hour, the last thing we want is a fire. And I for one don’t want to leave this circle, it has managed to keep us alive over the hour, I don’t care if it’s still sever hours till the time of the curse passes.”
“This is great for us, but it is only a temporary solution to this.” Martin III said as the other family members looked over at him. “I am glad Lucilla and Rebecca have found a means to protect us, but what happens in another forty years? The curse will still be there, any of us that live till then, not to mention any of our children, wil have to face it yet again. And when that time comes, there may not be someone such s Lucilla or Rebecca to stop the curse.”
Lucilla had been thinking about just that for the last hour. They needed to do more than just save the remaining family members, they needed to end the curse, or it would only be a temporary victory. “You are quite right Martin.” She said, her cold hollow voice instantly drawing everyone’s attention. “The curse needs to be ended tonight, and believe me, I have no intention of not finding a way to end it.”
“ just wish we had a better idea of how to defeat the thing. If it dosn't ever show its true self then we might never get a chance.” So far the creature had struck at them through round about means. Lightning, flying objects, fire, and more had assaulted them but never a physical form that they could strike back at.
“Well, not that you have almost prevented someone from dying for the hour, wouldn’t that break the curse?” Paul asked as he looked at Lucilla. The raven haired mage regarded him a moment as she reluctantly admitted. “That is a remote possibility, but not something we should put to much faith in without some measure of proof.” Paul looked as if he was about to reply when suddenly the first chime of the hour sounded from the ancient grandfather clock. The sound echoed through the house, even the heavy wind and rain outside not able to drowned out the blood chilling sound of the chimes as they continued to count down the arrival of the hour.
All the members of the family had turned to look towards the doorway of the living room, almost as if they could sense the clock from where they were . Lucilla was back on her feet, arcane words leaving her lips as she began to strengthen the circle around the family once more while also trying to focus on any sign that the force killing the D’Ascenzos. Rebecca likewise began working on the mystical barrier, adding her own magic to strengthen and reinforce it. After working on it by herself the previous hour she felt confident that this would work again.
The minutes continued to drag onward after the final chime for the hour, as the two mages continued to weave the spell generating the circle of protection around the family members. The faces of the family members showed their nervousness, the sounds of the howling wind causing them to glance nervously towards the distant windows. Suddenly, a single chime rang out, causing everyone in the circle to jump as the ancient grandfather clock marked the half hour. “It’s been thirty minutes and nothing has happened.” Paul said, with a trace of excitement in his voice.
“That means little.” Lucilla said as she continued to focus on the protective circle and for any sign of the curse’s influence. “Well, I have to use the restroom, have for the past hour really.” Several of the other family members looked up at him as he stood with disbelieving looks. “I would think your life would be more important than your dignity right now.” Catherine said, causing Paul to glare back down at her.
“I’m going to the bathroom, so live with it.” He said as he stepped outside the circle. Fighting against the urge to blast him unconscious, Lucilla glanced over towards Rebecca. “Rebecca, accompany him to the nearest bathroom please.” Her eyes narrowed at the Hollywood executive as she dared him to question her instructions.
Rebecca stared at Paul and wondered if there were awards for stupid people. She had half a mind to try and restrain him for such arrogance. “You've got to be kidding me. I can't believe this. You're asking to get killed.” Unfortunately it was ultimately his choice if he wanted to take his life into his own hands and not hers. Reluctantly she stood up and prepared to follow Paul to the bathroom.
“We'll see about that.” He adopted a swagger in his walk, as if to say he was the master of his own destiny and nobody else was going to dictate his schedule.
The young witch rolled her eyes as she fell in line behind Paul. She might not have wanted to be outside of the protective circle but she was still going to do her job as best she could. They had already saved someone's life and she wanted to turn it into a trend. Every few steps she looked around, keeping her eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. Paul on the other hand continued on as if nothing was bothering him. After an uneventful minute of walking they reached the entrance room with the stairs leading up and the big double front doors. Paul walked past the stairs to a door along the far wall. Opening it revealed a little half bath that was likely intended for easy guest use during parties.
Paul looked over his shoulder before walking inside. “Going to accompany me into the bathroom as well?” The expression on his face and the sarcasm in his voice showed that the statement was anything but serious. She could tell that he resented being watched over by someone as young as she was.
“The sight would make me gag.” Rebecca glared daggers at the man, wishing he would hurry up instead of giving the curse extra time to plan what it was planing.
With a last smirk the man turned away from the young witch and entered the bathroom. Meanwhile Rebecca took a step to the side and leaned against the same wall that the door was on. She didn't want to go far for fear that the curse might find some way to strike. Fortunately it would be nearly impossible for it kill Paul in the small half bath. There were no electrical devices like a hair dryer nor any sharp objects like razors. About the worst it could do to him was to make all the toilet paper disappear.
After a few minutes the door opened again and Paul walked out, looking at least a little less belligerent. Rebecca stood up from her leaning position. The action attracted his attention and he looked at her. "Heh, guess this proves that whole curse thing is nothing but a bunch of sh...."
All of a sudden Rebecca caught movement on the edge of her peripheral vision and stopped paying attention to what Paul was saying. Up on the second floor on the balcony that ran around the edge of the entry room there was something moving. As her mind raced to put together what was happening a heavy looking dresser tipped itself up against the railing and then went over the side. Within seconds it had fallen half way down toward the unsuspecting Paul, giving the young witch only seconds to react to the danger.
"Get back!" With no small amount of joy she conjured a wind spell to forcefully push Paul back inside of the bathroom. Another second later the wooden dresser smashed into the hard wood floor, splintering into thousands of pieces. Quickly Rebecca shielded her eyes from the debris. Lowering her arm again she quickly summoned another gust of air to push the dresser out of the way. "Real enough for you? Now lets get going back to the others and fast!"
With a wave of her hand Rebecca caused another gust of air to form, though this one behind Paul to push him out of the bathroom. As he stumbled forward she grabbed his wrist and started pulling him back the way they originally came. Within moments the pair arrived back in the drawing room, both a little out of breath from the sprint. "Next time.....everyone is going to the bathroom....before the curse strikes...."
As the nine o’clock hour drew near, the remaining family members were once more gathered in the living room with Lucilla and Rebecca. While most of them still seemed somewhat nervous, there was a bit more of a feeling of hope amongst them as well. During the eight o’clock hour, there had been no attempts by what ever supernatural force was behind the curse had not made any attempt on any of the family members. While Lucilla was still somewhat doubtful that this meant that they had dealt with the curse once and for all, other members of the family were not as convinced. Vincent was pacing the room as they waited for the clock the hour to arrive. Coming to a halt, he turned to face the others. “What are we worried about? It’s over! Our two super babes stopped whatever was killing us off.”
Frank looked over at the younger man. “Vincent, Lucilla and Rebecca may have saved your uncle, and the last hour may have been quite, but we can’t be sure that this is over just yet.” The younger man didn’t seem fully convinced, but it was Paul who replied. “That’s easy for you to say, you didn’t almost get smashed flat! Whatever the hell is going on here, I don’t feel like waiting around for it to happen again. If the rest of you want to stay in this hell hole, that’s your business, but let the rest of us leave if we want.”
Lucilla spoke up, her cold hollow voice easily drawing the attention of all in the room. “Paul, Frank is right. Until we know for sure that we have overcome the curse, it is safer for everyone to stay here where we can protect you all. This curse has endured for close to five centuries, don’t think it will be so easily overcome.”
Paul rolled his eyes as he looked over at Lucilla. “So you say. I figured you would say something like that. All we have to go on her is what you and Rebecca tell us, that and the stuff Sergio claimed. This just seems so perfect for you two. Planning on waiting till we feel so dependant on your protection that we start paying you for it?” Lucilla’s face remained expressionless as she regarded the Hollywood executive. “Don’t be ridiculous Paul. We are here to help you, even if you don’t want to be helped.”
Paul glared at Lucilla for a moment, Paul turned away as he started towards the door. “That’s right, I don’t want your help anymore. I want to leave!” Lucilla moved so she was between Paul and the door. “I’m sorry Paul, but for your own safety, I will need you to stay here. Distance will not protect you from this curse, and leaving the wards in place here would make you an easy target.” The Hollywood executive stopped as his eyes narrowed at the raven haired woman.
“I had a feeling you might say that.” He said, his right hand reaching back underneath his jacket. Pulling back out quickly, he pointed a pistol at Lucilla. Catherine screamed as she saw the gun. “What are you doing Paul? Are you insane?” Paul stood unwavering, his focus on Lucilla. “I am leaving Catherine, and if little miss mage gets out of my way, then there won’t be any problems.”
Rebecca had been growing leery of Paul's discussion with Lucilla and with his drawing of the gun any and all fears were confirmed. He was deadly serious. What he didn't realize though was how easily she could disable him and his gun. Wind was her power and it was the same force found in hurricanes and tornadoes. A strong enough gust could lift him off his feet and throw him against the wall and even pin him there for as long as was needed. She didn't want to do that though, as he was one of the people she was supposed to protect, even if he didn't want it.
11-01-2005, 06:33 AM
Lucilla made a slight motion to Rebecca that everything was okay as she stepped aside, simply saying. “Very well Paul. If you want to go so badly, then go. But be warned, you are putting yourself in grave danger.” Paul kept the pistol aimed at her as she moved. “That’s right, I am leaving. Anyone else that is tired of this crap, let’s go.” Stepping closer towards the door, Paul turned so he was facing back into the room, the pistol still aimed at Lucilla. Glancing quickly through the room, he saw that no one else seemed willing to move. Hesitating uncertainly, he looked over at Vincent. “Vincent? Are you coming? I know your as tired of all this as I am.”
Before the younger man could reply, the grandfather clock chimed as it marked the arrival of the hour. Everyone in the room started slightly, as Vincent gave his uncle an uncertain look. “I don’t know if its really such a good idea to leave the house just yet Paul. I mean, it seems as if they have this thing beat, but who knows if leaving will leave us open to whatever is causing this like they say.” From the look on Paul’s face, it was obvious that he couldn’t believe what he was hearing as the chimes continued. Finally, his expression became stern as he spoke. “Fine, stay here with the rest of them then. This really isn’t the time to be thinking with the wrong head like you do most of the time.”
Paul started to turn away as he moved out the door when a large dark shape appeared from the side, causing him to yell in panic as he tried to raise his pistol. The massive form knocked the Hollywood executive over as Catherine and Mary screamed. Paul’s pistol flew from his hands, sliding across the floor where Lucilla calmly stopped it with her left foot. Paul was yelling in fear as the massive shadow mastiff sat on top of him, pinning the man under it’s weight, it’s red eyes locking with his as a deep growl escaped from it’s huge maw. As the rest of the D’Ascenzo’s watched the scene with horrified expressions, the last chime range out from the grandfather clock, echoing through the house.
Outside, lightning flashed across the sky, lighting up the dark tombstones that filled the small family cemetery near the gardens. Heavy rain poured down on the tall grass of the cemetery, soaking the ground, softening it as the storm raged above. Suddenly, all across the ground, dirt surged up as skeletal hands broke through in some places. Slowly, the animated corpses of dead D’Ascenzo’s forced their way up from their graves, their dark eyes focusing through the heavy rain towards the lighted windows of the house. As they freed themselves from the dirt that had held them for decades, the corpses began shuffling towards the house as a raven watched the scene below from a nearby tree.
Inside the living room, Lucilla’s voice cut through the panic and fear that was in the room. “Pasha, that is enough. Release him.” The shadowy mastiff looked up from the terrified man, her mouth closing as she looked at her mistress. Pasha then moved off the Hollywood executive, taking up a position in the doorway as she fixed her gaze on the man once more as she sat down on her haunches. Paul started to slide away from the animal as he sat up, others in the room looking from the mastiff to Lucilla with apprehension. “That thing is yours?” Catherine asked in a terrified voice, not seemingly able to move as she tightly gripped the arm of the sofa at the end she was sitting on.
Lucilla knelt down and picked up the pistol from the ground as she replied. “Pasha is a inhabitant of the shadow plane. Her and her mate Sultan are…friends of mine and assist me when summoned. I have had them patrolling the grounds for a little while now, but so far they haven’t had anything to keep them busy.” Paul had backed up to one of the sofas in the room, his face still showing fear as he looked at the mastiff and was helped to his feet by Vincent. “I am so suing you for..” He was quickly cut off by Frank before he could finish. “Oh shut the hell up Paul, you were threatening her with a gun you idiot.”
Turning to look at Lucilla, he went on. “I am not sure I approve of forcing Paul to stay here Lucilla, but..” He stopped as she raised her hand suddenly, a distant look on her face as she turned towards the windows. At the doorway, Pasha had stood back up, a deep growl emanating from her as she looked towards the windows as well. “Get away from the windows!” Lucilla yelled out as suddenly the lower parts of the windows exploded inward and half a dozen rotting arms reached in.
Rebecca screamed as she felt the rotting hands reached in through the window and grabbed for her. One hand reached for her hair while the others grabbed for the folds of her robe. However, as the undead hands touched her clothing there was a hissing sound and smoke began to rise from the rotting hands. The evil magics that held the bones together began to collapse and the fingers fell from the animated hands. Gritting her teeth Rebecca jerked herself away, losing several strands of hair but managing to pull herself
free of the one hand that was able to hold her.
After taking a few steps away she spun around, catching sight of the undead crawling through the shattered window. She thrusted her hand at the zombie, the flat of her palm facing the open window and her fingers splayed. Suddenly a vortex sprung to life. It looked just like a small tornado only it was horizontal and extended from the young woman's palm and traveled toward its target. As it reached the window it shattered the rest of the glass and blew it outside, picking up the shards as well as the zombies and
throwing them out into the stormy night. “I think the curse is getting impatient with us.”
Catherine and Mary were both screaming as they saw the rotting corpses, the rest of the family equally fearful as the sound of other windows in the house smashing could be heard. More zombies started up in through the windows as soon as the first were knocked out by Rebecca’s small tornado. No sooner had Rebecca spoken than the lights in the house went out, plunging everyone into complete darkness, the sound of the heavy rain audible over the low moans of the zombies. As everyone around her tensed at the sudden loss of sight, Lucilla looked about the dark room, her eyesight unaffected by the sudden darkness. She could see zombies climbing into the house through the windows, moving towards Rebecca once more, as well as some moving through the nearby room towards the opening into the living room.
A quick signal from her had Pasha rushing forward towards zombie nearest Rebecca, the large shadow mastiff leaping, passing very close to the young witch as she knocked over the walking corpse, a vicious growl escaping Pasha mouth before she began to rip into the rotting body. “We need light and to get away from the windows in here. No zombies have approached the Eastside of the house yet, perhaps we should withdraw that way.”
Martin II reached into his pocket, fumbling in the dark for a moment, before he lit a cigarette lighter. The sudden faint light revealed a zombie moving through the open doorway to the adjoining room that was next to him, causing him to cry out in surprise as he dropped the lighter and backed away. The lighter fell to the floor, the open flame, started burning the oriental rug the covered a large portion of the living room.
The walking corpse seemed to be ignoring Martin II as it reached for Catherine who was standing nearby, screaming even louder as she saw the approach of the zombie. A blast of twisting coils of dark energy shot by the hysterical woman, slamming into the zombie and knocking it back into the one that was coming up behind it, sending them both to the ground in the doorway in a tangled mess of limbs. Martin III quickly moved up near his father and Catherine, stomping out the small fire that had started on the rug, before he bent down and used a handkerchief to pickup the still lit lighter.
Rebecca was almost completely helpless in the near pitch black conditions. Her human eyes were just like that of any other person. The occasional bolt of lightning created a strobe like effect, the zombies changing position in between each flash as they continued their relentless assault. The meager flame of the lighter was the only constant source of light in the room and what she fell back to.
“Start retreating, I'll follow the lighter and keep them back.” For the moment Rebecca picked her shots, targeting specific zombies when the lightning flashed. Once everyone was out of the way though she would turn up the intensity and fill the entire room, keeping them all back.
Pasha had finished with the zombie she had first tackled, leaping at another, the large mastiff’s momentum carrying them both out of the window and outside into the storm where more zombies were trying to make their way into the house. The sharp teeth of the large shadow beast tore into rotting flesh before she leapt off the pile she hand landed on, avoiding other zombies that were trying to swarm her. With room to maneuver, she could keep several zombies busy for some time.
Inside, Lucilla lead the others out into the hallway, having little trouble in the darkness the power outage had caused. Turning to look behind her as the surviving family members came rushing into the hallway, Martin III in the midst of them with the lighter to give them some light. “This way!” She called out, drawing the attention of Frank, who was leading the others. Just as she spoke, she felt an impact on her forcefield, as a zombie coming from another room tackled her.
“Lucilla!” Frank called out as a flash of lighting through the window above the grandfather clock on the landing reveled the rotting corpse on top of the shadow mage. As Frank shouted out in alarm, another large shadowy figure came running down the hallway from the kitchen area, as Hollow’s second shadow mastiff, Sultan leapt at the zombie trying to kill his mistress. The large shadow beast knocked the zombie off the raven haired mage, and began tearing into it with his teeth as Lucilla slid herself away from the struggle and managed to quickly climb back to her feet.
With the family members now out of the room it was time for the wind witch to turn up the intensity. She couldn't see the zombies reliably enough to target them individually so she would just have to make sure to get them all at once. Raising her anthame, Rebecca began waving it side to side. Each pass of the blade created a gust of air, the next building on the last so that they increased in intensity.
Within a short time a small cyclone was created, filling the room with destructive winds. Furniture went tumbling through the air like leaves along with the rest of the contents of the room. The zombies were picked up off the ground and piled against the far wall. Rebecca couldn't see any of this happening, blinded by the darkness as she was, but her ears told her that the undead would not be troubling them from this way.
The remaining family members were now all out in the hallway, Martin III still holding his father’s lighter, which only gave of a faint amount of light in the large open area. They could hear the zombies back in the living room, as well as hear movement coming down the hallway from other rooms. Lucilla could see the zombies moving out of the other rooms, starting towards the group with their slow shuffling. From the main stairwell, several other sources of light could be seen as Walter and the rest of the house staff made their way down holding candles. “Is everyone alright? We heard screaming as the power went ou…” The old butler started as some of the zombies moved into the candle light.
The maids with the elderly butler screamed as they saw the rotting corpses, one of them almost dropping her candle. Lucilla fired another blast of dark mystical energy, knocking back another zombie as she yelled out. “Everyone into the ballroom!” The D’Ascenzos and house staff didn’t hesitate to follow the shadow mage’s instructions as they moved towards the double doors that lead to the ballroom. Lucilla stayed behind, not bothered that the light from the candles and lighter were gone, though she knew Rebecca would have problems because of that. “Rebecca! Come to my voice, we are falling back into the ballroom!”
“Right behind you Lucilla!” Rebecca started backing off while keeping the maelstrom going. The entire room was in shambles but the young witch was sure nobody would complain. Only after she had made it out into the hall and could see the flicker of candles did she let the cyclone dissipate and run over to join everyone else. “That should keep them busy for a minute or two as they get back up.”
In the confusion that held sway in the main hallway, Paul slipped off to one side, away from the rest of the family members who were to busy trying to make their way through the darkened house with what little light there was to notice his departure. The Hollywood executive’s heart was pounding in his chest as he made his way towards the front door of the house, the occasional flashes of lightning providing him with some visibility as he came to the door.
Paul rushed out of the front door of the mansion and into the wind driven rain. Lightning flashed across the sky as he quickly glanced over his shoulder, the yelling and screams inside chilling his blood. Looking back ahead, his gaze fell on the large garage a short distance from where he stood. Sprinting through the heavy wind and rain, he reached the side door to the garage as he heard a noise to his right. Glancing towards the corner of the garage, he saw two zombies round the corner, their dark eyes fixing on him.
Fear gripping him, Paul dropped his keys as he tried to open the door to the garage. Quickly bending down to search for them in the dark wet grass, he could see the two zombies staggering towards him. His fingers brushed against metal and he quickly grasped the keys and stood back up. Flipping through the keys, he found the one he needed and quickly unlocked the door. Darting inside as the two zombies lunged at him, he slammed it behind him pushing his shoulder against it as something heavy hit the door, trying to push it open. Pushing hard to shut the door, Paul reached up and managed to lock the door, quickly moving away as the door shuddered as something slammed against it. He took a few deep breaths as he tried to calm himself
His heart was still beating rapidly as he glanced around the large garage, his gaze falling on his rented Porsche. Disarming the alarm wit the remote entry, the Hollywood executive pressed the button on the wall to open the garage door in front of the Porsche. As the door started to roll open, the banging against the door he had come in stopped. Paul sprinted over to the sports car, quickly climbing inside as he fumbled with the keys slightly before getting them in the ignition. Turning the key, the ignition immediately started, the sports car’s engine purring to life. As he turned on the headlights, the two zombies were silhouetted in the open garage door ahead of him. Smiling with a increased feeling of confidence, Paul threw the car into first gear as he sped out of the garage.
The Porsche hit one of the zombies, knocking the walking corpse over the car and breaking one headlight in the process. Not slowing down, Paul triggered the remote for the front gate as he shifted into second gear. “Who needs superheroes.” He said with a self-satisfied smirk as he sped the Porsche out of the front gate, narrowly missing the still opening metal gates. As Paul turned onto the main road and continued to accelerate, one of Lucilla’s ravens watched his frantic flight from the D’Ascenzo family home.
Inside the mansion, Lucilla and Rebecca had managed to moved the remaining family members and house staff into the ballroom. Pasha and Sultan were still battling the into the walking corpses, with no restrictions on them, the two massive shadow mastiffs were tearing the zombies to shreds. Near the door of the ballroom, Lucilla fired a mystical blast of twisting shadow coils into a zombie that was trying to force it’s way in as Frank and Vincent tried to push the doors closed. The blast knocked the zombie out of the way as the two men slammed the door closed, pushing up against it as zombies began slamming against it.
As Lucilla prepared to cast a spell to bar the doors, she caught a glimpse of Paul’s Porsche speeding out of the gates from her raven. “That idiot.” She muttered under her breath as she cast the spell, dark energy forming along the door as it was sealed shut. “You can get away from the door. That spell should keep them out for a time.” She said to the two D’Ascenzo men as she then turned and looked towards Rebecca. “We need to try to banish the force animating these corpses from them.”
“I can do that. Dispelling evil spirits is one of the focuses of witchcraft. I'll need my reagents but I should be able to make a potion that will sanctify the bodies and put them to rest once more. After that I might be able to keep them from rising again.”
Paul continued to speed down the dark rain covered roads. His heart was still beating rapidly as he tried to forget what he had left behind. There was nothing he could think of to explain what was going on, but he was sure the he could get away from what ever was befalling the rest at the house. Lightning lit up the dark sky as Paul kept his eyes focused on the road ahead of him as best he could in the heavy rain with only one headlight.
As a sharp turn came into view, Paul tried to down shift to decelerate, but the clutch was stuck and the stick wasn’t moving. Panic gripping him, Paul started to try to break, finding that the breaks were not working either. Adrenaline rushing through him, he managed to make the turn, the back end of the Porsche fishtailing slightly before the car straightened out once more. The sports car was continuing to accelerate as Paul once more tried to break or down shift but still to no avail. Just making another sharp turn, Paul screamed out a curse as he hit the stick shift. “God d*mn car! What is going on here?”
Another sharp turn suddenly came into view ahead as he jerked the wheel to the left to try and make the turn. The speeding sports car started turning as it hit a patch of water and hydroplaned across it. Sliding sideways at high speed as the car continued to spin, Paul lost all sense of direction as the Porsche flew off the road. It didn’t travel far before the front smashed into a tree, the metal crumpling from the impact.
The rear end of the car spun around as the front end dropped down and smashed into the ground. The rear end continued to spin around as the Porsche flipped over, rolling several times before the side hit another tree. The side of the car caved inward as the car half bent around the tree, finally coming to a stop. Lightning flashed in the sky once more as another of Lucilla’s ravens landed in a nearby tree, gazing down at the wreckage of the car.
Backing away from the double door entrance to the ballroom the young witch retreated toward the side door. She needed her reagents and she wasn't going to get them by staying behind a barrier. Opening the side door she exited out into the hallway that ran along this side of the house. A quick look around failed to reveal any of the zombies. As would be expected the brainless creatures were incapable of thinking tactically though even they could get lucky and find their way around with time.
With a quick hop the young witch jumped on her broom, using its speed to whisk her way down the hall and toward her room. Unlike last time though she kept her guard up against flying objects, just incase the curse decided to try and stop her again. However it seemed that, much like the deaths, the curse didn't like to pull the same trick twice and the trip to her room was uneventful. Rebecca flew in through the door and reached her hand out, grabbing her bag as she made a revolution in the air and sped back to the ballroom again. As she flew in through the door she leapt off her broom and set her bag on the ground, ripping it open.
As the side door shut behind Rebecca, Lucilla cast a second spell to bar the door from being opened as the young witch set to work. The sound of zombies banging on the main double doors was echoing in the ballroom almost constantly now. Each of the remaining D’Ascenzos within the room flinched with almost every blow to the door. “Hurry up! Those doors can’t hold them out forever, even with Lucilla’s spell!” Vincent called out, as he kept a nervous eye on the doors, part of the wood cracking as an almost ominous confirmation of his prediction.
Rebecca quickly looked over her available ingredients. She needed to devise a potion and quick, otherwise those zombies were sure to get in the way by the time the next hour arrived. Keeping that door closed couldn't be doing her any good. After a moment of thought she picked out a vial with a clear liquid and three others with powders in them. The liquid was water, purified and ready to use. The first bottle was valerian, a pungent smelling and bad tasting root that had been powdered for use in potions. The second bottle contained witch hazel and the third had meadowsweet.
Adding a bit of the three powders into the water she corked the vial and shook it vigorously, whispering words under her breath as she did so. There was a slight glow from the contents that quickly faded away. Holding her hand up she started to rotate it in a circle, palm facing the zombies. A small vortex appeared in front of her outstretched arm, spinning at a rapid pace but remaining in a localized area. Flicking the cork free from the bottle she held it over the mini-whirlwind and emptied its contents into the swirling winds. The liquid was instantly assimilated into it, not a drop falling to the floor below. What once looked like a small tornado now looked like a water spout and with each passing moment it spun faster and faster.
11-01-2005, 06:34 AM
“Everyone stand back. Let them in Lucilla.” As soon as Rebecca indicated she had finished her concoction, Lucilla waved her hands in front of her, releasing the spell that bared the double doors.
As the doors flew open and the zombies flooded in like a tidal wave, Rebecca released the spinning mass of air and water. It spread outward in a cone shaped misty explosion that sped forward to meet the approaching tide of undead. Within moments the hoard was enveloped by the magical liquid, the droplets surrounding and soaking into the rotting flesh. For a moment it looked as if nothing had happened, the zombies continuing to step forward but before they could get half way to the young woman they began to topple over, falling first to their knees and then face down on the ground.
The mist from Rebecca’s potion spread outward from the ballroom, Lucilla feeling it sweep over the other zombies that were outside the ballroom, the malevolent force driving them being driven out as their rotting corpses fell to the ground. Pasha and Sultan moved among the now still corpses within the house, the two shadow mastiffs sniffing at them as they went. Lucilla looked over at Rebecca and the nervous D’Ascenzos. “They appear to be stopped. I need to go check on something, I will be back shortly.” Standing up from the floor where she had been seated during the spell, Lucilla surrounded herself in a cloud of darkness that then collapsed in upon itself, taking her with it.
A few miles from the D’Ascenzo mansion, the heavy rain from the storm fell on the twisted ruin of Paul’s car in the dark woods a short distance from the road. Near the wreck, another cloud of darkness appeared, as Lucilla emerged from within, stepping into the heavy rain. As she arrived, the raven on one of the high tree branches above the wreck launched into the air, making it’s way back towards the mansion. As the rain pressed her thick black hair against her, Lucilla made her way carefully through the mud, ducking down to look into the mangled Porsche.
Inside the dark wreck, Lucilla could see the twisted, bloody body of Paul D’Ascenzo. Sighing, the raven haired mage made the sign of the cross as she said a quick prayer for his soul. Standing back up, she brushed a lock of wet hair from her face as she moved a short distance from the car. With a simple gesture, she surrounded herself with darkness as she teleported back to the mansion.
Sitting down in one of the many ballroom chairs Rebecca took a moment to calm herself a little and let the excess adrenaline wear off. She needed to conserve as much energy as she could. The up and down nature of the day had her both physically and mentally tired already and there was still so much more to do before it was over. How she wished she could just close her eyes for a moment and just forget about the fight for awhile. Even if it only lasted for a few minutes it would be a little bit of peace in what felt like forever.
A dark cloud appeared in the ballroom, surprising several of the family members as Lucilla emerged from within. “Don’t do that! There are enough frightening things going on tonight.” Catherine said as she put her hand to her throat as she tried to calm herself. Lucilla didn’t reply as she looked at those gathered in the dimly lit ballroom. “Paul is dead. His car ran off the road a few miles from here. He was likely killed instantly.” She said as she brushed back her wet hair, water dripping off her and her now very heavy cloak. Reaching up, she undid the clasp holding the cloak in place as she tossed the wet article of clothing to one side.
There was a look of sadness on the families’ faces as they heard the news. After a brief moment of silence. Vincent was the first to speak. “So it got him after all. There seems to be no way of avoiding this. You two might be able to stop it once, but it will eventually find a way to finish us off.” Lucilla looked over at the young man, who was actually making sense for the first time since she had met him a little over twenty four hours ago. “That may well be the case, but I am not ready to give up on trying to stop this for good.”
“You both have done so much, but it seems there is no true solution for us Lucilla.” Frank said in a tired voice. The soaking wet mage looked over at him as she continued. “That very well may be, but where Rebecca and I are failing, there may be another who can bring this doom to a halt. The very young woman who brought this blight upon your family in the first place.”
“What are you talking about? She died almost five hundred years ago!” Catherine said in surprise, Martin III speaking up right after her. “Are you talking about a séance?”
“Of course that's what she is talking about.” Rebecca chimed in, confirming Martin's guess. “Is it really that odd of an idea after all that you have seen today?”
“I suppose it wouldn't be.” The young man rubbed his shaggy goatee. “So what do we need to do?"”
“Something very similar to what we did when we cleansed the house, though instead of using the energy to drive out other enchantments we're going to use it to try and bring a spirit back for a chat. It's not a guarantee though. If the spirit doesn’t want to talk there isn't much we can do about it.” Rebecca tried to look hopeful but she didn't want to get anyone's hopes up only to have them dashed to pieces should it fail.
“What do you need for this ritual?” Frank asked. He knew what the stereotypical ritual looked like from TV but as he had witnessed before, real magic sometimes different from the Hollywood version.
“A nice open space for us to sit and a candle to act as a focus.” The young witch looked around the ballroom and spotted some candles from the cleansing ritual still laying around. “Basically everything we've been using all along. Everyone sit in a circle and join hands.”
The remaining members of the D’Ascenzo family were seated on the hard floor of the ballroom in a circle with Lucilla and Rebecca. In the center of the circle was a single candle, it’s flickering light the only illumination in the room. Lucilla sat crosslegged at one side of the circle, Rebecca directly across from her. Looking around at the family members, she spoke in her cold hollow voice. “Everyone just relax. Let all the fear, sadness and all other emotions just leave you for a few moments.”
“That’s f*cking easy for you to say, you don’t have some crazy supernatural force trying to kill you!” Vincent said in a frustrated voice. “That’s not true, both have been attacked when Sergio and Gretchen died. And those zombies seemed to be pretty intent on her and Rebecca Vincent, so I would say they have something at stake as well.” Mary replied, her irritation with her California cousin very evident.
“It's ok Mary. I understand where he's coming from and I'd much rather deal with the zombies trying to kill me then the thing creating them trying to come at me directly.” Though the walking dead were unnerving it was the spontaneously flying objects that were the real danger. Rebecca hadn't forgotten that flying axe while she was trying to get to Gretchen before the curse did.
“Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Finally someone is agreeing with me.” The young man took the opportunity to quickly put his arm around Rebecca's shoulder's in a half embrace. Unfortunately for the young woman, unlike the zombies, he wasn't evil and was unaffected by the protective magics on it.
“I wouldn't say that. I still think you should calm down.” Rebecca quickly slipped down and back out of the embrace, taking an extra step to get some distance between her and Vincent. Apparently there was no such thing as a bad time for flirting when he was concerned.
“Awww come on, give it a chance. We were starting to click. I could just feel it.” Despite the situation he wore a smirk, finding some enjoyment in what had become a very dark and dreary Halloween day. The young witch could only figure that it must have been some sort of defense mechanism that he fell back upon.
“The only think you're trying to feel is....” Mary never got to finish her statement as Hallow quickly interrupted with one of her own.
“We are trying to summon a dead spirit, the more negative energy we all have, the harder this will be and the more hostile the spirit will likely be if we do succeed.” Lucilla replied, her patience also running very thin. “Just try to calm yourselves some.” Looking forward, Lucilla focused on the lone candle once more. “Everyone, focus on the candle in our center. Focus on it’s warmth and purity.” Vincent snickered slightly, but fell silent as Mary and Frank both glared at him. Lucilla glanced over briefly as well, before she focused back on the candle’s flame. With the chilling magical energy of the shadow plane flowing through her, Lucilla began to fill the candle with energy. “Clear your minds and open yourselves to the energy we will be summoning.”
"Keep love, peace, and happiness strong in your hearts and invite the spirit with it. Make it feel welcome." The young woman closed her eyes and began to add a little bit of her own energy to Lucilla's.
Calling upon a spirit was always a difficult matter and difficulty differed depending on who you were trying to call. A good spirit, even though they would be happy with their afterlife, would still miss the feeling of being alive and would come to experience a little bit of that once again. What they had working against them though was the possibility that the spirit that laid the curse on their family was still holding a grudge.
Closing her eyes, Lucilla focused on the mystical energy she and Rebecca had channeled into the candle. “Spirits of the dead, we are gathered tonight to summon forth one from the realm beyond. We wish to speak with the spirit of Rosalia Lazzarini.” As she spoke, the raven haired mage weaved the mystical energy that was flowing about the circle to summon the spirit of the long dead girl.
Around them, Lucilla could feel the mystical energy from their summoning. It was swirling about them, gaining in speed as the flame of the candle in their center flickered. As they continued their summoning, she could feel something within the center of the circle. It felt similar to the portal she formed to the shadow plane whenever she teleported. Suddenly, the candle’s flame stopped flickering and instead grew in intensity as the raven haired mage felt a shiver run through her, even with the chilling mystical energy of the shadow plane.
In the center of the circle, over the now brightly burning flame of the candle, a ghostly figure came into view. It was a young woman, in her late teens dressed in expensive clothing of the late Renaissance, and who had a look of confusion on her face. Her gaze fell first on Lucilla, regarding the raven haired woman curiously before he eyes sifted to the side, falling on one of the D’Ascenzos. As she looked at Frank D’Ascenzo, the young woman’s eyes narrowed in hatred as she spoke in Italian. ~“Who summons me into the presence of the accursed D’Ascenzos?”~
The spirit of Rosalia Lazzarini stood out strongly to Lucilla, the anger and hatred that she was giving off was almost overwhelming. ~“I do Rosalia Lazzarini, Lucilla Giovanni, along with Rebecca Charity. A year of your curse is again up on the family, and unless stopped will destroy them completely. Since the day you placed the curse upon Emilo and his family, it has been nearly five centuries, far to long for such hatred to endure.”~
The gathered family members all looked up at the spirit of girl who had died so many years ago with fear on their faces as the spirit focused on Lucilla. The raven haired mage cast a quick spell onto Rebecca, allowing the young witch to understand the Italian that her and Rosalia’s spirit were speaking in. ~“There can be no end to the hate I hold for the D’Ascenzos after what they did to me, my family and others.”~ The spirit replied, anger and rage in her unearthly voice.
Rebecca would have thanked Lucilla for the translation spell but she was afraid to say something that might anger the spirit further. Besides, she wasn't sure if the spell just allowed her to understand Italian or if it allowed her to speak it as well. It wouldn't do very much good to make an impassioned plea if the spirit didn't understand what she was saying. The way she looked and sounded made it appear as if the crimes against her had happened yesterday rather then 500 years ago. Unlike most spirits who let go of their earthly feelings, this one had let it fester and perhaps even grow.
“What is she saying? She doesn’t look to happy about being here.” Vincent said as his gaze was fixed on the ghostly girl floating in the center of them. “Of course she is not. Please keep quite.” Lucilla said quickly, not taking her eyes off the spirit. ~“Your revenge has been achieved many fold Rosalia. The D’Ascenzos in Italy are all dead, their land long gone as well as their position of power. Those you see before you are descendants of members of the family that left Europe almost two centuries ago to try and find a new life. They have prospered here in many ways, save for your curse which has whittled away at their numbers. Do they deserve this fate when they are so far removed from what was done to you and your family?”~
The spirit seemed unmoved as she floated above the brightly burning candle flame. ~“They are D’Ascenzos! There need be no other reason for them to be punished! They do whatever they must to succeed, ruining others in the process. The thirteen innocents that Lazzaro condemned to death are worth all the D’Ascenzos!”~
~“That isn't true!”~ Rebecca couldn't keep quiet any longer. Even if the spirit couldn't understand her words it could hear her voice and the emotion that was carried upon it. ~“What about children? They are born into this curse and are subject to it even before they are old enough to even understand good and evil. What have they done to deserve your wrath?”~
Mary seemed to be following some of what was being said, though her Italian wasn’t as good as Lucilla’s, or the translation that the spell Rebecca had in place on her. To everyone else, Rebecca was still speaking English, and they couldn’t follow Lucilla or the spirit of the dead girl. “What is she saying? Mary, do you understand any of it?” Martin II asked as he sat his attention fixed on the spirit floating above the candle in the middle of the circle. Mary was about to reply as the spirit turned to regard Rebecca as she joined the discussion.
~“They suffer the punishment for the sins of their ancestors, just as the descendants of Lazzaro’s victims were born into the ruined families caused by the charges of heresy.”~ The girl’s spirit replied, hatred still very evident in her voice. ~“Perhaps that held true for awhile, but times have drastically changed Rosalia.”~ Lucilla said, drawing the spirit’s attention back to her. ~“While the church still is important in the lives of many here and in Italy, it does not hold the secular power that it once did. Any charges of heresy that your family suffered four hundred and eighty years ago have long since been forgotten, the stigma of those charges no longer holds over the descendants of your family and the other families effected by Lazzaro’s convictions for heresy.”~
The spirit turned back towards Lucilla, a slight look of confusion on her face. ~“I…even if what you say is true, these are still D’Ascenzos! They care for nothing but themselves and care not whom is hurt in the process.”~ Lucilla kept her gaze steady as she focused on the spirit, feeling that she and Rebecca might be reaching her. ~“That is a harsh judgment to make without even knowing these people. Despite the fact that your curse has hung over their heads for nearly five centuries, the D’Ascenzos that came to this country continue to make the most of their lives in the short time they posses, achieving great things through their hard work and determination.”~
~“What would they know of hard work? More likely they exploit all they can to succeed. That is their way.”~ Rebecca was hoping to avoid taking a holier then thou attitude with the spirit but if she was going to be stubborn then there might not be any other choice. ~“Last I checked every person is an individual. Your descendants were persecuted based solely on their heritage because of the mark of heresy. That is no difference then what you are doing now only the heresy has disappeared while the curse goes on. If you aren't willing to evaluate each person before condemning them then you don't have any business being a judge.”~
~“I am not a judge, I merely know that no D’Ascenzo deserves my pity or my forgiveness.”~ The spirit said as it continued to hover in place over the candle. ~“And when they are gone, what will become of you then Rosalia?”~ Lucilla asked, causing the girl’s spirit to look back towards her. ~“Is your soul at rest now? Will it be once you have destroyed the D’Ascenzos? Was that the goal of your curse?”~
The spirit hesitated a moment, a brief look of confusion on her face before she answered. ~“I..I sought to avenge those who had died due to the treachery and deceit of Lazzaro and his family, as well as strike against the man who tried to take me unwillingly as his wife after his family had committed such a heinous crime.”~
Lucilla kept her gaze on the spirit as she replied. ~“Then to that goal you have succeeded. The curse cause the D’Ascenzos in Italy to quickly loose status, and within a few generations all the lands they hand managed to gain through deceit, and more, was lost, confiscated or just sold to try and help boost their quickly failing wealth. In the end, the D’Ascenzos were simply poor farmers in the area around Vince when the last of them died forty years ago.”~
The spirit hesitated once more, thinking about what the raven haired woman had said. This looked like the breakthrough they were looking for. The spirit's resolve in her irrational hatred of all the D'Ascenzos was weakening. ~“You experience in the afterlife what you bring with you. Until your hatred is gone you will not be able to rest. There is so much more you should be doing with your new existence rather then worrying about your past life. You no longer have to have the pain you once felt.”~
The wheels in the spirits head were turning. Could it be possible that she was wrong? No, they did deserve what they got. But even now, with the family on the verge of destruction she still felt hollow inside. ~“My last breathes were to curse Emilio and his kin, to try and avenge those that Lazzaro wrongfully had executed, and to prevent myself from being taken by one who had ruined my family’s honor.”~ The spirit replied finally, her face now having a distant look. ~“But in doing so I condemned myself to a restless existence as long as they remained alive, tied to the family by hatred and revenge. Once they are gone, will I be freed? Or will I still be unable to rest, yet with no focus for my anger and hate?”~
~“Revenge is often a two edged sword, and never as fulfilling as one first believes.”~ Lucilla said, not wanting to let the spirit waver indecisively for long. ~“Your revenge for what was done to you and your family has been repaid, many fold, but yet you still linger in between the two worlds. Do you not think it is time to let your hate go? Only by doing so can you finish your journey and move on to the next existence.”~
The spirit looked at the raven haired mage for a few brief moments, regarding her words. The gathered D’Ascenzos who didn’t understand Italian as well as Mary still could tell that the two mages had been able to make some headway with the spirit. The change in tones with the apparition, as well as her expressions, were sure signs that Lucilla and Rebecca were getting through to her. While that was exciting for those watching, they still knew that there were no guarantees that the spirit would lift her curse. All it would take would be for a moment of anger to completely undo the progress that had been made.
~“Yes, far to long have I lingered.”~ The spirit said finally, her voice now somewhat distant, her expression natural. ~“My hatred and thirst for revenge consumed me once before, and it has been doing so even after passing from the mortal realm. I must let go of the hate, stop wrongly punishing the distant descendants of those who wronged me and mine.”~
11-01-2005, 06:36 AM
Focusing back on Lucilla and Rebecca, the spirit seemed to regain some of it’s energy and confidence. ~“I will bring my curse to an end. It has long outlived it’s purpose. The D’Ascenzos will not cease to be because of me.”~
The spirit of the long dead girl closed her eyes, floating calmly as Lucilla could sense the supernatural energy that was flowing around her suddenly. The raven haired woman stood up, motioning for Rebecca to do the same. She could sense the approach of the supernatural force that powered Rosalia’s curse, and it would be best to be prepared once it arrived, for there was no telling what it would do or if the girl’s spirit still had true control over it.
Just at the edge of the candle’s light a grey mist appeared, several of the D’Ascenzos seated in the circle noticed, and soon all were facing the forming mist. It wasn’t long before the shapeless mist had form, a grey shape vaguely that of the upper torso of a person, with no legs, as it seemed to float on a cloud of grey. It had two arms and a head that resembled a round ball with wisps of mist trialing from it. But the most striking feature was the two bright red eyes that looked over at those gathered in the circle with burning hatred.
As the figure took shape, the family members all stood, most with looks of fear on their faces as they looked over at the eerie figure. Lucilla moved forward some so she was standing on one side of Rosalia’s spirit. As the mage moved forward, the family members moved so they were behind her and the dead girl’s spirit. “Is..is that what I think it is?” Mary asked her voice somewhat shaken as her and her relatives looked upon the force that had had killed over one hundred and sixty of their relatives and ancestors.
Lucilla gave one nod as she replied. “Yes, that is the supernatural force created by Rosalia’s curse.” As she spoke, Lucilla was studying the grey apparition. It was defiantly what she had sensed before, but far more powerful a manifestation. There was also something very unusual about it, but she couldn’t quite point to what that could be, a part of her mind feared that what ever it was, it could well be the very key to stopping it.
Rebecca stared at the entity angrily, finally able to face their antagonist one on one. Immediately she knew it was evil. The very air itself seemed to be fouled by its presence. While Rosalia was the one who placed the curse, she was just responding to the injustices against her. This creature however had willingly answered her call and had chosen to carry out the curse. Its hands were stained with the blood of hundreds of D'Ascenzos. Such a being was the opposite of everything she stood for as a hero of Paragon city and a decent human being.
The spirit of the dead girl looked over at the force her hatred and thirst for revenge had formed at the cost of her life nearly five centuries ago. Rosalia looked hesitant for a moment, but she finally spoke. ~“The revenge I wanted so long ago is done. The D’Ascenzos’ have more than paid for the sins of their ancestors. Let the curse I spat in anger at Emilo D’Ascenzo end now.”~
The grey manifestation hovered in place for a moment, it’s red eyes still burning brightly before it lifted one of it’s arms. It’s thin hand extended outward, a clawed finger pointing towards Catherine where she stood behind the two mages and the dead girl’s spirit. “No!” She cried in panic, trying to back away from the entity, Mary moving beside her to stand in between her and the manifestation.
~“I brought you about! I now order you to cease your killings!”~ Rosalia’s spirit yelled in anger as she focused on the grey manifestation. Beside her, Lucilla frowned slightly, having been slightly afraid of this. It appeared to her that with the passage of time, the supernatural force that Rosalia had brought about or summoned, had gained in strength, taking it beyond the control of her own blood which she had spilled to empower her curse.
“Rebecca! Rosalia no longer holds dominion over her curse, it has grown beyond her. We need to stop it ourselves!” Lucilla cried out as she cast a spell that formed a barrier between the manifestation and the remaining members of the D’Ascenzo family. Just as she did so, the manifestation had started forward, moving at almost blinding speed as it streaked towards Catherine. Hitting the barrier, it was halted, it’s red eyes flaring brighter with anger as it turned towards Lucilla, it’s grey arms extending outward towards her, suddenly elongating as it’s wicked claws slashing at the raven haired mage.
Lucilla had been ready though, the mystical forcefield from her bracelet was faintly glowing around her as she tried to sidestep the claws, but the lightning quick attacks to fast. The forcefield stopped the claws from cutting into her, but she still felt the impact from them through the forcefield as she was knocked backward several feet, sliding along the smooth wood floor a few more before she stopped.
"Lucilla!" Rebecca spun to face the raven haired mage as she was thrown across the room. This was the moment that she feared would come. They were now going to have to fight with the thing one on one. The cat and mouse game was over and the entity would not be using its little poltergeist like tricks to try and attack them. It was doing things personally and the young witch was sure that it was enjoying every moment of it.
Hopping onto her broom Rebecca sped in Lucilla's direction. The entity had not been lax and was already using its speed to pounce upon the shadow mage again. As it bared its claws and bore down on the elder mage it was suddenly struck square in the back by a vortex of air. The entity was thrust forward, over Lucilla and into the nearby wall. However not a sound was made as its ethereal body slammed into the wall. Rebecca continued forward on her broom, also passing over Lucilla and keeping the vortex going, pinning the creature to the wall.
The entity wasn't to be defeated so easily though. Its grey smoke like head swiveled a full 180 degrees, turning its burning red eyes on the young woman. If it had a mouth Rebecca was sure it would be grinning. A second later it began to sink into the wall as if absorbed. The young witch began looking around wildly for her assailant as she banked right on her broom to avoid hitting the wall. Up above her the entity reappeared, dropping out of the ceiling like a hawk descending on its prey.
Lucilla pushed herself back up to her feet, slightly dazed by the ferocious attack of the supernatural entity. Her forcefield had saved her from being cut, but some of the force of the attacks had still gotten through. She could sense the creature as Rebecca managed to push it away from her and up against a wall. When it passed through the wall and started to move to come at the young woman from a different direction, Lucilla followed it’s path, readying for it to reappear.
When the grey manifestation dropped down from the ceiling above Rebecca, the raven haired mage was ready. Casting a spell as the claws of the creature neared Rebecca, Lucilla felt the chilling mystical energy of the shadow plane flow from her to power the spell. Darkness flared around the manifestation, as it twisted in what looked like agony or pain. The burning red eyes of the entity turned to face Lucilla once more as it swept one of it’s arms in front of it, a massive concentration of supernatural energy sweeping in front of the creature to hit both Rebecca and Lucilla, knocking both women backward.
As the two magic users were knocked away, Rosalia’s spirit moved over towards the grey manifestation, as she faced the creature she had created. ~“I order you to stop! You were summoned by my blood! You must obey!”~ The entity’s eyes burned brightly as it faced the ghost of the girl that had so long ago called her to carry out her revenge. With a flick of one of it’s clawed hands, the candle that had been used for the focus of the séance exploded into bits of wax, the flame going out as Rosalia was pulled back from the physical realm. ~“Nooo…”~
The young witch clung tightly to her broom as the wave of energy hit her. However before she was swept away she could swear she saw something unusual with the entity. It had to do with the way it was able to suddenly bring that enormous amount of energy to bear on them. One moment it was there and now it was gone again, like it had drawn it out of a hidden well. All of a sudden the answer was staring in her in the face.
The revelation came to an abrupt halt as Rebecca slammed shoulder first into the wall. Pain lanced through her arm like a dagger, the impact bruising to the bone. Still riding on her broom the young woman shook her head to try and get the world to stop spinning. Turning to face the entity once more she shouted to Lucilla. “The entity.....it's using energy that's not its own!”
Lucilla had been knocked down by the blast that the manifestation had hit her and Rebecca with, but had faired better than the younger woman, her forcefield having halted the brunt of the impact as she hit the hard wood floor once more. Pushing back up to her feet, she looked over at the floating grey creature as she heard Rebecca shout about the creature’s energy. The raven haired mage stopped as she closely regarded the grey manifestation, studying it very closely as it started towards them.
Casting a quick spell, Lucilla threw both arms out to the side as she created a hasty barrier in front of the creature. The ward halted it’s advance, stopping it in mid air as it’s eyes flared red with anger and it smashed through the defense. But that action showed Lucilla just what she had wanted to see, what Rebecca had shouted about, the connection that the creature had with some other energy source, one that was making it far more powerful than it was alone. Teleporting away as the entity tried to attack her once more, Lucilla appeared behind it, closer to Rebecca as she said. “It is indeed drawing power from an outside source, acting as a conduit, and I have a pretty good idea what that source is. We need to cut it off from the realm of the dead.”
The entity's burning red eyes traveled from Lucilla to Rebecca, its piercing gaze analyzing both of them as it planned its next round of attacks. It heard and understood every word that they said and was acting accordingly. The young witch shivered under its glance. It was like being the prey viewed by the predator. “I think that will be easier said then done.”
Without another moment wasted it quickly flew at Rebecca. It knew that she was the weaker of the two. The young witch reacted the only way that she could, by creating a whirlwind of air to push it back. However as the swirling air drew near the entity's ethereal body changed shape, forming a hole in its chest. The gust of air past harmlessly through it, allowing it to close the distance between it and the woman.
It brought a clawed hand around, aiming for Rebecca's throat. She was just able to lean backwards out of the way, the tip of the nail just barely grazing her chin and drawing the faintest trickle of blood. However the defensive move did little to protect her from the other clawed hand. The entity made contact with the young woman's midsection, lifting her up off the broom and tumbling to the ground. As she hit her athame fell free of her hand and skidded across the ground.
Lucilla frowned as the entity attacked Rebecca, obviously trying to remove one of them quickly so it could focus on the other. The quick moving creature had managed to knock Rebecca off her broom as the older woman cast a spell. Where Rebecca’s attacks were based in the physical, Lucilla’s spell was not so limited. It was targeted at the supernatural energy of the creature, so no mater how it altered it’s form, it could not avoid the spell.
Wisps of darkness formed around the creature, pulling back it’s arms as it had prepared to strike Rebecca as she lay on the ground. The grey form tried to twist and shift, but was pulled away from the young witch, the darkness forming tighter around it. Though surprised by the binding spell, the result was only temporary as the creature again channeled new energy, a mystical surge pulsing through it that shattered the spell around it, the wisps of darkness fading away.
Spinning in the air, it changed it’s focus from Rebecca to Lucilla, no longer wishing to allow her the chance to find a means of slowing it down long enough to cut it off from it’s source of power. As the red eyes burned with incredible fury, half a dozen tendrils of grey mist shot out from the entity, one of them striking Lucilla across the face, or at least hitting the mystical forcefield in front of her face. The impact stunned the raven haired woman, as several of the other tendrils wrapped around her, two holding each arm while another wrapped around her chest. Though the forcefield was between them and her, the tendrils still began to squeeze.
While the battle raged on the D'Ascenzos watched in horror. Never in their wildest imaginations did they suspect that this would happen. They huddled together under the protection of Lucilla's barrier, praying that the entity would be defeated and that they would live to see the next day. However, with each passing moment that seemed less likely and it appeared that this foe was beyond both Rebecca and Lucilla.
That was when something snapped inside Vincent. He watched as the entity hovered over the two magic users, ready to deal death to them both. They could have run away a long time ago and lived their lives normally. From the begining they had risked their lives for the D'Ascenzos and for no reason other then it was the right thing to do. For the first time in his life he didn't care just about himself. Turning his head to the side he looked at Frank. "Distract it."
At first Frank looked surprised at the request but upon seeing Vincent's expression he nodded. The young man had a plan and they really had nothing to lose at the moment. Slowly the two of them stood up, must to the surprise of Mary and the others in his family. Frank's fists were clenched tightly and Vincent's jaw was set with grim determination. If this was to be their last moments then they would at least go out fighting.
Stepping through the protective shield Frank bellowed as loudly as he could. "Hey you!" The entity looked toward the D'Ascenzo family member and then returned its gaze to Lucilla, regarding him as little more then an insect. "Hey I'm talking to you! What's wrong? Can't kill a D'Ascenzo unless you're sneaking around in the shadows?" The entity looked at Frank again only this time it didn't turn away. Instead it started moving toward him though it kept the tendrils wrapped tightly around the shadow mage.
While the entity approached Frank, Vincent made a quick dash outside of the forcefield. He had his route already picked out and in mid-stride he grabbed the athame Rebecca had dropped. Continuing his run he approached the entity from behind and leapt into the air, holding the blunt dagger with both hands. Even though Vincent had no skill in magic the weapon reacted to his actions and flared to life as it was brought down. The weapon plunged into the entity's back, burning with magical fire.
The grey entity’s form stiffened as if in pain from Vincent’s attack, it’s red eyes flaring as the extensions of itself faltered, freeing Lucilla. With a sudden surge of energy, it sent Vincent flying off it’s back, knocking Frank away from in front of it as well. But Rebecca’s athame was still lodge in it’s back, the magical object still flaring with power. Landing on the ground after having been dropped as the tendrils had dissipated, Lucilla quickly tried to catch her breath as she looked over at the scene as the two D’Ascenzos were flung away by the entity.
As she saw the Wiccan dagger burning in the entity’s back, the shadow mage saw their opportunity. Pushing up to one knee, she began to cast a spell, her body aching from the numbing cold of the shadow plane though she knew she couldn’t rest until they had finished this creature. Using the athame as a focus, Lucilla poured darkness into the grey misty entity. The shadow began to spread through the grey mist of the entity, causing it to spasm as it turned back towards her, realizing the danger it was now in.
Lucilla continued to channel more energy from the shadow plane as she yelled through clenched teeth. “Rebecca! I am not going to be able to keep it closed off from the energy it is getting from it’s victims for long, you must sever that link!”
Rebecca moaned as she struggled to sit up. Her robes had taken the brunt of the entity's claws but the force left her entire abdomen sore. Despite the pain she managed to dig deep within herself and draw out the strength she needed to keep fighting. Using her still good arm she propped herself up, struggling to her feet. As she took in the situation she quickly understood what she must do.
Stumbling forward she approached the entity. This was it, the last opportunity to put an end to its murderous rampage. Failure would ensure all of their deaths. With every step she took Rebecca's pace increased, spurred on as she psyched herself up. Much like Vincent she leapt at the creature, grabbing the hilt of the athame. However unlike the young man she could see what she needed to. The shadow energy Lucilla was channeling into the creature lit up the connection to the spirit world like a beacon.
Like a surgeon she pulled down on the dagger, cutting a swath in the entity's back. The being roared in frustration and agony. Rebecca forced herself to keep from covering her ears, instead focusing on the task at hand. She plunged the athame deeper in the wider hole, slicing deep down into the cause of the curse's core. Within moments its point had reached the target and with another second it had been severed.
As Rebecca’s athame cut the creature’s connection to the realm of the dead, there was a surge of bright light from within it. The sudden blinding light after the near total darkness in the room caused everyone to look away for a moment, Rebecca falling to the ground as she shielded her eyes. Both the young witch and Lucilla were assailed by more than just the blinding light, there was the massive surge of supernatural energies that went a long with it.
After a moment, everyone looked back over at the scene, still having to shield their eyes some as they could see countless ghostly forms that were flying about the room. As those gathered looked up, they were able to spot some of the recent victims of the curse among the many spirits. Catherine called out to her daughter as the young woman’s spirit flew around the room. But then, almost as quickly as they appeared, the spirits then slowed, and began to fade away, a few at first, until all vanished from sight, plunging the room back into almost complete darkness.
For a moment, all that could be heard were Mary and Catherine’s sobs, the men just looking at where the spirits had been in silent awe, several with tears running down their cheeks as well. But then Lucilla’s cold echoing voice cut though the near silence, drawing everyone’s attention as she was on her feet once more, her hands moving as she channeled the mystical energy of the shadow plane.
In front of her, everyone was able to make out the misty grey entity, now much smaller than it had been, it’s eyes only the smallest points of red light. As Lucilla finished the binding spell she had used to briefly stop it before, the misty figure went ridged, this time, completely trapped by the shadowy darkness of the binding spell. Everyone was silent as the raven haired woman began casting one last spell, tendrils of shadow swirling around her as she pulled more and more energy from the shadow plane.
What ever language she was speaking, none there could understand it’s words, her voice echoed throughout the large room as she brought the spell to a close, the dark shadows around her streaking towards the trapped entity as it was enveloped by the darkness that then collapsed inward upon itself, taking the entity with it. As she finished the banishment spell, Lucilla dropped down onto her knees, a wave of exhaustion sweeping over her as she let her connection to the shadow plane close.
Everyone was silent for a few tense moments before Mary spoke up. “Is..is it over?” Her voice was fearful, yet with a slight feeling of hope. Lucilla looked over at her as she gave a single nod. “The supernatural entity that Rosalia bound with her curse has been banished, the power it was taking from the souls of it’s victims denied it. The long curse of the D’Ascenzos’ is no more.”
11-01-2005, 06:36 AM
As the sun rose over the City of Heroes on the morning of November 1st, Lucilla Giovanni was standing at the main entrance of the D’Ascenzo mansion, still dressed in her costume as Hollow. This time, her hood was up, shadows from the shadow plane covering the upper half of her face to conceal her identity as she watched the police remove the bodies of the family members her and Rebecca Charity had been unable to save the day before. The raven haired mage felt exhausted, having been up the entire night after her and Rebecca had defeated the supernatural force that had been behind the curse befalling the D’Ascenzos, just to be sure that things were indeed done.
Behind her, she heard footsteps, as she turned to see the police detective who was in charge here coming up to her. The middle-aged man stopped a short distance from her as he looked over at one of the white shrouded stretchers being loaded into the back of the coroners truck. “Knight Hollow, we have gotten the statements from everyone, the two ladies have gone off to sleep, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest don’t soon as well. Must have been quite stressful evening.” Lucilla nodded slightly as she replied. “Yes, it was.” The detective looked back at her, noting the tiredness in her voice, even with the cold hollow echo of the shadow plane. “Well, I’ll let you go so you can get some rest as well, you look like you need it. Please try to get us your full report as soon as you can. Have a good day.”
As the police detective walked over towards the other officers to finish up and leave, Lucilla turned and made her way back into the mansion. Standing just inside the entrance were Martin II, his son Martin III and Frank. All three seemed rather haggard after the events of the night, but as they noticed her approach, they each managed a smile. Pulling back her hood, Lucilla dropped the shadows that had been covering the top of her face and allowed the channel to the shadow plane to close, the chilling shadow magic leaving her as she did. “It seems everything has been take care of now. Mary and Catherine have gone off to sleep, hopefully they won’t have much trouble doing so.” Martin II said as Lucilla stopped near them.
“I am sorry that it took so many deaths before we were able to stop the curse. The past twenty four hours didn’t have to be as tragic as it turned out.” Lucilla replied, the thought of all those who had died bring a strong feeling sadness to the raven haired woman. “Don’t be so hard on yourself Lucilla.” Frank said with a serious expression. “You both did the best you could, and in the end, you succeeded. If not for the two of you, there would be six more bodies for the police to take away. We may have suffered some, but the D’Ascenzos will endure, and eventually grow once more.”
“You look as exhausted as any of us Lucilla, perhaps more so.” The younger Martin said as he joined the conversation. “Get some rest, you have more than earned it.” The raven haired woman gave him a slight smile as she replied. “Believe me, I plan to take a nice long bath and probably sleep the rest of the weekend. I just wanted to find Rebecca and see if she was leaving yet.” The three men nodded as the elder Martin shook her hand. “I think she is upstairs. Thank you again for all you have done.”
When Lucilla reached Rebecca's room the door was open. The young woman inside was busy packing all of her belongings in preparation for the ride home. She was no longer dressed in her robes but rather casual clothes consisting of a green sleeveless top and jeans. Despite the beating she took yesterday she looked remarkably well off. She was back to using both arms again. Her healing balms had already shrunk the bruises on her stomach and arm to half the sizes they had been before. By tomorrow they would be completely gone and as good as new.
When she heard Lucilla approach she turned toward her and smiled in greeting, even though she didn't feel all that cheerful. Rebecca was relieved that the curse was ended but not with the loss of life. Just two days before the shadow mage had been nothing more then a teacher at the university. Not even a very important teacher at that since the subject she was teaching was not the one Rebecca was majoring in. Now whenever she saw the woman she would know that she was looking at Hallow of the Knights of Paragon and vice versa.
“Hello Lucilla. I see you've finished with the police.” Rebecca snapped the latches on her suitcase closed and set it on the floor. “It's hard to believe it's actually over. I feel like I've aged an entire year in just these two days though I guess in a way I did. I learned a lot about the limits of my abilities and what I can really do when the need calls for it.”
Lucilla nodded as she managed a slight smile of her own. Rebecca had far surpassed any expectations that the raven haired woman had when they had first arrived. Without her assistance, Lucilla was sure that things would not have ended as relatively well as they had. “I know the feeling. The past forty eight hours have been quite eventful. Without your assistance, this would not have ended as relatively well as it did. Six people who surely would have been dead are alive because of you, don’t let anything downplay the importance of that.”
Lucilla would have preferred that they had not lost any of the family to the curse, as any person would naturally feel, but she knew well enough that all of the family would have died but for her and Rebecca. While you could never discount those that had been lost, if one allowed that to overshadow the fact that they had saved lives, both of the surviving family members as well as their future decedents. “It has been a privilege working with you Rebecca, and should you ever feel the desire to devote more time to using your talents to fight crime, feel free to think of the Knights. I know we could always use someone of your talents, bravery and convictions.”
Shaking the young woman’s hand, the raven haired woman grinned once more. “I am sure that Martin or Frank can arrange for transportation for you back to your dorm. I am going to finish up a few things in Sergio’s study and then teleport back to CITADEL. Try to enjoy the weekend. Perhaps I will see you back on campus Monday. If you ever need anything, you know where find me.”
"I don't know if I'll ever join a team but thank you for the offer. I have a lot to consider before I make this kind of thing a part of my career. I will keep in touch though. Bye Lucilla and may the goddess bless you." The young woman snapped her fingers, causing her broom to spring to life and float over to her right hand. Grasping it she bent down and took her suitcase in her left hand.
Lucilla nodded understandingly, it had been five years after she had gained her connection to the shadow plane before she had joined a team. There was much to be said about working independent of a team, despite the benefits from belonging to a larger organization. “I am sure you will make the right choices for yourself. Take care. I look forward to seeing you again.” With that, the older woman turned and started off down the hallway towards the flight of stairs that would lead her up to Sergio’s study on the floor above, where Martin II and Frank were likely already waiting for her.
With all of her belongings in hand Rebecca walked out of her room and toward the front entrance. She figured that since the D'Ascenzos had arranged the limousine to bring her there that they could find some way to bring her back. If worse came too worse she could always fly on her broom. However after what she had been through she would much rather enjoy the comforts of a luxury ride then soaring at high speeds through the cold air in a sleeveless shirt. Even a taxi cab ride would be preferable then that.
Before she reached her destination the young woman heard a voice from off to her side. "Hey babe. You look like you're all packed up and ready to go. Let me guess, looking for a ride out of here?" Vincent raised a set of keys and jingled them so that Rebecca could see.
The young woman just sighed in response. "Still not going to give up. Let me guess. This is the part in the story where a surviving guy puts the moves on a surviving girl and they find comfort from the ordeals in one another’s arms."
"Whoa whoa. You've got me all wrong." The young Californian waved both of his hands as if to ward off the accusation. "This is something with no strings attacked. Just something to show you that I can be a decent guy and to say thanks for what you've done. Believe me I know if I tried anything you could do some serious damage with that magic stuff you do and I don't want to get in the way."
Rebecca looked at Vincent skeptically for a moment. He was a jerk most of the time but back when it looked like the entity was going to win he came through. It might have just been desperation but there might also be a decent human being under that playboy shell. After awhile of consideration she finally relented. "Alright. We're off to Paragon."
"Alright! I knew you'd say yes." The young man shouted and turned on his heels, running off to the garage to get his rental car.
Rebecca in the meantime finished walking to the front door and stood beside the D'Ascenzos that were there. Within a minute the garage door opened and out rolled a brand new looking metallic grey Aston Martin Vanquish. At least she was right in thinking that the ride home was going to be in style. Pulling up in front of the mansion Vincent let the car roll to a stop. Rebecca threw her broom and bag into the back seat and then hopped inside herself. She then rolled her window down and stuck her hand out, giving a wave good-bye before riding off for Paragon City.
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